NAPERVILLE, Ill. - The Triad Knights were back in the IHSA Class 2A girls soccer state championship game Saturday afternoon at North Central College, looking for a fifth state title.

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They took on Crystal Lake Central on a rainy day in Naperville and were defeated 1-0, finishing second at state for the second time in program history, previously having done it in 2003 under head coach Mike Villa. He helped guide the Knights to their first state title in 2011.

Matt Bettlach took over the coaching job in 2014 and has been to the state tournament five times now, all since 2017. Triad took third at state in 2019 and won titles in 2017, 2021, and 2022.

With such high expectations for themselves, finishing second was a tough pill to swallow.

“Everybody wants the big prize and sometimes it is tough to accept defeat, but they’ve got to realize they just finished second in state,” Bettlach said after the championship game. “I told the kids, according to a lot of people out there, we weren’t supposed to be here, we’re supposed to be having a down year.”

“Well to finish second and state, and we beat a few great teams along the way, so it says a lot about these kids. The emotion, as a coach, I’m happy to see that because it means they care,” Bettlach added.

With the result, Triad closes the season at 22-5-1, earning the program’s seventh state trophy.

Both teams had their chances in the first half, but it was Crystal Lake with the game’s lone goal in the 25th minute.

The Tigers won a corner kick and after it was halfway cleared, Paiton Hulata put it back on frame and in, right past the outreaching Payton Hartmann.

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It was the only time this postseason that Triad trailed. It snapped a 17-game unbeaten streak for the Knights.

“I think when we rolled up today, our girls felt good,” Bettlach said.

“We had a great warmup, they were all on the same page. They all had each other's backs. I liked the way we started the game. And then [Crystal Lake] sort of instilled their style of play a little bit, physical, very direct. But I think our girls handled it well. I’m super proud of the full 80 minutes we gave.”

The team lost seven rostered seniors to graduation, some of which were there for the championship runs in 2021 and 2022. Bettlach said that those seniors were a huge inspiration for the rest of the team.

“We’ve got a few kids that won back-to-back. They were there in 21’ and 22’ and the loss in 23’ was really hard for them,” Bettlach said.

“I think the way they led this group was with heart and desire to get back here, because they wanted to go out with another ring, another medal, and put another star on our jersey. And they were so close.”

The class of 2024 goes out with a four-year record of 86-14-5, four regional titles, three sectional titles, two state championships and now a second place trophy.

“The legacy that they left for this program, I told them it’s etched in history forever,” Bettlach said. “Their names will be forever written on that trophy and it will be in that Triad hallway forever. They should be absolutely proud of themselves.”

Last season’s 5-0 sectional final loss to Chatham Glenwood was also a big inspiration to have a good season in 2024. In a way, coming up just short at state can be an even bigger inspiration for the future.

“We hit on that too,” Bettlach said. “As we talked about our seniors in the group huddle, we also talked to the younger kids, to remember this. And they were emotional, you could see it on their faces.”

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Jun 1, 2024 - Bohnenstiehl's Late Strike Sends Triad Back To State Championship

May 28, 2024 - Triad Girls Soccer Headed Back To State Tournament For Fifth Time Since 2017

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May 25, 2024 - Triad Wins Program's Ninth Sectional Title, Fourth Straight Against Waterloo

May 30, 2024 - Three Girls Soccer Teams To Represent The 618 This Weekend At State Tournament