EAST PEORIA – Friday's performance in the Class 4A semifinals was uncharacteristic of a Glenbard North softball team that entered play having won of 25 of its previous 27 contests.
Saturday turned out to be a different story.
Coming off a disappointing 6-3 loss to Warren a day earlier, the Panthers rebounded in a big way with a 6-0 win against Lincoln-Way East in the third place game.
Glenbard North now has a trio of third place finishes in its program's history, with this year's trophy joining those from the 1996 and 2001 seasons.
“We talked about ending the season with a win," said senior shortstop Sydney Benz, who went 3-for-5 with a run scored Saturday. "Saturday didn't go as planned, but that happens. Being able to finish with a win was great for our program and it's great to bring this back to our school.
“It's been 13 years since our team has been here so this was great. Besides getting to state, I'll remember the girls and how much we love each other and how we were more of a team than we were in the past."
Benz was a part of an infield that featured fellow seniors Alex Caliva and Heather Sperlazzo (junior Stephanie Campos is also a three-year starter). In their four years, the Panthers won 111 games.
“Our senior class has tried to get to this goal for four years and each year we were just a little bit short," Benz said. "It's great that our team was able to get over the hump that we had at sectionals and then carry it longer."
Sperlazzo echoed those thoughts.
“This is a big deal for Glenbard North softball since they had only gotten down here twice before this," the senior first baseman said. "We made a statement for our school and for us as individuals. It was just a great accomplishment.
“We were like a family. I was never on a team that was as close as we were. It was good to have such great people and we're going to keep in touch. It's sad leaving but I'm happy we left on a good note.”
Other seniors who have played their last game in a Panthers uniform include Lauren Gramann, Jessi Ewald, Brittany Clark and Cece Dopart, who tossed a complete game shutout with 12 strikeouts to finish off her career.
Next spring, it will be up to holdovers Sarah Petzold and Stephanie Campos to lead the way.
"To battle what we went through the last two years," Glenbard North coach Josh Sanew said, "and then to come back and do what we did with this team, you have to tip your hat to this team. We started the season 5-3 and then went on a run where we lost only three games over our next 30. These kids have taken the coaches on the ride of our lives."
Curt Herron contributed to this report.