One hour earlier, DiBernardo, a University of Illinois recruit and certainly the best soccer star this year in a suburban area that is full of them, had started Waubonsie Valley on the way to its third state title in four years with a perfect corner kick. Stuck in a scoreless tie, DiBernardo sent the ball into the air in front of the Orland Park Sandburg goal. Jessica Price soared high for a header. Boom. That’s one.
The Warriors added two more goals late in the second half. Soon, DiBernardo and her teammates were lined up along the touchline to receive their medals. They danced in front of their home crowd. They posed for photos, the official and the parental unofficial ones, all over the field.
Lost in Waubonsie Valley’s happiness was the frustrating night experienced by Sandburg’s Allie Osoba. The Eagles’ leading scorer, Osoba, a senior, left the game in the first half with an injured knee.
"I hated to see that happen to any player. I especially hated to see that happen to her," Sandburg coach Desi Vuillaume said.
DiBernardo, who admitted she thought that she had seen her one gold medal after the Warriors won a state championship in her freshman year, used words like "phenomenal" and "amazing" and "effort" to describe her team’s achievement. In four years, they lost just one postseason game. They won 97 games over that time, including finishing 23-1-4 this year.
"This team, starting from scrap, showing everyone that we can play and that we are No. 1. It‘s just a great feeling," DiBernardo said, her smile wide as she giggled in excitement.
"I’m really proud of them," Bergstrom said. "They’re a true team. I mean, someone would step up all the time. They’re resilient. Anything that was thrown at them, they’d just fight through it and fight through it."
Senior goalkeeper Allison Fox, playing alongside DiBernardo all four years, played a big part in this Waubonsie Valley team. Fox gave up just one goal in the entire postseason and the Warriors totaled 17 shutout wins. But DiBernardo, the midfielder who would seemingly turn into attacker in the middle of a game, was the catalyst. She scored 23 goals and assisted on 11 others.
DiBernardo creates scoring chances by denying counter-attacks, and is quick to set up her teammates. Goal scorer? No, she talks of the work it takes to accomplish such things. And the coaching. In 11 years, Bergstrom has now won 191 games, including two unbeaten years, which were DiBernardo’s first two seasons.
"I think the coaches come out and help us a lot and make us do the best that we can, try to make us play the best as we can," DiBernardo said.
Bergstrom received quite a talent when DiBernardo first stepped on the field as a freshman, but in 2010 DiBernardo blossomed in her leadership role for a team that seemed almost haunted by a Super Sectional loss last year and a 2-0 loss during the regular season to Sandburg this year.
"I think that Vanessa has been so much fun to watch," Bergstrom said. "Just watching Vanessa grow over the years in terms of her leadership. There’s a big difference between her mental side as a freshman to being a lone captain, and leading the team as a senior to a state championship."
DiBernardo won’t slow down soon. This weekend, her club team is playing in the final round of the Illinois State Cup. Then, it’s on to the University of Illinois.
"I’m really excited," DiBernardo said of her college choice.
Storylines around Chicagoland
* Kirsten Verdun, a senior pitcher for the softball team at Coal City High School, finished off an incredible state-record season in the Class 2A finals last Saturday in East Peoria, striking out nine in a rain-shortened 5-0 win over Johnston City in the championship game. The victory finished off a 40-0 season for Verdun, a DePaul University recruit who pitched every game for the Coalers. In her last two games, both shutouts, Verdun struck out 22 and allowed two hits. In two years, Verdun won 109 games and struck out 927. "I could not have done this without all of my teammates. I can’t believe the success we’ve had this season," she told the Chicago Tribune.
* Make that six in a row for New Trier (Winnetka). A goal by Chris Switzer with 1:02 left boosted the Trevians to their sixth consecutive boys lacrosse championship, a 7-6 win over rival Loyola Academy. It was the fifth straight year that Loyola and New Trier have met in the final. New Trier finished with a 20-3 record.
* Mike Foltynewicz, a right-handed pitcher for Minooka High School, was the Chicago area’s top pick in this week’s baseball draft. A University of Texas signee, Foltynewicz was selected in the first round, No. 19 overall, by the Houston Astros. So, no matter what happens, he is bound for Texas. He won nine of 10 decisions this season for Minooka, which was ousted by O’Fallon in a Class 4A sectional final. His pitches have been clocked at 96 mph.
* Bolingbrook girls basketball stars Morgan Tuck and Ariel Massengale are among 36 competing this week for spots on the U17 national team at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. Twelve roster spots are open for the team, which will compete in the FIBA U17 World Championship, and another four spots are available for the USA team in the inaugural Youth Olympic Games. Tuck averaged 18.1 points as a sophomore for Bolingbrook, which finished 29-1 with a Top 10 MaxPreps ranking, and won the Illinois Class 4A title. Also in the U17 camp: Jewell Loyd of Niles West.
* Class 4A baseball semifinals, 3 p.m. Friday, Silver Cross Field, Joliet: Central (Naperville) (36-4) vs. Stevenson (Lincolnshire) (34-3). Central’s Shane Conlon, a Kansas State recruit, brings an 11-0 pitching record and .425 batting average into the state finals. A win would put Central, or Stevenson, in the title game at 5 p.m. Saturday against 2009 runner-up St. Rita (31-9) or Huntley (29-9). Conlon played for St. Rita last year.
* Class 3A baseball semifinals, 10 a.m. Friday, Silver Cross Field, Joliet: Defending state champ Catholic (Joliet) plays Glenwood (Chatham) in the semifinals. Awaiting them in the title game are DeKalb or Woodstock Marian.
* Class 4A softball semifinals, 4:30 p.m. Friday, EastSide Centre, East Peoria: Fremd (Palatine), also a semifinalist in 2009, takes on Elk Grove Village, and Sandburg meets Moline in the semifinals. The winners meet in the title game at 7 p.m. Saturday.
Recruiting: Vernon Hills receiver verbals to Buckeyes
Evan Spencer, a wide receiver for Vernon Hills and son of Chicago Bears running back coach Tim Spencer, committed to Ohio State. His dad also played at Ohio State. Spencer chose the Buckeyes over a boatload of other scholarship offers, including Notre Dame, Wisconsin, Illinois and Oregon.
Paul Bowker, a sports journalist for 25 years who has worked at newspapers nationwide, covers the Chicago area for MaxPreps. He may be reached at