MINOOKA — It's been a while since the Minooka girls soccer program has tasted sweet postseason success. Last year was especially tough, as a 1-0 loss to Lincoln-Way Central at the 3A Joliet Central Regional sent the Indians home with a sense of emptiness.
This year, though, the ladies look to change their fortunes, as a mixture of experienced players and a bunch of underclassmen, including three freshmen, look to bring home the first regional title in over a decade.
"Playoffs are always huge, and losses like that always tend to stick to you," Minooka head coach Chris Brolley said. "We know that someone losses all the time, so we just have to let it go. We know that this year we have a talented team, with the talent spread out from our younger players to our seniors. We're looking forward to see how we stack up against our area."
A lot of that experience lies on the shoulders of senior Jill Hetfleisch, who has played on the varsity level all four years of high school. The senior was a force to be reckoned with last year, scoring 24 goals to lead the area in scoring. With this being her final year, she knows the pressure is on to achieve postseason success this season.
"It's bittersweet for me. I'm excited to go to college and keep on playing there, but it is sad because I've been with everyone for four years now and Brolley is such a good coach," Hetfleisch said. "I think a lot of people are just drained by the time we get to regionals, but I hope that we can give it our all and make it past this year."
Coach Brolley says that it's going to be nice having the senior forward out there on the field for one last season.
"She's the real deal, which she has shown to everyone," Brolley said. "She makes everyone better. She's fun to watch. She's going to expect to score goals, and so our we. It's going to be part of our game plan to get her the ball, and we're going to use it to the best of her ability."
To go along with that experience is the youth of the program. This season, there are three freshmen players on the varsity level. The Indians hope that the blend of experience and youth can come together for them to put them over the hump.
"With have three freshman that could potentially start, which is incredible," Brolley said. "Plus you factor in all the girls that were here last year, and they should all do well. It's a fun group of girls."
"Since I am a captain, I feel like I'm going to have to be a leader for them," Hetfleisch added about the young talent at Minooka. "I think that they need to learn to work 100 percent all the time, which can be hard to learn early on."
With such a young team, Brolley knows that there's going to be a learning curve as the young ladies prepare for the speed of a varsity soccer match.
"It's a weird year because we have talent, but we're also young as well," Brolley said. "I think once you see some experience gained along the way, you'll also start to see some wins come our way as well. There's going to be mistakes, but they'll be covered up by our juniors and seniors."
The Southwest Prairie Conference also looks tough this year, as Plainfield North looks like a school that could deter the Indians from grabbing a conference title.
"We have a really good conference, especially Plainfield North," Hetfleisch said. "I really want to win conference this year, and I know it'll be tough. But I think if we all work together, we can do it."
At the end of the day, it's going to be the great combination of experience and talent that might finally be able to get over that regional hump they seem to never be able to get over.
"It's one of those things where we're not as focused on the end prize right now, just trying to get better everyday and get people on the same page," Brolley said. "But definitely this is a team that could win a regional title this year."