Pendulum swings Naperville North's
way in upset win over Naperville Central
Huskies knock Redhawks out of playoffs, record books
By Matt Le Cren
BOLINGBROOK – In 2011, Naperville North was unbeaten and ranked No. 1 in the state before being upset 1-0 by crosstown rival Naperville Central in the sectional final.
The Redhawks went all the way to the state championship game before losing to Warren that year, then finished second again the following season.
Naperville Central won a third consecutive state trophy in 2013 by finishing third, and this fall was trying to become the first DuPage County school to win four consecutive sectional titles.
But that run came to an end Tuesday night at the Class 3A Bolingbrook Sectional semifinals. Naperville North stunned the top-seeded Redhawks 2-1.
Sophomore Chris Sullivan assisted on the game-tying goal and scored the winner for the fourth-seeded Huskies, which made the result all the more satisfying for Naperville North.
Sullivan, after all, was in the stands that day in 2011 when his brother Joe had his dreams of a state championship ended by the Redhawks. A three-year wait for revenge is long enough for anyone, but Sullivan wasn’t about to rub the Redhawks’ faces in it.
“It’s definitely ironic,” Sullivan said. “Every single game it’s a bloodbath. We both hate each other but we both love each other. We have the same respect for each other, and it’s always a great game.”
So it was again.
The Redhawks (13-2-6) put together another great regular season but came in knowing this match would be a rumble because the Huskies (15-4-3) had dealt them their only previous loss back on Sept. 16. The Huskies scored in the opening minute of that game and went on to win 2-1 despite being outplayed for most of the 80 minutes.
Sure enough, North controlled the play in the first half, outshooting the Redhawks 2-0.
But Central struck first with 7:10 to play in the opening period when Jordi Heeneman half-volleyed a shot into the upper left corner of the net after Riley Guttosch heaved a throw-in from the right side over a crowd at the top of the box.
In another touch of irony, that is a play the Huskies often have used to score goals this year.
Naperville North remained calm and nearly tied the game 3:15 before intermission. Sullivan sent a corner kick from the right side to Matty Sylvester, whose 10-yard shot hit the right post and a defender before being smothered by Central goalie Joe Kallikadan.
“I thought the boys responded well to that goal,” Naperville North coach Jim Konrad said. “We didn’t go into a shell. We kept pushing, and that gave us some hope. At halftime we just talked about, hey, what a great story it would be for us to come back and find a way to win.”
The Huskies did just that, scoring on their first two shots of the second half.
First, Sullivan’s corner kick was headed home by senior Connor McBride at the 35:34 mark for a 1-1 tie. It was McBride’s fifth goal of the season. Chicagoland Soccer's Man of the Match said four have come on headers.
“It was a pretty big ball,” McBride said. “I saw it and went back post and somehow I got my head on it, to be honest. It hit off Jordi’s head at first and then right off mine.”
Just like that, the Huskies had achieved what they talked about at halftime.
“[We] just [had] to play harder and come out more strong and kick them right in the throat,” McBride said.
The Redhawks reacted in predictable fashion to McBride’s goal by going right back on the attack and producing three quality scoring chances over the next five minutes.
Heeneman, who had 18 goals this season and finished his career with 38, tied for second on Central’s all-time scoring list, broke free in the box but was denied by North goalie Christian Robert, who slide-tackled the ball away.
Two minutes later, Heeneman was taken down on the edge of the box, but his 20-yard free kick from the top left side of the circle went whizzing by the right post. Sixty seconds after that, Jordi McCormack turned and fired an 18-yard roller that Robert saved on the right post.
Robert had to leave the game with 27:59 left after getting accidentally kicked in the teeth by Central’s Chris Schwaiger, who fanned on a shot in the box as Robert was diving forward to get the ball.
Junior Riley Wiest relieved Robert and finished the game, making one save.
“Christian getting smoked in the face, we’re lucky that we have two very, very good goalkeepers,” Konrad said. “Riley came in and finished the job. It’s a true team effort.”
Konrad said Robert would be ready to go when the Huskies play either Benet or Batavia in Saturday’s sectional championship game.
“Yeah, I think so,” Konrad said. “If there’s anybody on our team who’s got a rock head, it’s Christian.
