While it remains to be seen how far the Riverside-Brookfield High School girls soccer team will go in the playoffs, there are multiple reasons for optimism when assessing the Bulldogs’ postseason outlook.
First off, RBHS (the No. 4 seed in the St. Francis Sectional) hosts a regional. The Bulldogs also finished 11-6-1 including a 4-2 mark in the Metro Suburban Conference during the regular season to establish a pattern of success. Most important, the team offers a roster comprised of solid veterans and promising newcomers providing head coach Danny Makaric plenty of options.
The Bulldogs opened the playoffs with a game against the sectional’s No. 13 seed Solorio on May 19 (past deadline). With a victory, RBHS advances to Saturday’s 11 a.m. regional final against the winner of fifth seed Glenbard South and twelfth seed Hubbard. Due to construction of the RBHS football stadium, the Bulldogs have been playing their home games at Carbajal Field in Cicero.
Regardless of location, Makaric still believes the Bulldogs will benefit from a home field advantage.
“It’s our home field, so we’re more used to it,” he said. “It’s exciting to host the regional. I love the way we’ve been playing. We are just taking it step by step.”
RBHS finished the regular season with a 2-2 tie against Hinsdale South (5/15) and a 3-1 loss at Morton (5/14).
Despite dominating possession with the ball against Morton, RBHS struggled to find the back of the net.
Sophomore midfielder Esther Annoreno scored the lone goal for the Bulldogs on a header with 36 minutes left in the first half (assisted by freshman forward Allie Kucera) to give RBHS a 1-0 lead.
“I know we play better when we get a goal in early in the game,” Annoreno said. “I took the opportunity from Allie and just put it in with the header.”
Morton responded well by scoring three goals to seize a 3-1 halftime advantage.
Both teams went scoreless in the second half as RBHS junior goalkeeper Karli Rivera finished with 10 saves.
Despite a tie and loss last week, RBHS is confident and eager for the postseason.
“We definitely still have the momentum heading into the playoffs,” Annoreno said. “We’re a strong team when we need to be and we can make the plays that cause good goals.”
Kucera is one of several young players on the team that has made an immediate impact.
“The young players that have come in have definitely made us better,” Annoreno said. “We have some great seniors, too, and losing them next year will hurt. The young players have shown they can step up.”
Along with the emergence of the young players, a change in defensive scheme has also triggered the Bulldogs’ recent success.
“We changed up our defensive line,” Dorsey said. “We are changing the way that we play and adapting well to each different opponent that we play. I think we’re unpredictable. We played absolutely awesome [against Morton], but we just made a few mistakes. I think we’re still on the right track.”
Much of the Bulldogs’ optimism stems from its versatility. Simply put, they can beat teams in a variety of ways.
“Our defense is strong,” Dorsey said. “And we have Allie [Kucera] up top, who is really good at scoring. We have [senior midfielder] Ashley [Ferguson] who can play with Allie, and the plays that they have together are beautiful.”
Annoreno added: “I definitely feel confident. We’ve been way stronger as a team this year, especially toward the end of the season. I think we work together so well.”