Lady Cardinals look for extended success
By Chris Johnson
Late May means post-season play and the Stillman Valley Lady Cardinals know what it takes to win. They aren’t far removed from Regional Titles and even survived a Class change from 2A to 3A along the way, earning another plaque that they put on display. They’ve won big games all year long on the Big Northern schedule and have accomplished grand goals in tournament games in 2019. They’ve also experienced spots of non-success and games that got away.
How a team plays in the regular season, especially late, is a huge indicator as to where they will start when the post-season begins. That typically maps how far they are expected to go too. The Lady Cardinals are a team that has come away with run-away wins and has also seen a lot of things go wrong in non-conference matches against big-school programs such as McHenry and Hononegah this year. Going forward, there can only be one way to play though.
Wins by 15 or more over teams from Oregon and Rockford Christian this year and double-digit decisions over others such as Rockford Lutheran helped guide the Lady Cardinals towards the top of the standings in the Big Northern. Those efforts have been on display over the past few weeks of the regular season. Even though getting to the top and staying there hasn’t been the desired result. Losses in head-to-head matches added up late, guiding Stillman Valley out of striking distance with the season’s last week of games set to get underway. As the final week of the 2019 spring season began, the Lady Cardinals carded a 14-5-1 mark and looked for a strong finish and a 20-win result, if things went just right heading into the post-season.
Rock Falls with its 20 wins this year, supported by 18 from within the Big Northern, took control and only had the North Boone Lady Vikings in their rearview mirror during the final miles of the 2019 season. North Boone pushes towards post-season play with a 16-4 Big Northern standing, two games back in the loss column.
Recent losses to programs from McHenry and neighboring Hononegah downshifted the Lady Cardinals overall mark to five games over .500. In those matches offense was not something that showed itself to be too familiar. Hononegah won the first meeting on Jedi Day by a 15-0 score and followed it up on May 11, one week later, in another rules-shortened venture, 10-0. McHenry rolled out a 21-0 decision in tournament play in Harlem this past weekend. The Lady Cardinals look to exact revenge on the Lady Warriors this Thursday, with a scheduled showdown with McHenry slated for engagement on May 16.
The next-to-last week of regular season games opened favorably for Stillman Valley as they powered out wins of 8-0 over Byron last Wednesday and followed it up with a Friday final of 10-4 over Mendota. Match wins over the conference foes allowed the Lady Cardinals to climb back into conversation about a late-season surge to the front. However, the reality of the schedule limits the completion of any true comeback effort. All success will have to come when game play commences Monday, May 20.
When Stillman Valley opens the playoffs next Monday they, as the six-seed, know they have a longer road than many others will have to travel. They have to win the play in game at home against nine-seed Belvidere and then they have to take on the top-seed in the northern branch of the Genoa-Kingston Sectional Complex, Sterling, with only a thought of an upset standing in their way.
The Lady Golden Warriors stand in front in the Northern Illinois Big 12 with an 8-2 conference mark with time winding down and could prove to be a formidable challenge in any Regional Semi-Final setting for Stillman Valley. Currently, Sterling is getting even more focused on a strong close to the spring and a quick opening to the 2019 post-season as it attempts to hold back Class 4A State-ranked Yorkville in its own race for a conference title. They will be riding high when the two teams meet, if things work out for the Lady Cardinals.
Before the second-season gets underway Stillman Valley still has to handle some business. On Monday, May 13, conference-challenger Genoa-Kingston was scheduled to visit with games in line against Kaneland, power-laden McHenry and Sandwich to round out pre-post season, May play.

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