Senior midfielder Leanne Barrett plays a multifaceted role for Metea Valley. She’s a two-way threat who effectively and consistently connects the offense to the defense.
Barrett’s do-it-all job Tuesday night in the Class 3A Normal West Supersectional, however, became a bit easier than usual because of the field’s close-cropped natural grass.
A perfect setting for speed.
“We have a superfast team,” Barrett said. “The grass helps because we are very fast and I think we can get to the ball before the other team.”
Barrett brought that concept to life with a crucial assist in the first half on a goal by junior forward Tyra King as the Mustangs rolled to a 2-0 victory over Normal West.
Metea (20-2-1), which clinched its first state appearance in program history, will play Lincoln-Way Central at 7 pm Friday in the semifinals at North Central College in Naperville.
It also was the Mustangs’ 12th straight win. For good reason.
“We have a really well-rounded team that is super close and we have really good chemistry,” Barrett said. “It doesn’t matter if they’re on the bench or they’re starting.
“Every single player is a quality player who gives it their all.”
That sums up the nearly 6-foot Barrett, who’s a striking presence on the field. She uses her size and length brilliantly as the holding midfielder who balances Metea’s attack.
In the 25th minute, she controlled the ball, sending a pass wide to King on the right wing.
“I had an amazing run,” Barrett said. “I just turned and saw Tyra. She always makes those great diagonal runs. I know if the ball goes to her, she is scoring.”
Barrett also showed her talent as a two-way player capable of closing space in the back as the Mustangs posted their third straight shutout of the playoffs.
Metea had to dodge a scare right at the start of the first half as Edwardsville (15-8) missed a wide-open, point-blank shot in the second minute.
“Things like that just give us a bigger adrenaline rush,” Barrett said. “Our defense is so good and everyone’s confident when they have the ball.”
The Mustangs, who are undefeated against Illinois programs, suffered their only losses in April against two Missouri schools.
Last spring, Metea lost a combined five one-goal games against Naperville Central and Naperville North.
A Friday goal by junior midfielder Jordan Lange in the 1-0 victory over Naperville North gave the Mustangs their first sectional title.
“I just think it’s awesome that we made it this far,” Lange said. “The North victory gave us a lot of confidence. We had a lot of excitement from that game and we brought it with us.”
Lange said the team also solidified its bond on the long bus ride to normal.
“This means a lot to us,” Lange said. “We worked so hard to get here and just keep on playing our hardest and giving it our all.
“Teams like North and Central are done and we are still going.”
Sophomore forward Lucy Burk completed the scoring Tuesday in the 35th minute on a pass from senior midfielder Ella Johnson.
“I heard their coach yelling to their back line about closing down space,” Burk said. “I spun out, Ella played me the ball in space and I just took the shot.”
Metea, a team of destiny, now has its sights on the biggest title — a bookend to the state championship won in the fall by the Mustangs in girls volleyball.
“We could tell even from tryouts we were going to be something special this year,” Burk said. “We had so many returning players. We knew how to play together.
“Now, here we are going to state for the first time.”
Patrick Z. McGavin is a freelance reporter for the Naperville Sun.