Warriors fight the good fight in loss to Glenbard West
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By Gary Larsen
Improvement – that’s all a coach can ask for and what Willowbrook coach Brian Frank is slowly getting from this year’s Warriors.
Example? Willowbrook lost 7-0 to Glenbard West on Sept. 3 but battled well throughout their rematch on Wednesday before losing 2-1 in Glen Ellyn.
“The last time we played them it was 6-0 at the half,” Frank said. “Obviously this is a huge improvement over what it was. The team has been working very hard. We made a few adjustments, people have moved into different positions, and the overall work ethic of the team has definitely improved. This was a step in the right direction.”
One day after knocking off highly-touted Lyons Township 1-0, the Hilltoppers found the energy they needed and found two goals in beating Willowbrook, but Hilltoppers coach Maciek Kusmierz tipped his hat afterwards.
“I knew Willowbrook would adjust and that today’s game wouldn’t be an easy one,” Kusmierz said. “I’m just happy our kids were able to respond.”
The Warriors have battled injuries this season, and they’ve been to key players. Team captains Kacper Czerkies and Brian Dornacher were in street clothes for Wednesday’s game and their return to the field is still up in the air.
“Kacper plays sweeper, right behind me, and Brian is one of our center mids,” tri-captain Eric Lukitsh said. “They’ve both been going to their doctors and Kacper could be back in two or three weeks.”
Wednesday’s contest at Memorial Field went scoreless through 40 minutes. The Hilltoppers sent a shot off the crossbar and another handful wide of frame, as Warriors keeper Eddson Garcia handled a point-blank shot by West’s Joe Zaccaria and left his line to take the ball off of Zaccaria’s foot before halftime.
The Willowbrook backline of Dylan Jones, Leo Solis, Dan Torres and Lukitsh
fought hard to keep a possession-oriented Glenbard West team from penetrating their space in the defensive third.
“Eric is our only captain who isn’t injured,” Frank said. “The defense is playing much better. It’s two juniors and two sophomores and they’re playing much better as a unit.
“Dylan Jones is our sweeper and he’s only a sophomore. He’s doing a very nice job and Leo Solis has been fighting injuries the entire season but he’s out there doing a nice job. He’s a real trooper. He doesn’t want to come off the field.”
Lukitsh was happy with the effort he saw from the Warriors’ backline.
“We were picking up our man like we’re supposed to and staying with them more,” Lukitsh said. “We can still get better but we were better today. We’re much better from Day One to now.”
Offensively, the Warriors’ Ben Draus and Randy Dziak worked hard to win balls at midfield and turn them into bona fide threats. “Today I feel like we played a lot quicker,” Lukitsh said. “We took less touches and played more as a team. Last time we played them we weren’t doing much as a team but today, a lot better.”
Glenbard West took the opening kick-off of the second half, used a few give-and-go’s to work the ball behind the Warriors’ defense, and scored 18 seconds into play on a Shawn Herrera goal.
The Warriors answered the bell at 47 minutes when Draus fired on net from distance. West goalkeeper Zach Watson saved Draus’s blast off the crossbar, the ball caromed across the goalmouth, and Willowbrook’s Tito Cabral crashed net and fired a follow-up shot.
Watson did fine work in sliding over to get a piece of Cabral’s shot, but the ball popped up and over the West goalkeeper and landed in net to tie the game.
“That was nice to see and the team didn’t quit,” Frank said. “They could have folded, and they’ve done that in the past when we’ve given up goals in bunches, but they didn’t quit and that’s part of the improvement we saw today.”
Unfortunately for the Warriors, West’s Ruslan Seyfulov got in behind and buried a game-winning shot at 56 minutes, and the day’s scoring was done. Garcia made a quality save at 57 minutes and saved a head shot soon thereafter.
Cabral, Tim Weyer, and Rogelio Fuentes combined on a counter at 65 minutes, but Watson easily handled Fuentes’ offering from 20 yards out. Garcia fielded a head shot taken by West’s Joshua Herrera a minute later.