Richmond-Burton coach Casey DeCaluwe and his four seniors had a momentous week as they head into the final stretch of the season.
DeCaluwe won his 100th career game as R-B’s girls coach after the Rockets defeated Burlington Central on April 20, and the Rockets won their third straight Kishwaukee River Conference title Monday after beating Marengo 8-0, finishing the season 5-0 in conference play. Seniors Reese Frericks, Margaret Slove, Madison Havlicek and Alexa Anderson are all 25-0 in the KRC since joining the varsity roster as sophomores.
DeCaluwe is now 103-53 as the Rockets’ girls coach, including 48-9-4 over the past three seasons with a state runner-up trophy and two sectional championships.
“Doing it with this group is special,” DeCaluwe said. “They’ve helped me a lot along the way to grow as a coach, and I think that’s the most important thing. Out of the 100 wins, I’m a totally different coach from win one to win 100, and I hope I keep evolving with the game and keep winning games.”
The Rockets’ four seniors set a goal to go undefeated in KRC play during their time with R-B ever since the COVID-19 pandemic took away their freshman season. R-B outscored KRC opponents 33-2 in five matches this season and 160-14 in the past three seasons.
“Doing it with this group is special. They’ve helped me a lot along the way to grow as a coach and I think that’s the most-important thing. Out of the 100 wins, I’m a totally different coach from win one to win 100 and I hope I keep evolving with the game and keep winning games.”— Casey DeCaluwe, Richmond-Burton girls soccer coach
DeCaluwe said he thought some early losses to McHenry, Lakes, Grayslake North and Deerfield helped the Rockets sharpen their skills for conference play and the postseason.
“You want to be playing your best soccer heading into the playoffs; are we’re doing that?” DeCaluwe said. “We’ve seen goals coming from every angle, it’s not just one person putting the ball in the back of the net. We’re finding different and new ways to score. It’s going to keep defenses on their toes trying to figure out how we’re going to break them down.”
The Rockets earned the top seed in the KRC tournament and will play in the semifinals Monday against Woodstock. DeCaluwe wanted his team to treat the tournament as a way to prepare for the playoffs. R-B will look at it as one last way to cement its dominance of the KRC.
“You’ve got an opportunity at our home to hopefully defend a conference championship, make it clear cut that Richmond was the best team,” DeCaluwe said. “That’s what I hope can happen next week.”
Burlington Central changing minds
Burlington Central coach Jess Arneson is trying to change the Rockets’ mentality and saw improvements in the 10-0 win over Crystal Lake South on Tuesday.
Arneson wants Central to focus on moving the ball up and creating offensive chances instead of worrying about who’s playing on the other team.
“It’s not ‘what does that other team have?’ It’s always going to be ‘what do we have?’ so we focus on ourselves going forward,” Arneson said. “Hopefully we can get that mentality switch.”
The Rockets’ win over South and a 1-0 win over Jacobs on Thursday has BC a point behind Crystal Lake Central for first place in the Fox Valley Conference. The teams will play each other Tuesday in Crystal Lake.
BC wanted to compete for a top-three spot in the FVC heading into the season and now will work on keeping its positive mentality as the Rockets try to win a conference title.
“We’re there,” Arneson said. “We’ve got to tighten a couple things here and there, and we’ve got to have a mentally strong finish. I think we can carry that into regionals, sectionals and hopefully use that mental toughness to get through stuff we want to get through.”
Huntley’s grass struggles
Huntley coach Matt Lewandowski and the Red Raiders have a difficult relationship with grass fields.
“We keep putting ourselves into weird situations with grass,” Lewandowski said. “I hate grass. I want to be done with grass.”
Lewandowski thought Huntley struggled to play on grass again in its 3-2 double-overtime win over Cary-Grove. The Red Raiders and McHenry are the only teams in the FVC that have artificial turf fields. Huntley will have to play on only artificial turf fields in the postseason as it will host a regional while Harlem, Barrington and North Central College all host with artificial turf fields.
Lewandowski said the team practices on grass fields to prepare for matches that will take place on grass, but he doesn’t think the Red Raiders are adjusting quick enough to playing on grass.
“Practice to game is different,” Lewandowski said. “It makes a big impact, especially in soccer where the surface is where the ball is 99% of the time.”
Crystal Lake South presented different lessons
Crystal Lake South knows that each match presents new lessons, and the Gators learned two different ones in their 1-1 tie with Dundee-Crown on Monday and a 10-0 loss to Burlington Central on Tuesday.
“We’re trying to learn every single match,” South coach Kyle McCaughn said. “We’re trying to help these kids figure out what we can do to help us be successful down the stretch.”
McCaughn wants the Gators to work on connecting passes, building from the back, understanding marks, understanding runs and learning from the opportunities in front of them. South is 3-10-1 after its 7-1 loss to Crystal Lake Central on Thursday, and McCaughn wants to keep learning for final matches of the regular season.
“You want to try to learn from each one of them and take that moving forward, not just for the postseason,” McCaughn said. “We’re not worried about the postseason, we’re just worried about tomorrow and trying to get better tomorrow.”
Postseason seeds released
The IHSA released the seeds for the upcoming postseason tournaments.
In Class 1A, Richmond-Burton earned the No. 1 seed in one of the Richmond-Burton Sectional subsectionals. Johnsburg was seeded No. 2 and Marian Central was placed No. 6 in the same subsectional.
Marengo will be No. 7 in a subsectional in the Class 1A Hinckley-Big Rock Sectional.
Crystal Lake Central earned the No. 1 seed in one of the subsectionals of the Class 2A Burlington Central Sectional. BC was seeded No. 2, Cary-Grove will be No. 3, Woodstock North earned No. 5, Woodstock will be No. 6, Prairie Ridge earned No. 7, Crystal Lake South was seeded No. 8 and Harvard will be No. 9. The Hornets will host a regional.
In Class 3A, Huntley earned the No. 3 seed in the Harlem Sectional while Jacobs was placed at No. 4. McHenry got No. 5, Hampshire earned No. 7, while Dundee-Crown took No. 10. The Red Raiders will host a regional.
All three state finals will take place at North Central College in Naperville. The Class 1A state finals will run May 26 and 27, while Class 2A and 3A will be June 2 and 3.