The Huntley High School girls soccer team claimed the title at the PepsiCo Showdown, the nation’s largest high school soccer tournament, with a win over top-seeded Bartlett on April 24. The Red Raiders competed in the Gatorade Bracket, the second-highest level of competition of the tournament’s five brackets.
This year the tournament included 80 teams seeded into five brackets of 16 teams each, including most of the best teams in the Chicago area, said Coach Kris Grabner.
“We have been participating in the tournament for nine years. We have reached the quarter-finals a couple of times but have never made it past that stage,” Grabner said. “This is a big deal for our team to win.”
“I was a little upset at first that we were not seeded into the top bracket. However, our team took this as a challenge to prove that we belonged in the top bracket. I think we proved ourselves.”
After a hard-fought 2-0 victory over Wheaton Academy in the first round, the team’s road to the title included wins in each of its three final games in shootouts after tying 0-0 in regulation play: St. Francis (0-0, 4-2 shootout), Downers Grove North (0-0, 4-2 shootout), and Bartlett (0-0, 4-2) shootout. The championship game was held at the Illinois Institute of Technology.
In addition to the bracket trophy, the team got the chance to celebrate in a most effervescent way, thanks to the tournament’s namesake.
“It was crazy, fun, really sticky and something that I know the players and I will never forget. The celebration included 22 players and coach with two-liter bottles of Pepsi,” Grabner said.
The tournament is also well known for its service component. Competing teams are encouraged to take part in some form of community service as part of its participation.
Team members have plans to support a “Kick Cancer in the Koozie” fundraiser in the coming year, aiming to raise money to send a Chicago-area child on his/her Make A Wish trip.