Martin's pin-point passing powers Mustangs past Griffins
By Bill Scheibe
A pass-first mentality is what pleases senior midfielder Megan Martin the most. Her Downers Grove South coaches and teammates don't mind, either.
So, if the shoe fits...
"Yeah, that's what they expect out of me," Martin said with a grin. "And as long as I'm able to feed the ball off to everyone else, I'm happy."
A bunch of smiling, happy faces surrounded Martin on Thursday night in Frankfort as the Mustangs opened their season with a 3-1 nonconference victory over host Lincoln-Way East. Feeding the frenzy for DGS was Martin with three terrific assists.
Senior defender Cara Doogan, Illinois State-bound senior forward Keri Kujawa and junior midfielder Jessica Bronke scored for the Mustangs (1-0-0), who mustered 21 shots on goal while pinging three off the crossbar and one off the post.
For East (0-1-1), senior midfielder Erin Mangia buried a second-half goal on a direct kick from the top of the box. Emily Boyich, a senior, and Cristal Kurkowski, a junior, shared the goalkeeping duties and combined to make 18 saves.
Making sure the Griffins' defense stayed busy was Martin. She distributed the ball and packaged passes to the Mustangs' three-forward attack better than UPS, and her precision in the offensive third led to an 8-0 advantage in corner kicks.
"Megan does a nice job," DGS coach Barry Jacobson said in typical understated, first-game fashion. "I thought her and Jess Bronke did a good job of controlling the midfield and controlling the tempo of the game. We were able to do some nice things, get a nice flow to the game and keep control of the pace."
"Megan gave us some good through balls and she was breaking down the defense," said Kujawa, who was as dangerous as dynamite on the flank. "I kept pushing forward because I knew we were knocking at the door and I knew we were going to get a goal eventually."
Eventually came with 28:11 remaining in the first half, and interestingly enough, it was a defender who kicked off the scoring.
Martin nudged a pass back through a scrum and Doogan delivered a floater past Boyich (6 saves) into the far-left corner for a 1-0 lead.
"I was looking at it," Doogan said. "But when I first kicked it, I was like, 'Oh, that's not going in.' But when I saw it go over her hand, I was really excited."
After Kujawa split the defense, dribbled deep into the box and fired a shot off the near-side right post, the Mustangs grabbed a 2-0 lead with 8:28 left until halftime.
Martin victimized East's offsides-trap attempt and Kujawa pumped her breakaway shot into the lower-left corner.
"We were aggressive as a team," Kujawa said. "We got the ball through and we were getting off a ton of shots."
"We like to open up our backs, which makes it wider so we have all of our forwards open right in the middle," Martin said. "It makes it nice and easy, and we had possession of the game."
Had being the operative word.
In the second half, Kujawa cranked a shot off the crossbar, junior midfielder Flo Beshiri blasted the iron on a corner kick and Martin then caromed a direct kick off the bar. Kujawa, for one, could have scored a double hat trick or more.
"Yeah, Keri could have had about 10 goals," Jacobson said. "That's all right. It's the first game of the season. I thought the girls did a nice job. We have a long way to go, but they (Lincoln-Way East) are a good team. They're well-organized and we knew they would hang back on us."
Because of the Mustangs' relationship with the crossbar and the post, East nearly mounted a comeback with 21:09 remaining in the second half.
Junior forward Stacy Sons was dumped at the top of the box and Mangia wrapped a powerful shot around the short-side right post.
"I thought the wall was going to stop it," said Mangia, the North Central College recruit. "I was actually really nervous. I was like, 'I can't do it. I can't do it.' But I did it."
That she did, and so did Kurkowski (12 saves) in the second half. One of her stops caused Jacobson to scream 'Bannerman!' in reference to former Blackhawks goalie Murray Bannerman.
"Going into the season, we were a little worried because Ari got all of the playing time last year," East coach Brian Papa said of Arianna Nie, who posted a 0.36 goals-against average as a true freshman this past spring for Lewis. "But our goalkeeping was strong.
"Emily stepped up, stopped a couple of breakaways and kept us in the game in the first half, and I can't fault her on the floater. On the other hand, in the second half, they had the wind at their back and they were pulverizing Cristal, but she was making save after save."
Papa added that "the only reason the game was 3-1 was because of our goalkeeping." And the Mustangs marked goal No. 3 with 4:22 remaining as Martin served a corner practically to Bronke's scalp for an easy header.
"That's what I practice over and over," Martin said. "You want to place it right where they want it, right on their head."
LINCOLN-WAY EAST 2011 PREVIEW
Top returning players: Erin Mangia (Sr., F),
Kelsey Kurey(Sr., M),
Nicole Ernat (Sr., D/M),
Rebecca Dobrich (Jr., D),
Stacey Sons (Jr., M), Emily Boyich (Sr., GK)
Top New Players: Samantha Fiorella (Fr., F), Stephanie Budzinski (Jr., D), Abbey Madden (Jr., M)
Season Outlook: Coach Brian Papa: "Last season, as strong as we were defensively, we struggled to score goals. Losing Kelly McGovern to season ending surgery makes this a very interesting season. This year we are returning five starters, with the rest of the team very inexperienced. We should be very strong in the midfield but very young and inexperienced in the defensive line. Goalkeeping will be the key to our success."