Benet Academy girls soccer is on an improbable journey to repeat as state champs in two different divisions, a rare feat. This feature is presented by Edward Medical Group.
Since the IHSA girls soccer state tournament first kicked off back in 1988, the concept of winning back to back state championships was not a novel one. In fact, from 1996-2000, St. Charles won five consecutive state titles under current Neuqua Valley head coach Joe Moreau.
In 2002, the class system was introduced, creating two championship divisions, class A and 2A. In 2009, that expanded to include class 3A, with the smallest schools competing for the class A championship and the biggest schools in class 3A.
While most of our local schools are large enough to remain in class 3A year after year, Benet Academy girls soccer is a unique case. The population of the school is at the 2A level, but in some seasons the Redwings are bumped up to compete in class 3A based on a high level of success the previous season.
Benet won the 2019 2A state championship with a thrilling 2-1 overtime victory over Wauconda, the first ever state title for the girls soccer program. Because of that win, the Wings are competing in the 3A state tournament this season, with a rare opportunity to make IHSA history.
No Illinois girls soccer team has ever won back to back state championships in different classes. Despite a very different roster from the state winning team in 2019, the 2021 Redwings have shown they have what it takes to lift the trophy once again, despite going up a class level.
Benet is currently 15-0 on the season, with an ESCC conference championship and victories over 3A powers like Naperville Central, Metea Valley and Neuqua Valley on their resume.
Dynamic players like All-State forward Jaimee Cibulka, midfielders Mariana Pinto, Katie Lewellyan and Rachel Burns, plus a young but talented back line with Brooke Pullen, Sadie Sterbenz, Nora Hanson and Brinkley Douglas. Sophomore Shannon Clark has been steady in goal as well with eight shutouts on the year.
As the top seed in the Morton sectional, coach Gerard Oconer’s girls know what it takes to get to the state’s biggest stage. And regardless of the step up in class size, it’s never easy to win a state championship, let alone go back-to-back.
Whether another state trophy comes home to the BA trophy case this June, the 2021 Benet girls soccer team has already shown that they can go toe to toe with anyone the state has to offer.
For Naperville Sports Weekly, I’m Justin Cornwell.
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