Wheaton Academy gets
late checkmate against WWS
Rocha's goal gives Warriors’ 3-2 road win
By Steve Nemeth
WHEATON -- Like in a tight chess match between two masters, Wheaton Academy’s late gambit enabled the visitors to slip past Wheaton Warrenville South in a 3-2 thriller.
Momentum swung back and forth as befitting a hometown clash, but the last swing from the pendulum came from Luis Rocha with 4:19 left in regulation and left too little time for the host Tigers (2-1-0) to escape being checkmated for the first time this season.
Rocha, a fixture in the Warriors’ backline, has occasionally been moved forward to supplement the offense, and that’s how the senior defender earned the game-winner as well as Chicagoland Soccer’s Man of the Match accolade.
“He could be deserving of that for what he does defensively, but this time he gets a game-winner. Good for him,” Wheaton Academy coach Jeff Brooke said.
While Wheaton Warrenville South had the opening goal, the visitors negated that for a halftime draw, and when the Warriors (1-0-2) claimed the lead, the hosts answered with an equalizer.
Tiger goalie Nathan Friedle was like a stonewall rook, making the home goal impenetrable with deft moves from side-to-side or occasionally running off his line.
“Nate had to come up big several times for us. At times he had to practically stand on his head to keep us competitive,” South coach Guy Callipari said in praising his senior keeper.
But an aggressive attack from Wheaton Academy produced a scramble out front from which Rocha’s seven-yard tap-in will undoubtedly encourage Brooke to use the centerback like a knight leading an offensive surge.
“I’m willing to play anywhere coach needs me and that time I made up mind to get a good left-foot shot, and it came through,” Rocha said. “I believe Seamus (Kilgallon) helped get it to bounce my way, but it was the team attack that was key. It’s all about a team effort, and we got the win.”
To start the game each side flashed several back-and-forth rushes before the deadlock was finally ended with 9:50 left before halftime. Due to his depth on the backline, Callipari boldly moved the Tigers' 2015 Defensive Player of the Year, Charlie Kerby, into an offensive role. It's paid off -- Charlie Kearby owns a team-best four goals in three matches.
The senior intercepted a poorly kicked exit from the back by the Warriors which allowed him to crank a 15-yard shot past Wheaton Academy goalie Nate Song.
However, the lead lasted less than three minutes. Elias McCloud proved to be a wily veteran Warrior as he noticed South being slow to set up a wall versus a direct free-kick from out top. McCloud toe-poked a 20-yard roller for a 1-1 draw with 6:07 left before intermission.
“We didn’t ask for 10 (yards). And with the keeper on the post to position the wall, I saw the inside was wide open,” McCloud said. “We’ve got a lot of good players who know the game well. We’re one of the hardest-working teams, but we also play smart.”
That’s something Callipari knew and tried to stress to his team in preparation for the game.
“Told them going in that (Wheaton Academy) would be organized and prepared. They took advantage of a dead-ball situation, and it’s a little disheartening that became part of our learning curve for this match,” Callipari admitted. “Early in the year you learn considerably about your team, especially how we react. Unfortunately that meant at times we were exposed.”
McCloud almost put the Warriors ahead 2:19 prior to the break with a 23-yard laser shot that forced Friedle to make what would have earned a Pat Foley-trademark “Big save” description. Friedle was extended horizontally and reached out with one hand to tip the ball wide. On the other end of the field, Wheaton Warrenville South’s Will Buxton had a late endline try glance off the top side of the crossbar prior to the break.
Both sides began the second half with shots from distance that produced vocal responses from the crowds when they missed the opposite post’s upper 90. However, with 50:14 gone, Isaac Anthony came in on a tough angle run to the left and blasted home a 15-yarder off Friedle for a 2-1 Wheaton Academy lead.
At the other end, Song snared a Carlos Rosas one-hopper, a Unla Husseini grounder, plus a Kerby long bomb. The persistent hosts found the equalizer at 58:49. A 30-yard direct-kick from Rosas’ foot was headed goalward by Kerby and teammate Buxton made certain to head it home near the left post.
“We practice set-pieces and coach always stresses for someone go to the back post, so that’s what I did in order to be able to clean up,” Buxton said about his first goal of the season. “Getting a score is nice, but it was more important to get us back into a position to win and to be playing with momentum.”
Intensity ramped up for the final 12 minutes with Song racing out to corral a breakaway just ahead of Kerby effort to reach the ball. Then it was a series of heroics for the Tigers that kept the tie in place. Tiger goalie Friedle stood tall as Ethan Stoneman put a cannon shot on target. A minute later the junior midfielder raced in from the right side only to be met by Kerby.
But that onslaught set the stage for Rocha’s decider.
“Coming in we knew this would be a tough game because South plays sound and the right way, which makes the win better,” Brooke said. “After the two previous ties, getting a win was more significant. A key is that three games in, the boys are trusting the process.”
Brooke also remarked on the “classy move” shown by Wheaton Warrenville South not just in continuing its tradition of presenting a good sportsmanship pin, but awarding it to a Warrior who didn’t even take the field. Timothy Steininger tore his ACL during the spring and the Tigers recognized his efforts to make a return to action for his senior year.
Wheaton Warrenville South will focus on getting back into the win column.
“Losing is never something we want to do, but it’s better to play hard against good competition rather than a blowout game,” noted senior midfielder Noah Kettle, who played a stellar role in thwarting several Wheaton Academy attacks. “After this game we need to go into the next practice focused on being better organized, cleaning up mistakes and being better prepared.”
G Nate Song
D Quinn Partain
D Luis Rocha
D Riley Kearney
D Callum Burtelson
M Seamus Kilgallon
M Simon Spivey
M Isaia Bedrossian
M Ethan Stoneman
F Isaac Anthony
F Elias McCloud
Wheaton Warrenville South
G Nathan Friedle
D Jackson Keske
D Noah Kettle
D Gabby Lazcano
D Adam Kelly
M Unla Husseini
M Fabian Aranda
M Will Buxton
M Marco Barrios
F Charlie Kerby
F Carlos Rosas
Man of the Match: Louis Rocha, D, Wheaton Academy
Officials: Miguel Chavez (center), Gene Mroz, Mike Montani
Wheaton Academy 3, Wheaton Warrenville South 2
Wheaton Academy 1 2 --- 3
W Warrenville South 1 1 --- 2
WWS – Kerby steal followed by 17-yarder from right side (unassisted), 31st minute
WA – E. McCloud 20-yard direct free-kick catching defense off guard (unassisted), 34th minute
WA – Anthony 15-yard tough angle blast from left side (unassisted), 51st minute
WWS – Buxton 3-yard redirect header of Kerby header off Rosas free-kick (Kearby), 59th minute
WA – Rocha four-yard finish off a scramble (Kilgallon assist), 77th minute
WA 8 – 8 --- 16
WWS 2 – 5 --- 7
Shots on goal
WA 4 – 5 --- 9
WWS 1 – 3 --- 4
WA (Song) 0 – 2 --- 2
WWS (Friedle) 3 – 3 --- 6