The final home game of Claire Hansa’s soccer career was a memorable one.
It was also historic.
The Riverside-Brookfield defender combined with fellow seniors McKenna Powers and Sarah Sanchez and junior Ivy Marcucci to help the Bulldogs post their second consecutive playoff shutout Friday night.
That effort, combined with an overwhelming display of firepower from sophomore forward Allie Kucera and junior midfielder Kathryn Sessler, led RBHS to a 6-0 rout of Farragut at the Class 2A Riverside-Brookfield Regional final.
It is the second consecutive regional title and third in school history for the Bulldogs (13-6-3), who advanced to play St. Ignatius in Tuesday night’s Glenbard South Sectional semifinals (passed deadline). Top-seeded St. Francis (17-3-1) plays fourth-seeded Glenbard South in the other semifinal.
“I was looking forward to it,” said Hansa, who will not play soccer in college. “I really wanted to end with a bang and winning two regional titles in a row is awesome.”
Kucera tallied four goals and Sessler had two for the second-seeded Bulldogs, who have won back-to-back regional championships for the first time.
This title, while not a surprise, was a little sweeter because the Bulldogs were able to play in the football stadium, which was under construction last spring. They drew a larger crowd to that venue than Carbajal Field, where they played the 2015 season.
“Playing at home has been so much fun because all the fans and parents support us,” Hansa said. “I think that really encouraged us and got us to play better. We had more fans than last year.”
Now the Bulldogs, who have never won a sectional game, want to take the next step. They lost in the sectional semifinals last year to Wheaton Academy, which is playing in Class 1A this season.
St. Ignatius (9-13-2) has an impressive pedigree that includes 14 regional titles and four sectional crowns, but the Wolfpack is seeded third and the Bulldogs believe they are a better team than last year.
“Unlike last year, I think we’re more confident because last year was the first time we’d been there,” Hansa said. “We know more what to expect.”
Junior playmaker Esther Annoreno, who had three assists against Farragut, agreed.
“Having the No. 2 seed puts us in a better situation,” Annoreno said. “That makes us push harder and we think we can go far and keep winning.”
RBHS has been winning because it has begun to show progress in every phase of the game. The defense has been the backbone of the team the past two years but now the offense is breaking out more consistently. The Bulldogs outscored their two regional opponents 13-0, but the other three regional champions also dominated, so continued balance is needed if they are to advance.
“Our offense this year has (improved),” Hansa said. “We have some new girls and Allie has been getting better and better each year. She’s really improved and she’s only a sophomore.
“The defense has helped a lot. We’ve been playing together since middle school. We communicate really well and I feel like we’re really secure in the back. We can hold (teams) off.”
Indeed, the Bulldogs have surrendered more than two goals only four times. Two of those games were against Class 3A schools Downers Grove North and Maine South, one was a 7-0 loss to Wheaton Academy and the other a 3-0 defeat against Hinsdale South, the only 2A school to beat the Bulldogs.
“I think the defense is very good this year,” Annoreno said. “We have the three seniors back there and they do a really good job of getting the ball up to the midfielders and then we get it up to Allie.”