HUNTLEY – Before even taking the field for a game that had been anticipated for months, Prairie Ridge's girls soccer team perused its opponent's trophy case, gaining of glimpse of what awaited the Wolves if they could somehow pull out a victory.
They considered Huntley's impressive collection of Fox Valley Conference championship trophies, first scanning a run through the Fox Division before jumping over to the Valley.
In that moment, each of JC Brown's players understood their mission.
After three second-half goals propelled the Wolves to a 4-3 win over the Red Raiders Thursday afternoon, Prairie Ridge earned an outright Valley title, laying claim to the trophy that motivated a championship performance.
"We looked at those trophies and we said, 'OK, this is our game, we need to do this,' and all season, this is the game we've been pushing for," said sophomore forward Larissa Dooley, who scored two of Prairie Ridge's three second-half goals. "Every single game, we were pushing for more and more, we knew this was coming, we knew (Huntley) was going to be great, but we stuck it out."
Prairie Ridge (13-2-1, 6-0 Valley) needed to find a spark after Huntley's Beth Parks launched a perfectly placed free kick into the back of the net, breaking a 1-1 tie nearly 13 minutes into the second half.
Brown has seen the Wolves become discouraged after giving up goals and was concerned about how his team would respond with so much at stake. He didn't have to wait long for his answer.
Three minutes after Huntley took the lead, Dooley fielded a perfect crossing pass from Jordan Reitz and poked a shot past Huntley's Kelly Rubino, bringing the Wolves even. Erica Walsh then gave Prairie Ridge the lead for good, scoring with 21:18 remaining before Reitz found Dooley again with 4:21 remaining to seal the victory.
"The girls knew second half what we needed to do and we wanted it more," Brown said.
Huntley's Deanna Hecht scored a late goal for the Red Raiders (15-4-1, 4-2 Valley) to cut the deficit to one.But by then, the Wolves had started to taste their first Division championship since winning the Fox three years ago.
"This is really big for us," Walsh said. "At first, we were kind of intimidated by all of (Huntley's trophies), but it really motivated us to finally get one."
Huntley controlled the pace for the game's first 25 minutes and appeared ready to take control after Maraviglia's go-ahead goal. Red Raiders coach Kris Grabner believed it was only a matter of time before his team would strike again and regain the momentum.
But when a couple costly mistakes allowed Prairie Ridge to set up scoring chances, Huntley watched as the Wolves gained control en route to the championship-clinching victory.
"This definitely pushes us – it makes us want it so much more," Hecht said. "It was a close game, it was a good fight, but it's a learning experience and we're going to come back from this."