The DeKalb girls soccer team has been dominating its home tournament for several years now, so letting it come into it with momentum doesn’t seem fair.
The Barbs (4-3-1) are coming off a 4-0 win over Yorkville, sparked by a hat trick from Kayley Garland in her return from a broken nose, and a tie with rival Sycamore. Now, they head into BarbFest, which they’ve won four straight years.
Started in 1995, the tournament includes Northern Illinois Big 12 Conference foes Rochelle and Yorkville, but also smaller schools Hinckley-Big Rock and Indian Creek. But regardless of size, DeKalb coach Phil Rouse said no match will be overlooked.
“All the teams deserve our respect,” Rouse said. “They’ve been practicing the same number of days, getting the same drills or opportunities. Big or small, it doesn’t really matter to us.”
That’s because Indian Creek is coming in with some momentum, as well. The Timberwolves are 6-0.
So teams aren’t lacking confidence. In last year’s BarbFest, Indian Creek lost to DeKalb, 2-0, in a match that coach Luke Anderson said more competitive than the score suggests, even though his team wasn’t at full strength.
“Last year, there was a dance activity at the same time, so a lot of our players weren’t there,” Anderson said. “This year, we’ve got everyone, so I think we’ve got a great chance to do well.”
Regardless of school size or record, fitness is a huge factor in BarbFest. When round robin play begins this morning at DeKalb High School, DeKalb, Hampshire and Rochelle will all play back-to-back matches. The other three teams will get only 90 minutes to rest between matches.
Because of that, fitness becomes as important in preparation as tactics. The tournament becomes about finding a balance between playing hard and playing smart.
“You have to play hard to win, but then you also have to conserve a little bit, so that’s a little different for a soccer player,” Rouse said. “Most times, you play all-out, and then you don’t play for a day or two. It definitely changes the level of fitness you have and the level or nutritional and physical preparation.”
Ultimately, it’s nice to play some area schools that might not be on the schedule otherwise, Anderson said. But once the teams hit the field, they want to win just as bad as any other match.
As for DeKalb, that hunger might even be greater. If the four-time defending champs can add to their tournament record, the NI Big 12 certainly will have to take notice.
“We’d like to extend that legacy,” Rouse said of the streak, “but it’s also just a nice springboard into the conference season.”