St. Francis teamwork
pays off in 3rd-straight win
Spartans turning things around in league play
By Dave Owen
WHEATON – St. Francis coach Kevin Ward's message is loud and clear, and the Spartans appear to be listening.
Powered by Jack McCall’s hat trick off the bench, a two-goal, two-assist night by Leo Herard and Zach Crescenzo’s two goals, St. Francis (6-7-0, 4-1-0) rolled to an 8-0 conference win over St. Rita on Thursday.
St. Francis is a member of the Chicago Catholic League White Division with De La Salle, Providence and St. Rita and
The victory marked the third win in a row and fourth in the last five matches for the Spartans, who are starting to find their footing after graduation took a toll on their 2015 sectional championship squad.
“I’m seeing some positive signs,” Ward said. “We can put something together if we decide to be disciplined and do it as a team. If we’re going to do it individually, it ain’t going to happen. But if we do it as a team, we have a chance to make some impact.”
The team-first message seems to be taking hold, as great combination plays were the norm Thursday.
Herard was the main instigator almost from the start. Just 2:40 in, his 8-yard shot off a Crescenzo pass was denied on a kick save by St. Rita goalkeeper Harrison Goldstein.
Then just 90 seconds later off another Crescenzo pass, Goldstein again came up big with a high block of Herard’s 10-yard shot from the left side.
But the Spartans wouldn’t be denied any longer.
Just 4:44 into the match, Herard’s shot off an Ethan Grosam pass deflected off two defenders to Jacob Power, who rocketed a rebound high inside the post for a 1-0 St. Francis lead.
Then just two minutes later came a great long distance timing play. Off a long send by Herard towards the box, Crescenzo barely beat a charging Goldstein to the ball.
Crescenzo tipped the ball past Goldstein into the net as he tumbled over the St. Rita goalkeeper.
Those extra effort plays and precision passes from any distance would sum up the night for the Spartans.
“We got the ball switching side to side, we were able to play it to the middle and through the gaps,” said Herard, the Chicagoland Soccer Man of the Match.
“We were in the right places at the right time and worked as a team tonight. We didn’t give up many opportunities in the back, we stayed strong and we didn’t let up at any point in the game. We made it happen tonight.”
Herard made things happen all night, although he was briefly one-upped on the defensive play of the match by St. Rita’s Jack Wojcicki.
In the 11th minute, a funny hop on a send skipped over the St. Rita goalkeeper’s head. Herard fielded the elusive ball and chipped a 6-yarder destined for the open net, only to have Wojcicki arrive and head the ball over the crossbar millimeters from the goal line.
But the Spartans were back at the doorstep to take a decisive 3-0 lead 19:02 before halftime.
Grosam sent a nice cross from the right sideline towards the front, where McCall nicely redirected the ball into the upper left corner of the net for a 3-0 Spartans lead.
That began a huge night for McCall. Entering the night with one goal on the season, the sophomore came off the bench to notch two more scores (4:58 before halftime and with 12:01 to play) in his breakout game.
“We did a good job finishing tonight,” McCall said of his team, which has scored 20 goals over the last three games. “We tried to get down to the end line and try to cut it in and get 45-degree balls coming back in on crosses.
“We’ve had a few tough games, but we’ve won our last four or so. It’s just been finishing and defending.”
Relying on bench contributions like McCall’s has also helped.
“We have guys coming off the bench who are stepping up, and Jack is one of them,” Ward said. “He’s giving us some energy off the bench, and overall right now we’re just settling down.”
St. Rita seemed also to have settled down late in the half, as St. Francis goalkeeper Ryan Scharf made a save on Brian Murphy’s 22-yard shot 12:05 before halftime, then another catch on a John Ocampo 25-yarder.
But Murphy was hit in the face with a point-blank clearing attempt with 5:46 left in the half, foreshadowing the next series of figurative hits to come on the scoreboard.
