ELK GROVE – Late in Thursday’s game, Downers Grove North’s Kaitlyn Parker quickly lined up for a shot at the goal.
From her angle, near the far sidelines away from the benches, Parker geared up to sling a shot through a few defenders, a driving rain and strong wind. She smacked the ball but her shot attempt was deflected in the crowd, missing a golden opportunity to end a scoreless game against Maine South.
After witnessing the result – another missed shot in a game full of missed attempts – Parker immediately put her head down in disgust.
Her missed shot came to symbolize how the Trojans felt throughout the 70-minute match in the championship game of the Elk Grove Invitational. The Trojans and Hawks both failed to score a goal and had to settle for a scoreless tie.
By virtue of outscoring their three opponents 6-2, Maine South (1-0-2) were awarded the tournament championship. Once the champion was announced, the Hawks gathered in a circle and jumped up and down, while raising the plaque.
“We won this tournament last year, so this is our third year here,” Maine South coach J.J. Crawford. “Downers Grove North is a great team. They are going to have a great season. This tournament has really stepped up. I thought Elk Grove and Maine West both had really nice teams. This is a great starting point for all four teams.”
Crawford said he was proud of how his players responded in the three-game tourney, especially learning how to play without star Molly Pistorius, a freshman at Northern Michigan who broke Maine South's single-season scoring record with 44 goals and eight assists last spring.
“We’re still a work in progress,” Crawford said. “We have a great attitude. Last year we had a super forward in Molly Pistorius. We’re trying to figure out a new identity. Last year we knew we could ride with her. We have to do more team-based things now.”
Downers Grove North (1-0-2) played solid in their three tourney games but failed to build upon a 2-0 win over Elk Grove in their season-opener Monday. That was followed by a 1-1 tie with Maine West. In all, the Trojans scored three goals and allowed just one but had to settle for second place.
“If you don’t shoot, you don’t score,” Downers Grove North coach Brian Papa said. “We had opportunities. I like the way the girls are playing. They are the most exciting team that doesn’t score a goal. I don’t know what to tell them. They realize things are starting to materialize.
“We haven’t really practiced, especially outdoors. We have a lot of first-time girls and a couple of sophomores up. They are doing their best. I’m very proud of them.
“We gave up one goal in the tournament and lose the tournament. Addison Liszka and Kailyn Ziroli controlled the middle of the field. We controlled the ball. We had play. I just like the way we’re playing. I just have to figure out how we can get some practice time. We’re picking up things, but also missing things.”
The Trojans played more aggressively in the second half, sending three shots toward the goal in a six-minute span early in the period. Downers Grove North’s strong play in the final 35 minutes was a good sign -- Maine South goalie Julianna Duddles tallied five saves. Duddles was active and played strong in the net after starter Payton Ranalli tallied one save in the opening half.”
Ziroli, a senior defender, said she’s happy to return to playing for her high school after playing club the last two seasons. The Lewis University recruit also played freshman season at Downers Grove North.
“It was frustrating, but we tried our best,” Ziroli said. “We put our best foot forward. I thought we dominated the game, especially in the second half. The weather has been tough, but we’ve been able to grind through it. I think we’ve played well. We just need to finish our chances.”
Liszka, a junior midfielder, said the Trojans have the potential to be a team to watch in the West Suburban Conference Silver Division. Junior goalie Gianna Hunsche finished with seven saves to earn the shutout for the Trojans.
“We definitely had a lot of possession, so it was frustrating not to capitalize,” Liszka said. “We’re going to work on that in practice, getting to dominate in the middle and get that forward pass and get the final touch. I’m positive because we have good chemistry down. We have to continue to get the soccer building down.”
Several Trojans commented about the lack of practices, which led to the team’s up-and-down play. After watching the boys basketball team make a historic run to the Class 4A fourth-place trophy, the soccer team is looking to add some hardware to the school’s trophy case.
“We’ve only had three practices,” senior midfielder Ellie Watts said. “I definitely think we have good energy on our team. We have good combination. We have to focus on executing in front of the goal. Once we do that, we will be a hard team to beat. We have to carry the energy the whole game.”
Maine South played the game with two keepers, like they have for the last few years according to Crawford.
Ranalli, a senior, had an easier night than her colleague Duddles, but she enjoyed the dual shutout.
“I think coming back from yesterday we came back stronger and more confident,” Ranalli said. “We’ve been doing this for pretty much the last four years, always battling and playing two (goalies).”
Duddles had a hectic 35-minutes in the net. It included racing off the field to get a loose ball that squirted close to the parking lot with 10 minutes left. She collected six saves, including a leaping stop with 28 minutes left in regulation.
“We really came together and have come together,” she said. “We have a lot of new players. This feels amazing to win this. I’m really proud of our team and what we did today.”
Downers Grove North
GK: Gianna Hunsche
D: Ava Locker
D: Taylor Kuelthau
D: Katelyn Hennelly
D: Caroline Siebert
MF: Addison Liszka
MF: Kailyn Ziroli
MF: Ellie Watts
MF: Angelina Santiago
MF: Katelyn Parker
F: Kate Goray
GK: Payton Ranalli
D: Ryen Desmedt
D: Nicola Slater
D: Livia Jolineau
D: Ava Kontuly
MF: Annie Katsiavelos
MF: Victoria Jelic
MF: Nyah Downing
MF: Francesca Trippiedi
F: Kailey Tripoli
F: Kate Barker
Chicagoland Soccer MVP of the Match: Gianna Hunsche, Downers Grove North, junior, goalie
Tag(s): Downers Grove North