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Sports

Bolingbrook ready for challenge of facing defending state champ in postseason

Bolingbrook's Cecilia Bach battles with a Willowbrook player for possession of the ball in a game earlier this season. The Raiders will have home field advantage when they face defending state champ Naperville North in the first round of the playoffs.
Bolingbrook's Cecilia Bach battles with a Willowbrook player for possession of the ball in a game earlier this season. The Raiders will have home field advantage when they face defending state champ Naperville North in the first round of the playoffs.

BOLINGBROOK – It has been a record-setting season for Bolingbrook's girls soccer team.

The Raiders finished second in the SouthWest Suburban Blue conference, their highest finish ever, and they had a good chance to set the single-season record for wins in Tuesday's regular season finale game against Thornwood.

The reward for their efforts? Facing defending state champion Naperville North in the first round of the playoffs. But don't feel sorry for the Raiders (14-5-3 as of Monday). They certainly don't feel sorry for themselves.

"I don't think Naperville North recognizes the draw they have," head coach Martin Uscila said. "I believe we'll have the best player on the field [Nikia Smith]. It's going to be a dogfight with us. I think people have underestimated us all season."

Typically in the postseason, a No. 5 seed like Naperville North would face the No. 4 seed, and a No. 9 seed like Bolingbrook would play the No. 8 team. Based on the regional hosts that are in the Naperville North sectional, the pairings had to be rejiggered. Still, Uscila feels his team could move on to the regional championship match on May 23.

"We have to play great soccer, but there hasn't been a game this season that we couldn't have won," the coach said.

Northwestern recruit Smith has scored 18 goals this season, but the Huskies won't be able to focus solely on stopping her. Rachel Schneider has netted 17 goals this season in her return from an ACL injury. Smith is also a top-flight defender, so if Bolingbrook scores early then Smith could transition to the back to help defend the lead.

"I don't think we're that much worse off on offense if we put Nikia in the back," Uscila said.

In the midfield, Abbie Lund, Sophia Sychowski and Concepcion Perez have complemented Smith and Schneider up top by controlling the pace of the game. Caroline Harvey is also a dynamic player that adds to the offensive punch.

"Nikia and Rachel are two leaders on the team who believe we have a chance every time we step on the field," Uscila said. "This team is kind of the same as last year's team minus a few players here and there, but this team more than any other team we've had believes it can win every time out."

Bolingbrook girls soccer

Class: 3A

Regional: Bolingbrook

Sectional: Naperville North

Seed: No. 9 in sectional

First game: 6:15 p.m. Wed., May 21, vs. No. 5 Naperville North

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