Gators respond to challenge in victory over Maine South
By Dan Santaromita
Crystal Lake South coach Brian Allen has talked about his team needing to improve in the mental side of their game.
Thursday night's performance against Maine South in Park Ridge showed that they have done just that.
The Gators led 2-0 before a Maine South penalty cut the lead in half. But CL South quickly rebounded and added the final tally for a 3-1 win in the second round of the Pepsi Showdown.
"They really responded well after giving up that goal where they cut it in half," Allen said. "They could have put their heads down and folded. Instead, to get a goal back and go to 3-1 was huge for their confidence, for what we were trying to do as a team.
"That was a credit to their mentality and the mental side of the game. We're trying to work all phases: psychological, technical and tactical. All three were clicking today. I couldn't be prouder."
The Gators opened the scoring in the third minute when senior Ashley Ross put away a low, left-footed shot.
"This was one of our more aggressive games," Ross said. "I think we came ready and prepared for their aggressiveness and we definitely out-muscled them in the first half. We came out strong and I don't think they were prepared for that."
Allen was pleased to see his team show good intensity early to take the lead.
"We pride ourselves on those first five and the last couple games they've really taken that to heart and today was no exception," he said. "The first five we came out with a lot of energy. Ash got a great look and buried it."
Five minutes into the second half, sophomore Christina Szocka doubled the lead after a well-executed counterattack.
Just three minutes later, the Hawks earned a penalty kick when junior goalkeeper Elizabeth Quinn (11 saves) came off her line to stop a chance at goal, but got the player instead of the ball.
She had no chance to stop the penalty kick. However, the Gators refused to let the momentum go against them.
Five minutes after the penalty, Ross stole the ball around midfield and made a nice run down the left, resulting in a corner kick.
The corner fell in the box and there were multiple attempts on goal before freshman Mackenzie Taldone restored the Gators' two-goal lead.
"In Our games previous to this, we've been scored on early and I think that's helped us prepare for that," Ross said of the Gators fighting back. Just coming back strong.
"We've been kind of on a high these past few games so I think that kept us going, too. We knew we could do it and we knew they were going to be tough and we wanted it. I think that's what pushed us through this game."
The Gators (5-3) were ecstatic to pick up the win over a solid Maine South (3-3-1) team.
"We stacked our early season schedule against Conant, Schaumburg and Bartlett, exactly for this tournament and to play a team like Maine South," Allen said. "They are a phenomenal team.
"The girls were up for the challenge today and they knew they had to eventually at some point show me that they could score, put pressure under and rise to the challenge of playing a good team. Today they responded incredibly so it was phenomenal to see."
On Saturday the Gators will face Lyons Township, the four seed of the tournament, at 1:30 p.m. at Olympic Park in Schaumburg.
"Another great challenge for us," Allen said. "We're going to go in and just kind of work our butts off and play as hard as we possibly can. I think if these girls work and play to their potential we can be dangerous so we're going to go in there and just give it our all and see what happens.
"I know they're a very good squad, very disciplined, they'll probably possess very well. But if we can stay organized, communicate and again be dangerous in the final third when we get our chances, we should be alright."
Ross wasn't afraid to show more confidence than her coach.
"We're always looking forward to good competition because the Fox Valley doesn't really have a prestigious name," Ross said. "It's good for us to come out here and one, take this game and I think we're going to blow some peoples' minds. I hope we're prepared for that one."