NAPERVILLE – Huntley goalkeeper Paige Renkosik isn’t used to heading to the bench.
If her memory is right, she left only one other match this season.
But Friday, with about 21/2 minutes left, Renkosik headed to the bench, got a hug from coach Kris Grabner, and was replaced by freshman Jenna Franklin.
It wasn’t exactly the passing of the torch – Abbey Brown likely will be the Red Raiders’ senior goalkeeper next season when she returns from a torn ACL suffered during the basketball season – but it was something Grabner had thought through.
“The awesome thing is that everybody played,” Grabner said after his team’s 4-0 Class 3A state semifinal loss to New Trier at North Central College. “We got every single girl the chance to say that they played at the state tournament; they got on the field.”
Grabner knows from experience how much that means. When he was a sophomore in high school, he got into a state finals match and called it “something that I remember, something that I’m proud of.”
Now, the Red Raiders have the chance to do something else no other Huntley soccer team has done before, finish with a win.
No, it won’t come with a state title attached.
But, as senior captain Taryn Jakubowski said afterward, the team wants to bring home a third-place trophy now.
“Twelve years, 25 seasons now, it’s ended with a loss,” said Grabner, who coaches both the school’s boys and girls teams. “It’s ended with everybody being upset. It’s the last game together. We don’t play our best game [Friday], but we get to come out
and play again [Saturday].”
After the match, Grabner made it clear to his team the semifinal result will have no bearing on what the team accomplished and how they will be remembered, as the best Huntley soccer team yet.
It would be easy to be cynical about a third-place match, but Huntley (22-4-2) is every bit sincere about wanting to win it.
With 12 seniors, including Katelyn Heiden following along from Europe, it’s a chance to come out and play together one more time as a team, finishing off the longest playoff run in school history.
“Obviously, it’s not what we want …,” Renkosik said. “It’s nice that they have trophies for everyone, but we really want to end the season on a win.”
After a state semifinal loss, one Jakubowski said certainly would sting on Friday’s bus trip back to Huntley, that’s as ringing of an endorsement for a third-place match as you can get.
One more chance.
• Northwest Herald sports editor Jon Styf can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @JonStyf.