The best kept secret regarding the Riverside-Brookfield High School girls soccer team’s success is the defense.

Perhaps it’s understandable much of the attention this spring has been directed towards prolific playmakers like Allie Kucera (22 goals, 4 assists) and Esther Annoreno (7 goals, 10 assists). They are certainly a point of emphasis for opponents.

The Bulldogs’ defense, however, featuring McKenna Powers, Claire Hansa, Sarah Sanchez and Ivy Marcucci has been as impressive. Additional defenders like Karen Valdez, Olivia Gomez and Hailey Jepson round out a deep, versatile unit.

“Most of our defense has been together since freshmen year,” said Hansa, who plays stopper for RBHS. “We have improved our passing so much and communicate really well.”

In their two more recent wins, the Bulldogs allowed only a goal. RBHS routed Ridgewood 6-0 and edged Illiana Christian 2-1. The Bulldogs have won six matches in a row.

“Our defense is the strongest part of our team,” RBHS coach Danny Makaric said. “In our (7-0) loss to Wheaton Academy, I pulled all of our starters early because the final score didn’t matter once we fell behind three or four goals. In our other games, we have not given up many goals.”

Minus the Wheaton Academy game, RBHS has allowed 18 goals in 17 games.

The Bulldogs also have two solid goalkeepers in senior Karli Rivera and sophomore Emily Graham.

Offensively, Kucera and Annoreno aren’t the only threats. Midfielders Gabby Tarrant (4 goals, 3 assists) Kathryn Sessler (2 goals, 4 assists) and Mariah Dorsey (5 assists) have been terrific.

Anika Marchan and Cassandra Moguel-Cano have also contributed this year, while sophomore midfielders Vanessa Fragoso and Averie Robertson are promising players.

In the aforementioned victories last week, Kucera scored three goals and Annoreno, Sessler and Emily Pitts added a goal each against Ridgewood. Kucera scored twice against Illiana Christian, including the game-winner on a penalty kick midway through the second half. A Division I prospect, Kucera has already scored 53 goals in just under two full seasons.

RBHS (11-4-2, 7-1 Metro Suburban Conference) appears well-positioned to make another run at a regional championship, and perhaps more. Last year, the Bulldogs outlasted Glenbard South 3-2 in double-overtime at Carbajal Field in Cicero to claim their first regional title in program history.

“We have a wonderful record this season,” Makaric said. “There have been some ups and downs but it’s been mostly positive. We definitely have a chance to win our regional again.”

The Bulldogs open the playoffs at home against Instituto Health Sciences Career Academy on Tuesday, May 17 at 5 p.m. Farragut and Juarez meet in the other RB Regional semifinal. The championship match is Friday, May 20 at 5 p.m.

RBHS is seeded second in the Glenbard South Sectional. St. Francis is the No. 1 seed, St. Ignatius No. 3 and Glenbard South No. 4.

“It’s going to be nice play at home in front of our fans,” Powers said. “Most of our starting lineup has been playing together for three of four years. We just have to build off that continuity because we’re getting stronger each season.”