Losses piled up early in the season for the Sycamore girls soccer team, but senior Lauren Miller could see progression along the way.
Coach Dave Lichamer knew his team’s record might not be pretty when he entered the Spartans in the Pepsi Challenge, with some of the premier Class 3A opponents in the state, but he also knew that the Spartans would benefit from the competition. The Spartans lost to Lane Tech, Metea Valley, Hersey and Plainfield East in the tournament before falling to a talented Freeport team twice, but the Spartans picked something up each game.
“Those games helped us so much with our speed of play,” Miller said. “In the beginning of the season, there was such a big difference from the beginning of the season and now just with the speed of play, getting used to each other and learning how to make runs. We’ve improved so much and obviously those games helped.”
That experience is exactly why Sycamore has a chance to upset Freeport on Wednesday in the Class 2A Freeport Sectional semifinal against a team the Spartans know very well.
Sycamore lost 2-0 to the Pretzels early in the season and then 6-1 in the Pretzel Cup, when the Spartans were coming off of a game earlier in the day and Freeport was fully rested.
“Hopefully, we’ll put a better game together for them this time, something similar to when we played them here,” Lichamer said. “But they’re extremely talented.”
This will be the fifth consecutive postseason in which Freeport and Sycamore have met, with Sycamore winning the first two and Freeport winning the previous two.
The Spartans hope that their extensive knowledge of their opponent will go a long way to forging an upset.
“Knowing what to expect and what stands out is going to definitely help us in this upcoming game,” Alyssa Maillefer said. “They are a really good team, so having one-touch passes and staying aggressive and not letting them push you around will be key. They’re a really physical team, they have a lot of good players with the ball and they’re able to put it right where they want it. For us to be able to challenge 50-50 balls is going to be, again, very key for us.”
The Spartans scored just one goal apiece in wins against Burlington Central and Crystal Lake Central, and they know Wednesday’s game will be a step up. But the Spartans have plenty of experience against high-caliber opponents, so they know a win isn’t out of reach.
“They’re just quick, they’re really fast,” Miller said. “They know what they’re doing, when they’re supposed to go. It’s going to be a good game. Maybe we can pull off the upset.”