MAPLE PARK – Brigid Gannon wasn’t about to be denied.
Gannon, a Kaneland junior, already had a hat trick secured. She had one more goal in her.
After getting a through ball in the middle as she entered the goalie box, Gannon fought through contact with keeper Emily Sotelo and inched just enough of the ball with her left foot for her fourth goal in Kaneland’s 8-0 victory over Solorio Academy in a Class 2A Kaneland Regional semifinal Wednesday.
That type of relentless effort is just part of Gannon’s approach.
“Yeah, 100% effort every game. 110% effort. We heard that from our old [youth league] coach all the time: 110% effort,” Gannon said. “Team effort, too. It’s huge for me. It’s the fact we’re all connecting on the field. Without them, without the rest of my team, I wouldn’t be able to put in 110% effort.”
Kaneland will play for its first regional title since 2016 – and first on its home field – at 5 p.m. Friday against Joliet Catholic.
It’s already been a successful return season for Gannon from a knee injury last year.
“For Brigid, oh my gosh, [had] a horrible [left] ACL injury last year,” Knights coach Scott Parillo said. “She worked her tail off to get here. She missed the first couple of games [in the regular season] just because she wasn’t ready. Now she’s getting there. So superproud of her for how hard she had to work to get back.”
While Gannon was half of the Knights’ (15-4-1) scoring, Jade Schrader, Anna Bischoff, Emily Kuzner and Mallory Nitsche each had goals in a dominating team effort across the board.
Gannon was a lucky recipient of a crafty, multiple-teammate passing sequence for her third goal. Developing timing and precision, evidently, takes time. The Knights have had plenty of time to do so.
“It’s a lot about team chemistry, honestly,” Schrader said. “We all spent a lot of time as kids. We all grew up on a team together – probably 80% of our team, we grew up playing soccer together, so it’s a lot of team chemistry. A lot of [bonding] off the field.”
“Before every game, before every practice, we’re doing possession [drills], and we’re having a good time but also focusing and getting lots of great connecting and passing in,” Gannon said. “Without our families all supporting us and our coaches supporting us on the sidelines, it wouldn’t be possible to have such great chemistry.”
Kaneland also is getting healthier for its stretch run.
“We battled injuries, and we’re starting to get healthy,” Parillo said. “… We’re playing well. Obviously, losing to Geneva and Batavia, that wasn’t fun [by a combined 9-0 to open the year], but by the same token, we were down five or six players because of injuries.
Losses to Benet and Sycamore in penalty kicks in the Interstate 8 championship also stung.
“They bounced back from it. They didn’t let it affect them,” Parillo said. “They want to try to really, really be the first regional champions on our home field. We haven’t been able to do that [as a program]. The girls have never hosted before. I think they really want that. We’ve got a heck of a challenge against Joliet Catholic. They’re legit. They’re good. So it should be a fun battle.”
Solorio (8-7-4) made a sizable improvement from 1-12-2 from last season in-part because of shifting away from the CPS premier conference.
“Our program has changed a lot over the pandemic,” Solorio coach Greta Kringle said. “We actually used to be a pretty top-tier Chicago team, and we were in the premier conference. We were actually No. 4 in the city in 2019. Through the pandemic, we [graduated] a lot of players. Our girls have not had a lot of opportunities to play soccer outside of school and then with the last two seasons.”
“This year we moved down, and we’re playing teams that are more at our level, neighborhood schools on the southwest side. And, actually won our conference [at 5-0-2].”