Just 48 seconds later, Alex Guiborat’s pass sprung McCall in left. Stopping to create space, McCall lined an 18-yard shot under the crossbar for a 4-0 St. Francis lead.
And a late half flurry was just starting. Crescenzo lined a shot off the crossbar with 2:45 left, but adjusted his aim slightly with 1:50 left in the half. Set up by a Guiborat pass, Crescenzo again solved a charging Goldstein by chipping a shot over the outrushing netminder and under the crossbar.
Then just 20 seconds later, the Spartans roared into the half with a 6-0 lead as McCall’s endline cross hit Herard for a point-blank goal.
“It’s speed of play and decision-making,” Herard said. “We’ve learned to play quicker, and we’ve learned to get it to the middle, not dribble as much in the midfield and move the ball faster.
“That’s been a huge key to scoring more and having more success lately.”
Having Herard back in the lineup has also been a huge key.
“Leo was out for three or four weeks and just got him back,” Ward said. “He makes a bit of a difference for us and has a lot of energy.”
And the junior isn’t the only member of his family making a big impact. Older brother Carney is a standout midfielder, and sophomore first-year varsity player Luke Herard came off the bench to contribute.
“It’s the first time since forever we’ve played together,” Leo Herard said. “I played with my brothers on a couple other club teams, but it’s nice to finally be on the same team and connect passes, score goals and celebrate together for the first time. It’s like nothing else.”
The Spartans’ celebrations resumed seven minutes into the second half. Sam Audy’s sent a ball towards Leo Herard racing in on goal, and Herard neatly touched the ball around a charging Goldstein and just over the goal line to make the score 7-0.
Then with the remaining time lopped from 33:06 to 16:33 due to the 7-0 score, the Spartans again dissolved the St. Rita defense with another perfectly touched long pass and putaway.
Power’s send with 12:01 left again set up a race to the ball with the St. Rita defense. McCall won the race, then left foot touched the ball past a charging St. Rita goalkeeper to wrap up his hat trick and the night’s scoring.
While the offense shined in the eight-goal outburst, the St. Francis defense also earned praise. Adam Thill took over at goalkeeper with 12:01 left and made two late saves to seal the shutout.
“Backline the last couple of games has not been bad,” Ward said. “Josh Baker and Ethan Grosam on the outsides are shutting quite a bit down. Henry Roback has stepped in as a center-back this year. We didn’t know what we were going to do there for a while, but we’re getting better there. We’re getting more coordinated, and they’re getting used to playing each other.”
St. Rita is in its own earlier stages of finding itself.
“We have six underclassmen,” said St. Rita co-head coach Bob Kellam, who shares the job with Tim McCarthy. “We’re in a youth movement. We’re young, and we’re trying to build, so you have to take your knocks when you play the big boys.”
The St. Rita youngsters are making progress.
“I thought Ryan Dangles in the back played well, and (Jaime) Banuelos – they’re two sophomores who are getting a lot of time,” Kellam said. “And Langston Bedgood is a freshman.”
In better health and hitting its stride on the field, St. Francis is gathering speed heading into the critical games of October.
“We had some guys out for a while, and we got them back,” Ward said. “We got the group together, and I think we’re starting to listen to what’s expected of us and do what we’ve been coached to do.
“For me it’s just fundamentals and our sets on the offensive end. And we’ve been known for playing defense the last couple of years, and we kind of got away from that. But I think we’re starting to see the importance of that, and working together as a unit to attack.”
GK Harrison Goldstein
D David Ruano
D Alec Torres
D Ryan Dangles
D Jack Wojcicki
MF Ryan Caufield
MF Matthew Petrdmilli
MF John Ocampo
MF Jaime Banuelos
F Brian Murphy
F Adam McCarthy
GK Ryan Scharf
D Josh Baker
D Henry Roback
D Ethan Grosam
D Zach Zygmunt
MF Sean Conley
MF Alex Guiborat
MF Jacob Power
MF Carney Herard
F Leo Herard
F Zach Crescenzo
Man of the Match: Leo Herard, St. Francis