Late goal dooms Gators vs. West Chicago
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By Mike Garofola
Andie Lazzerini struck 2 minutes from time to give West Chicago (4-2-0) a dramatic win Wednesday morning at Millennium Field on the second day of play at the South Elgin tournament.
The Wildcats continue their tourney schedule on Friday at 10 a.m. against Hampshire, looking to push their record to 3-1 overall on the turf in Streamwood.
"That was a good victory for us today," said an upbeat West Chicago head coach Cesar Gomez, who watched Lazzerini tuck away her game-winner off the counter-attack.
Lazzerini’s goal came after the Gators failed to do anything with a Kali Loescher freekick on the other end. The lightning-quick Wildcats striker roared up the left side and sent her shot into the far inside netting.
"We got caught ball-watching after we were unable to make something happen on a dead-ball opportunity," said a disappointed Gators' head coach Brian Allen, who for the second consecutive match saw his club create chances but fail to capitalize.
"We outshot Hampshire yesterday something like 19-2 but scored only once, and we still are having trouble getting a head on balls sent into the box either on corners, freekicks or long throws. Until we can get that part of our game up and running, we're going to continue to struggle to find the back of the net."
Wednesday’s match featured a pair of premier attacking players in the aforementioned Loescher, and Wildcats senior and Eastern Illinois-bound Meagan Radloff, who didn't disappoint the few hearty souls dressed in the appropriate cold weather-wear to brave the conditions and cheer for their favorite side.
Loescher, as she has in the Gators (1-3-1) first 5 matches of the 2011 season, was terrific on both sides of the ball, while coming back to tackle and defend when needed, to earn player-of-the-match honors for South.
Radloff, who struck for 2 goals in the Wildcat's victory over Oswego on Monday, both in the second half in a 3-2 victory, was ever present in the West Chicago attack. Radloff stood out whether up top along with Lazzerini and others, or when Gomez dropped her into the middle after the break, to jump-start an offense which sputtered from time-to-time in the first 40 minutes.
However, it was the vibrant presence, pace and energy from Bianca Navejas that would keep the Wildcats' attack at its sharpest on this day, as the playmaking junior put in 80 minutes of creative work in the middle of the park, to help her club continue to pressure their opponents and fuel a West Chicago victory.
"She's the brains of our attack, we just have to feed her a little more to get a little more muscle on her," joked Gomez.
In the early stages of the match, Navejas would make sure her mates were all involved, who in turn would always try to play through her when the Wildcats attack went forward.
When Navejas’ midfield mate Jenny Amaro was there to compliment her, it made for some extra work in the back for the Gators' quartet of Vivian Qian, Ashley Tyllia, Ellen Brunner and Emily Hamrick.
Qian in particular came to the rescue on a handful of smartly played tackles, stepping out from the middle of the back to take away any chance for her opponents to get that extra touch and get in on keeper Elizabeth Quinn.
Quinn had a fairly easy time of things in the first half, while her West Chicago counterpart, Kelsey Myers, was forced to save Loescher on the turn from 22 yards - then forced to watch an unmarked Christina Szocka go wide of the post from 14 yards.
"We've come a long way since the start of the season, when we struggled with every part of our game, and today we created some chances but we're just not connecting right now," said Loescher.
Just after the break, Katie Becker had a go at Quinn while Qian's long freekick from 35 yards had enough pace on it to produce a save from Myers.
Neither side had much luck finding feet near the hour mark, making the match turn a little frenzied, and without much possession as each club ignored its midfield and instead played a little too much one-touch, which quickly found the ball in the air more than on the floor, where the skill of the technical players was neutralized.
"It really became a game of kick ball out there for awhile, but once we got back to possessing the ball the way we have been coached to do, we gained back control of the game," said Navejas.
While the Wildcat's attack sputtered during this time, it was the defense, which was watertight for most of the match, that continued to shine.
For the second game in a row, Gomez applauded the efforts of Shanda Maldonado, called into the Wildcats first-11 while its starting sweeper is away on vacation for the Spring Break.
"That is our future out there with a JV player in Shanda, and she is doing a great job for us back there, as did Katie Becker, Sarah Opel and Kristyn Pavnica," said Gomez.
Near the hour mark, both sides decided to open things up as they each went in search of the first goal of the match. Inspired by Radloff and Lazzerini, who each had a go on frame during this time, the Wildcats would spent much more time in the Gators' end in the final quarter hour of play.
"We kind of forgot our midfielders, and we sure didn't play simple soccer, because when we didn't, and got antsy, the game got away from us and we found ourselves chasing and defending, and not really getting anything going in West Chicago's end," said Allen.
"I know we'll get there eventually, and that we get (it) figured out when we get back to training, but it still is a little frustrating to see us give up that really late goal."
Lazzerini -- who Gomez said will be even faster than the super-sonic speed she possesses once she learns to anticipate a little sooner to get that much needed first step on her mark -- showed off her speed on the game-winner when she easily got past all those who tried to tackle the sophomore on the left flank.
Once inside the area, she would use a picture perfect touch to find the back of the net at 78 minutes.
"You saw how exciting and dangerous a player she can be with that speed that she has, and hopefully we will all see more of that as she continues to work to improve on those talents," said Gomez.