“When you got a kid on the bench like Riley, it’s not much of a change. A lot of teams wouldn’t dare put in their backup, but for us, we’ve got another top-notch goalkeeper.”
The Huskies have a top-notch playmaker in Sullivan. The youngest player on the team made the most spectacular play of the match when he scored the game-winning goal on a counterattack with 24:23 remaining.
Chris Ensign brought the ball up the right wing while Sullivan and a defender jostled for position while running up the middle of the pitch. Ensign sent a hard cross into space, and Sullivan got to it first and hit a one-timer from the top of the box into the upper left corner of the net. It was his 10th goal of the season.
“I could see the play happening from a mile away,” Sullivan said. “I saw Chris get in space and I knew that ball was coming.
“All I had to do was step in front of my guy and it went in the net. I was on top of the world after that.”
Konrad, who has played or coached soccer for more than 30 years, was impressed.
“That was the Goal of the Century,” Konrad said. “Glenn Wishnew digs it out at midfield and then he gets to Ensign. Ensign makes the sprint and then hits a hot ball across the middle and Sully somehow wraps himself around the defender, gets a foot on it and it ends up in the upper 90.
“That’s Sullivan. The Sullivan boys come through in big moments and Chris came through for us today, not only with that goal, but he was really good. He was the one guy I felt kept his composure all night.
“He was able to lead us as a sophomore. He’s just got that competitive savvy about him.”
And Sullivan is smart enough to keep this victory in perspective while recognizing the enormity of it.
“It’s always tough to beat that team twice, and we knew that,” Sullivan said. “We knew that they were fired up to get revenge on us, and that fired us up.
“We wanted to ruin their run, but it’s not [all about] that. Our whole team feels great, but it’s not over yet. We’ve got more and bigger things to do.”
Even after Sullivan’s goal, the match wasn’t over.
The Redhawks had good cracks at the equalizer. The first was the best, when Daniel Poole marched into the right side of the box and sending a cross that went between Wiest and a defender but was just out of the reach of Sean Flading with 12:00 remaining.
As the clock melted away, McCormack got the ball in the box and got a shot that Wiest got a piece of but couldn’t stop. Defender Nick Carballo was in the right place and booted the ball out of the box with 20 seconds left.
As the Redhawks fought back tears and accepted hugs from the Huskies, a subdued Naperville Central coach Troy Adams reflected on his team’s demise.
“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, when you get to this point in the season, can somebody catch a fortunate break?’ Adams said. “I think they caught a fortunate break. I don’t know how many times that second goal gets scored.
“That’s a fortunate break, and how many times does Jordi not score [on] that [breakaway]? That’s an unfortunate break on our part, and at this point in the season that’s what it comes down to.”
Despite the outcome, Adams was pleased with his team’s effort.
“Somebody asked if this is a disappointment,” Adams said. “I think sad is a better word. A bunch of seniors that gave everything they could during the summer, gave everything they could during the season and played a great game today and just couldn’t find a way to get the bounce the way [we] wanted to.”
So ends a four-year period which saw the Redhawks compile a 74-12-8 record, two state runner-up finishes and a third-place finish.
“It’s been a nice run,” Adams said. “I would take more pride in the way the kids are, even than their records.
“We’ve just had an incredible set of kids that have gone through the last four or five years. These seniors definitely showed us how we need to play and how we need to carry ourselves. That’s the part that I’ll remember from this season -- the way that the seniors led us.”
They were vanquished by a squad not unlike themselves.
“The boys all year have believed in each other and they’ve been a team-first team from Day 1,” Konrad said. “There’s not one kid on this team who talks about himself.
“It’s a bit weird about how there’s no egos, and that showed tonight. They played for each other.”
GK Christian Robert
D Matty Sylvester
D Kevin Keane
D Nick Carballo
D Wesley Wong
M Grant Borg
M Chris Sullivan
M Connor McBride
F Chris Ensign
F Brandon Hipp
F Adam Helf
GK Joe Kallikadan
D Derek Kerbs
D Sean Flading
D Griffin Geisler
D Riley Guttosch
M Nick Coon
M Noah Canlas
M Chris Schwaiger
M Jordi McCormack
F Jordi Heeneman
F Daniel Poole
Man of the Match: Connor McBride, Naperville North