Hinsdale Central’s power of positive thinking almost helped the girls soccer team pull an upset in the Class 3A state championship game June 1 before yielding 2-1 to Naperville North.
Maybe next year? Why not? The Red Devils seem to have what it takes.
“They exceeded everyone’s expectations but their own,” said first-year head coach Michael Smith, who guided the Red Devils to an 18-4-3 record by installing team-first philosophies with his players.
“I’ll never forget this group for accepting everything we gave them, and we gave them a lot. They expected to be good and they were.”
Hinsdale’s attitude manifested itself in the last seconds of the title contest when its exhaustive pressure offense forced Naperville North to desperately protect its nest to the end.
It was Central’s best soccer finish since the girls of coach Skip Begley won state in 2009 behind high-scoring Toni Kokenis, who now plays basketball for Stanford, and goalie Nicki D’Agostino, who is in net for the University of Pittsburgh.
Smith credits Begley with creating his head coaching opportunity.
“Skip could have stayed on, but he saw something in me,” said Smith, an English teacher who played soccer at Bradley. “I’ll be forever grateful to him for that.”
“It was Michael’s time,” said Begley, who now coaches Neuqua Valley’s boys in the fall. “He’s not only a great coach, but gave everyone a chance to play. He used 17-18 players in the (state) semifinals and championship games. They all knew their roles.”
Smith also defined the roles of soccer-wise assistants Ed Lynch, Mike Wiggins, Alex Hipskind and Harrison Bull, who is steeped in the Hinsdale Central tradition.
“The goalies had smiles on their faces when Harrison would walk them out to the practice field by saying, ‘What do you want to work on today?’ ” Smith said. “The girls loved that.”
The Red Devils lose nine seniors, including Jenn Jarmy, who came back from a broken foot her junior year to lead the team in scoring this year with 13 goals and seven assists. Others departing include Darby Moran, Caitlin Smith, Casey May and Madeline Engelking.
Among returning players are Meghan Schick, Riley Glenn, Alison Cerny, Lily Chetosky, Christa Kuhlman and Katy Coseglia.
“The seniors laid the foundation for others to follow,” Smith said. “I expect them to come back often to cheer us on.” ~.