When DeKalb girls soccer coach Phil Rouse found out his team was moved up to Class 3A this season, he knew the Barbs’ regional would be difficult, but he thought they would play north suburban and Rockford-area teams, like they usually do.
He didn’t expect them to play against schools from the western suburbs, one of the state’s soccer hotbeds.
Despite winning the Northern Illinois Big 12 East and losing only one match all season, the Barbs are the No. 13 seed in their 17-team sectional.
“If we can get a regional (title) out of this, that’s something really, really to hang your hat on and nobody can say, ‘You were the biggest school,’ ” Rouse said. “Anything that you can get in 3A, you’re going to earn.”
The Barbs will kick off their regional Saturday against Elgin in the Class 3A DeKalb Regional quarterfinal for the right to play top-seeded St. Charles North, last year’s Class 3A runner-up. The quarterfinal will serve as a play-in match, because most teams receive a bye into the semifinal.
The Barbs haven’t played any 3A competition this season, so Rouse is looking forward to the extra match against a team from a strong conference.
“A lot of people might look at a play-in game, and say, ‘Oh, you have to play in a play-in game,’ “ Rouse said. “But for us, that’s a chance to get into a rhythm against a 3A team. On our schedule this year, we didn’t have any opponents in 3A. This will be the first time seeing that kind of speed and talent, so for us, we welcome the opportunity.”
If they are able to make it past Elgin, DeKalb will play a St. Charles North team that allowed onlyone goal in its first 13 matches.
“They’re a strong team. They’re a big, physical team. The key is, can we hang with them and force them to work really hard to earn whatever green space they gain?” Rouse said. “They’re used to a different level of speed than we are.”
Another key for the Barbs is to heal after a hectic ending to the season. If the Barbs are healthy, Rouse said, they have a chance to pull off something special.
“The hardest part is finding consistency, and sometimes that comes from just having players at different positions due to injuries and things, and sometimes that just comes from not focusing properly in games,” Rouse said. “We just want to get healthy. We feel like when we’re healthy, we can play with just about anybody.”