Warriors edged by rival Wildcats on late score
By Matt Le Cren
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Neuqua Valley’s Olivia Schmitt will never forget her 16th birthday. And neither will her teammates, who received a pretty sweet gift from the sophomore forward Tuesday.
The birthday girl scored the only goal of the game to lift the host Wildcats to a 1-0 Upstate Eight Conference Valley victory over archrival Waubonsie Valley in Naperville.
It was the third goal of the season for Schmitt and one of the few offensive highlights on a day in which both teams struggled mightily against a bitter north wind.
“It’s a great feeling to come out here and to just finish it off finally,” Schmitt said. “We were working really hard both halves.”
Schmitt’s goal came with 12:33 remaining in the second half. Zoey Goralski sent a sharp cross from the left wing into the penalty area, where Schmitt half-volleyed the bouncing ball over the head of Emma Rigby and into the upper right corner of the net.
It was far from the prettiest shot of the match – Neuqua Valley coach Joe Moreau was more impressed with Gianna Dal Pozzo’s 18-yard free kick that hit the underside of the cross bar with 2:33 left – but it got the job done.
“It started off with Katie [Ciesiulka]; she did a great job of taking it to the middle,” Schmitt said. “It bounced around a little. Zoey made a great cross and I just kind of anticipated it and knocked it in. Great job by my teammates.”
“We talked to our backs about getting services,” Moreau said. “We got a cross in there and Olivia attacked the ball. It wasn’t the prettiest. Olivia’s best shot was blocked by Zoey, I think.”
A few other shots were blocked by Waubonsie’s back line of Rachele Armand, Tori Christiansen, Rachael Brots and Michelle Filipek.
Armand was outstanding in her one-on-one matchup marking Goralski, who was held to three shots. The two junior stars play for the club team Team Chicago.
“I play on the same team as her, so that definitely helps,” Armand said. “I kind of know how she plays.”
Both sides, of course, are familiar with how one another plays and that, combined with the wind, led to a defensive struggle.
Neuqua Valley defenders Sydney Tappin, Dannah Williams, Brooke Ksiazek and Abbey Mazur were steadfast in front of sophomore goalie Courtney Keefer, who made four saves in recording her third shutout.
The play of Williams, a freshman, was especially important because she had to move over to right back to replace star Hope D’Addario, who left with a knee injury just 30 seconds into the match.
“Dannah started for us at the center back and I thought she did a very solid job back there,” Moreau said.
With the defenses allowing few good opportunities, the game wound up being decided in the midfield, where the Wildcats (5-1-1, 1-0) asserted themselves behind the play of Katie Ciesiulka, Gianna Dal Pozzo and freshman Lauren Ciesla.
“Our forwards made some good runs,” Moreau said. “I think actually our center mids did a much better job in the second half than they did in the first half.
“Lauren Ciesla did a nice job in the second half. She played the whole second half and she’s typically not an outside mid.”
Neuqua had the wind at its backs in the first half but couldn’t take advantage. The Wildcats outshot Waubonsie 8-3 in the period but had nothing to show for it as Waubonsie Valley’s freshman goalie Rigby made diving saves on Goralski two minutes into the contest and Talise Romain with 2:05 left in the half.
The visiting Warriors (4-2-1, 1-1) figured to have the advantage in the second half, but that wasn’t the case as they seemed to run out of gas.
“I think the key to winning this game was in the center and I think the second half we did a good job of controlling that,” Schmitt said. “That’s the reason why we came out on top.”
Waubonsie had a few good chances in the second half. Sophomore striker Kristen Dodson made a contested run into the box with 14:00 left but shot wide of the right post.
The visitors had one last chance to salvage a tie in the final minute but a 23-yard free kick by Kristen Brots went over the crossbar.
“I definitely think we had our chances and it was a close game but we definitely should have finished more shots,” Armand said. “We’ll just have to have more heart and more energy next game.
“I definitely think we need to have more energy and have more urge to win the ball. No one was fighting for it and that will definitely need to push and be more competitive at practice.”
In contrast, the Wildcats had no such difficult by playing with urgency, especially in the back.
“The defenders did a great job of staying organized and talking in the back,” Schmitt said. “We’ve been working on that at practice, so I thought they did a really good job communicating and finding their marks and then clearing it and finding open passes and we got the ball.”