Red Devils defeat Wego to record third straight victory
By Matt Le Cren
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Hinsdale Central coach Michael Smith knew it was only a matter of time before his young squad started getting it together offensively and winning games.
That time is now.
After going winless in their first six games, the Red Devils are riding a three-game winning streak, including a 4-1 decision over West Chicago Saturday at Centennial Field in Hinsdale.
Sophomore striker Alison Cerny led the way for Hinsdale Central (3-4-2) by scoring two goals and an assist. She now has a team-leading six goals, five of which came this week.
“At the beginning of the season I started off kind of slow, not getting any shots off,” Cerny said. “We thought it was really hard to attack, but now everyone is getting in the groove and it’s starting up. I think we will have a good season.”
Cerny attributed the Red Devils’ new-found offensive prowess to Smith’s decision to switch to a 3-5-2 formation, with two attacking midfielders and three holding midfielders enabling them to possess the ball more.
It seems to have worked wonders because Hinsdale has scored 17 goals in the last three games after bagging just three prior to that.
“I think everyone is really stepping up their play and we’ve also been playing a different system for the past two games, so everyone is getting used to that but it seems to be working really well,” Cerny said.
“I think everyone was hesitant at first. We weren’t sure if it was going to work out, but after the game Thursday [a 5-4 win over Downers Grove North] it seems to be working out for us.”
Sophomore Christa Kuhlman got the ball rolling for the Red Devils when she scored on a 15-yard shot with 10:54 remaining in the first half. West Chicago goalie Cat Canestrelli dove and got a good piece of the ball, but it rolled slowly into the net.
The hosts had a couple of chances to increase the lead but a shot by Darby Moran hit the crossbar three minutes later, then missed high on a partial breakaway at the 6:10 mark as Canestrelli rushed off her line to confront her.
That left the Red Devils with a 1-0 lead at intermission, but it didn’t stay that way for long. Cerny and junior Casey May scored 2:48 apart early in the second half to make it 3-0.
Cerny got the first one, intercepting a goal kick and immediately ripping an 18-yard shot over Canestrelli’s head with 33:43 to go. She then fed May for the third goal, which came just two minutes after May had missed high on a one-timer from 10 yards out off another feed from Cerny.
The visiting Wildcats (4-7-1) got on the board with 9:57 left on a goal by Shelly Molskow, but Cerny answered that with her second goal at the 6:43 mark, scoring on a rebound after Canestrelli made a diving save on a breakaway by May.
The outburst by Cerny was what Smith envisioned before the season.
“That was the thinking from the beginning, but for Alison this is her first year in the program,” Smith said.
“I think for her [it was a matter of] just getting in a rhythm with the other girls and just the confidence of [if] you have the time and space, take advantage of it. And she’s done it in the last few games and it’s been wonderful to see her hard work [lead] to rewards.”
For West Chicago, which lost its second straight game after it won its previous two matches, there were few rewards to be had in a game in which the Wildcats were outshot 25-2.
The Wildcats were unable to muster a shot until 10:30 remaining in the second half when Andie Lazzerini’s 18-yard bullet was punched over the bar by Hinsdale Central goalie Riley Glenn.
Wego avoided the shutout on the ensuing corner kick, which Cassie Thill sent skittering through the crease. The ball was deflected by a couple of defenders before Molskow pounced on it near the back post and scored her first career goal.
“It got me excited,” Molskow said. “I just wanted to pump my team up, get everyone more excited to score another one and hopefully try to get other people to score, too. We have to play all 80 minutes strong.”
That was a lesson the Wildcats learned too late on Saturday.
“I think we have to get hit in the mouth first to start playing the game,” West Chicago coach Cesar Gomez said. “I would say the last 16 minutes they played with intensity. It’s a high school game so you can’t just wing it for 60 minutes, then try to play.
“We’re still learning how to do that. The difference is club player and non-club player, so you can see [Hinsdale’s players] are exposed to more competition. We’re more of a finesse team and they’re more aggressive, interrupting our finesse, so we’re still trying to combat that.
“I think that [the Wildcats] have to be convinced that, ‘oh, we can play against them.’ We just cop out if we say they’re bigger than us. Just go play the game and one of these days it’s going to click. We’re still hoping that that will happen.”
It has been happening for the Red Devils, who received two goals from sophomore Meghan Schick and one each from Kuhlman, Cerny, May, Moran, senior Lauren Schroyer and junior Madeline Engleking in an 8-0 win over Proviso West on Tuesday.
Cerny had two goals and Kuhlman, Schick and junior Lauren Zapka tallied once against Downers North, which scored three times in the final 10 minutes to make it close after Smith had pulled his starters.
“I think against Proviso West we really got our confidence up,” Cerny said. “And when that happened I think everyone started playing better…and getting more aggressive and into it.”
That pleases Smith, who is in his first year as head coach after several seasons as an assistant.
“What I’m happy to see is the movement off the ball, [which] is what’s really creating chances and opportunities,” Smith said. “We’re establishing our style of play by knocking the ball around, working with combinations, but in order for that to work they have to be moving off the ball.
“So now I think the comfort level in each other, as far as their strengths and weaknesses, [is there because] they know each other. Now they know that so-and-so needs the ball to her feet or someone else is better when she’s running into space.
"I think what it’s done is created more opportunities and at the same time we’re finishing more of those of those opportunities than we did in the first few weeks of the season.”
The Red Devils now hit the road for eight games, including five at the prestigious Naperville Invitational, but Smith is delighted his players now share the confidence he has always had in them.
“Because it’s a young team, I knew it was going to take some time,” Smith said. “But it was keeping them encouraged, that we can see the light but we’ve got to keep taking those baby steps forward and be consistent to what our program is built on, which is keeping the ball offensively and knowing when to attack, but then defensively making sure we’re applying pressure to force turnovers.
"I think we did a much better job today and in the last few games of putting pressure on teams in their defensive half, so then we’re winning the ball that much closer to the goal.”