By Scott Taylor
For the Bugle
Last year Minooka fell 2-0 to Plainfield North in what was North’s 55th straight Southwest Prairie Conference win.
However, the competitive nature of the game gave the Indians confidence they could compete with the eight-time SPC champs.
This year they didn’t just compete with the Tigers, they beat them.
Minooka ended North’s streak of 60-straight SPC wins with a 1-0 win last week at home.
“It was really nice,” Hailey Arlis said. “Playing four years, we have always been gunning for Plainfield North. They’ve won conference eight years in a row. We always want to beat them. The past couple years the game has gone down to the wire. We knew we could do it and it feels great. This boosts out confidence for the rest of the conference games and into the playoffs. It shows that we are a good team.”
“It’s huge,” Minooka coach Chris Brolley said. “They have been on top for a while. We’ve had some close games the past couple years. The girls are excited. They were confident coming in. We were confident coming in.”
Maddie Morin scored the lone goal for Minooka.
“It feels great,” Morin said. “I’m so pumped right now. This is a big deal. We had the confidence and we knew what they were about. We came out, went around them and got that goal.”
While Morin scored the goal, the lone senior on the field moved from forward to defense the top 20 minutes of the game and stopped multiple attacks from the Tigers.
“Being a captain and one of only two seniors and with the other one hurt, I have to do whatever the team needs,” Arlis said. “With all the sports I play, I have learned to watch eyes and hips and judge where the ball is going. It really helps to play two other sports.”
The Indians were coming off a rough performance in the Pepsi Showdown, so the win, which moved them to 5-0 in the conference, was big for the team to get back on track.
“The Pepsi Tournament was rough for us with three losses, but we bumped up like three brackets from last year,” Arlis said. “Every game we have given our full effort and we’ve had some good games.”
Confidence now is soaring for the Indians, which could carry them to their first SPC title and another run in the IHSA playoffs.
“This really pushes us to keep doing better,” Arlis said. “All of the other sports I’m in, we are the team to beat in the conference. So this really pushes us to work hard to keep above everyone else. We want to go as far as we can. We want to show everyone how good we are.”
“We have to keep going out strong like today,” Morin said. “Winning conference is a big goal now. We want to beat every team in the conference. Right now we’re connecting real well and have a lot of confidence.”
However, sometimes a big win can cause a loss of focus and overconfidence for a team, especially one that isn’t used to being on the top of the conference.
Brolley feels focus will be a big key to keeping the momentum going en route to a conference championship.
“Focus is important,” Brolley said. “We’re going to still have to do things right. We have to play every game as tough as we can. Mental focus will be the key. We’ve been playing quality opponents to get ready for games like this.”
Minooka will open the Class 3A playoffs as the No. 2 seed in the Edwardsville Sectional. The Indians play in the Moline Regional and will face the winner of No. 9 Rock Island and No. 6 Moline at 4:30 p.m. May 16.
Joliet West and Central are also in the Edwardsville Sectional and will both play in the Normal Regional. The No. 8 seed Tigers face No. 1 Normal Community at 4:30 p.m. May 16, while the Steelmen are the No. 7 seed and will face No. 4 Bradley-Bourbonnais at 6:30 p.m.
Lockport is the No. 11 seed in its own sectional and also hosts the regional. The Porters host No. 7 Plainfield North May. 17 at 4:30 p.m.