Girls soccer: Grace Helzer, Huntley offense power past DeKalb for regional title

Huntley wins first regional crown since 2017; DeKalb was in first regional final since 2017

The Huntley girls soccer team celebrates with the championship plaque from the Class 3A Huntley Regional after beating DeKalb 5-0 on Friday, May 19, 2023.

HUNTLEY – Huntley forward Grace Helzer said she knew the ball was coming in from Chole Pfaff as she waited on the left side of the DeKalb net.

After that, she just fired it as hard as she could.

“It’s absolutely crazy. It’s crazy to be that team that breaks that losing streak. The whole atmosphere is incredible. I can’t even put it into words right now.”

—  Grace Helzer, Huntley forward

The shot ricocheted off the crossbar and in, doubling the Huntley lead in the final two minutes of the first half. It gave the Red Raiders momentum for three-second half goals in a 5-0 win over the Barbs to claim the Class 3A Huntley Regional championship.

“Honestly, my mind was blank. I kind of kicked it as hard as I could,” Helzer said. “I kind of read Chloe’s mind on that ball and just whacked it as hard as I could.”

The win gave the Red Raiders (17-3-3) their first regional title since 2017. Helzer had a hat trick, scoring the first goal in the 14th minute on a feed from Maizie Nickle.

Huntley pulled away from the Barbs (6-12-1) with a goal from Alex Szydlowski 49 seconds into the second half to build up a cushion in the win.

“It’s absolutely crazy,” Helzer said. “It’s crazy to be that team that breaks that losing streak. The whole atmosphere is incredible. I can’t even put it into words right now.”

DeKalb’s appearance in the regional final snapped a long streak of its own. The win Tuesday against Hononegah was its first postseason victory since 2017.

DeKalb coach Nicole Fleming said the Barbs have a lot of confidence heading into next year, beating not only Hononegah but rival Sycamore in the final weeks of the season.

“I think this has been a great season for the school and for our team,” Fleming said. “We’ve gone farther than we’ve gone in quite some time. So we’re pretty excited about that. We’re looking forward to develop some players, get some players in here and keep the program moving forward.”

The DeKalb offense couldn’t get much going on Friday, with the Red Raiders dominating on offense and firing away at freshman goalie Beth Meeks.

“She was busy today and she had a good game,” Fleming said. “We’re looking forward to seeing a lot of great things from Beth.”

The Barbs’ best scoring opportunity came right out of the gate when Ashley Diedrich got open in front of the net on a Claire Bettner corner kick but missed the connection in the third minute.

Nickle scored the fourth Huntley goal with 25:52 left, and Helzer polished off her hat trick in the 73rd minute with a lob shot from the right side over Meeks and into the far left side.

“Grace is never-ending energy, all the time, even when she comes off the field,” Huntley coach Matt Lewandowski said. “It’s ‘Can I go back in? Can I go back in? Can I go? Can I go? Can I go? Can I go?’ We feed off that energy. It’s awesome to have a player like that. It kind of kickstarts you.”

The Red Raiders head to the Harlem Sectional, opening with Lake Zurich at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday. They won their two regional games by a combined margin of 13-0.

Lewandowski said his team is playing as well as it has all year, and Helzer said the Raiders are excited the season is rolling on.

“I think with how we performed on this game, I’m very confident in our abilities,” Helzer said. “I know that when we focus and we are intense, we can make passes and we play very strong. I’m looking very forward to the sectional game.”

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