Red Devils throw late scare into Neuqua at DG South invite
By Eddie Burns
The funny thing about soccer is that a team can dominate a match but find itself in an uncomfortable situation. Take Thursday’s contest between Neuqua Valley and Hinsdale Central.
The Wildcats took a quick two-goal lead and were in complete control, but they found themselves nursing a one-goal lead late in the match when the Red Devils scored their lone tally in the final 10 minutes.
It made for a stressful finish for Neuqua coach Joe Moreau, but the Wildcats eventually emerged with a 2-1 victory at Downers Grove’s Doerhoefer Park. The match was played as part of the Downers Grove South Invite.
Neuqua (2-0-1) appeared to have it on cruise control, but the Wildcats failed to get the ball out of their own end and it cost them in the 73rd minute when Hinsdale's Eryka Hawkins put the Red Devils on the board when she ripped a shot past Neuqua goalie Alexa Wilde.
"Jenn Jarmy played the ball near the top of the box and I tried to trap it. I just held it, dribbled it and shot it," Hawkins said. "I just heard everyone calling my name and I saw a (Neuqua) player, so I figured I'd better take a shot."
The Wildcats made a simple mistake, which allowed the Red Devils (2-2) a chance to get right back into the match.
"We have to clear that ball," Moreau said. "Their goal was scored because we cleared the ball 25 yards out on the side, which allowed them to gain possession, which put them in good shape."
The Red Devils were unable to record the equalizer, but even if they did it likely would not have brought a smile to coach Skip Begley, who appeared to be unhappy throughout most of the match with his team's effort.
"I think he's frustrated with our lack of aggressiveness toward the ball," Hawkins said. "I think that is something that we work on over the next couple of weeks to see if we can get stronger at going for those 50/50 balls."
Hinsdale did play without regular starting goalie Nicole D'Agostino because she was unavailable due to illness, but it made no excuses for their second straight loss.
The defending state champion Red Devils are clearly still adjusting to having so many new faces in the lineup.
"We're still working everything out and getting to know each other," Hawkins said. "(Neuqua's) size and want to win the ball made a difference.
"They are really comfortable playing with each other and we haven't gotten the hang of each other yet. I don't know how long that takes. Hopefully, just a few weeks or so and we'll see how it goes."
The Neuqua coach hoped to see his squad score some more goals but realizes that it might take awhile to offensive attack going.
"I thought we played pretty well," Moreau said. "We worked the ball around.
"We had a lot of nice chances to finish in the second half and it would have been nice to finish some of those opportunities, but offense takes a little bit of time. Technically, we have a little bit to work on in regards to finishing."
The Wildcats got off to a great start when they used the stiff breeze at their back to force play into the Red Devils' portion of the field.
In the 7th minute, Neuqua was awarded a free kick and Courtney Ksiazek sent a drive at Hinsdale goalie Katie Tarman, but Tarman bobbled the well-struck shot off her chest.
The ball danced in front of the goal where Neuqua's Jessica Pinto raced in and placed a foot on the ball and sent it into the back of the net for a 1-0 lead.
"We talk about crashing the goal," Moreau said. "We've got the center midfielder crashing the goal – it would be nice to get the forwards crashing the goal.
"That is Jessica's second goal of the year and it was a play made by a smart player and that goal was a prime example right there."
Neuqua continued to apply the pressure and the Wildcats struck again in the 20th minute when Megan Oyster notched her first goal of the season.
The scoring play began when Oyster gained possession near midfield. She swiftly weaved her way around, past and through the Hinsdale defenders before she placed a shot past Tarman, which gave the Wildcats a two-goal advantage.
"It was a great run," Moreau said. "We've been telling (Megan) to go forward rather than so much laterally and she went forward with the ball."
Oyster, a junior, usually plays defense on her club team, but for her first two seasons at Neuqua she was asked to play forward and did. This season Moreau feels Oyster's skills would best be used on defense.
"In practice, the coaches have been on me about taking the ball up field," Oyster said. "I feel that the opportunity presented itself.
"I finally saw the space, I felt like I could go and beat the defense and I took it. It was an awesome feeling. I've been on offense and have scored a few goals, but this was a different feeling."
Neuqua maintained its 2-0 lead at halftime and had several chances going into the wind in the second half to increase its lead, but was unsuccessful as Ksiazek had a shot hit off the crossbar and Oyster, Noel Leary and Gianna Dal Pozzo teamed up for one of several near misses.
"We were right there," Oyster said. "We had so many chances to open up our lead. I know we'll be working on finishing the next few days. The final score didn't show it, but I felt like we dominated."
Lauren Noonan started in goal for the Wildcats in the first half and Alexa Wilde played midfield and then they switched at halftime. Wilde went into goal and Noonan went to the field.
The Wildcats and Red Devils will conclude the Downers South Invite with matches on Saturday at Doerhoefer Park.
Hinsdale takes on Lincoln-Way Central at 2 pm while Neuqua matches up with Downers South at 4 pm.