SOUTH ELGIN -- Even though it had been unable to practice much on its own field because of the weather, South Elgin didn't perform like a team that is still getting used to each other when it hosted Glenbard East for an Upstate Eight Conference match Wednesday evening.
Thanks to two goals from junior Ella Dihel and another from freshman Ellie Vidic to go along with assists from sophomore Mia Traver, freshman Nevaeh Gyurko and junior Adeline Kinsella, the Storm (1-1-1, 1-0-1) moved in front for good in the early going, then scored shortly before halftime to take a 2-0 lead. The hosts responded quickly to a penalty conversion from Glenbard East not long after the break with a third goal to help them collect their first victory of the season, their initial UEC triumph and their first victory for new coach Jerzy Skowron with a 3-1 win.
With four seniors, three juniors, one sophomore and three freshmen in the starting lineup, South Elgin scored its initial goals of the season after playing to a scoreless draw at West Chicago one week earlier in its opener and then falling 6-0 at 12th-ranked Naperville North two days later.
Wednesday’s match nearly didn't take place in South Elgin due to a power outage earlier in the day, but that problem was resolved and the Storm kicked off their home slate in impressive fashion.
Glenbard East (2-3-1, 0-1-0), who shared the UEC championship with Bartlett last season, scored 15 goals to get off to a 2-0-1 start but has scored just twice in its last three matches, which were all defeats. The Rams new coach, Athena Toliopoulos, took over for Kent Overbey, who had led the program since 2008.
Skowron was happy with his landmark win.
"It could have been 3-0, but we will live with a 3-1 win against a team like Glenbard East," said Skowron, who has coached the Storm boys since 2019. "We'll take what we learned today and apply that in training in the next few days and hopefully take that to Streamwood on Saturday.
"We had open gym as soon as I was appointed as the head coach of the program. It took me a while, because I was still coaching freshman basketball here, but once that was over, we went full steam ahead open gym and these girls were 100 percent into that. They were able to jell quickly and able to embrace the newbies and the freshmen.
“I joked with some of my boys players, who were on the sidelines, that they (the girls team) like each other better than you did. They help each other and that's something you can't teach, you can only hope that you have.
"We worked on connecting and trying to get our forwards a little bit more freedom. All things considered, I thought we did a pretty decent job of that. We were fortunate that the three times that we did that, we scored three goals. The more that Nevaeh, Ellie and Ella can play together and get more comfortable, they're going to be a dangerous trio for the next two years."
Dihel put the Storm in front for good in the sixth minute when Traver found her. After the through-ball, she placed her shot inside the far post. In the 37th minute, the Storm junior, who was named the Chicagoland Soccer MVP of the Match honor, found the net again. This time freshman Gyurko collected her first assist when she split defenders with a pass, and Dihel connected to give the hosts a 2-0 halftime advantage.
"I feel that in the short couple of weeks that we've been together, we've really been focusing on being able to build as a team in order to get those shots off, and I feel like today all of that work really came together," Dihel said. "When we were inside, we made sure that we were focusing on the things that we could do in there, like our first-touch and our ability to see everyone on the field, so that when we did come out here, we had the technical aspects down and could play.
"We try to make sure that we come to every practice ready to perform and put our all in, so we're working 100 percent all of the time and that helps us in these game situations. I feel like we're all very driven, and we're all willing to put in extra effort in order to get better as a unit."
Gyurko was not only playing on her home field for the first time but hadn't really stepped onto the pitch prior to the match. With Gyurko, Vidic and Laura Garcia in starting roles as freshmen and Traver getting a start as a sophomore, the future looks very bright for the Storm.
"That was my first time playing out here, which is crazy," Gyurko said. "I think that our practices have been really beneficial for our playing time, and we've been working on connecting through the middle and really using our forwards to get out wide and push up. And I really like all of the seniors, and everyone has been really welcoming.
"It was awesome to see how hard work has paid off, and we can see our formation is kind of reflecting on that. I thought overall we connected great today, and it was a good win. I like the relationship that everyone has together. I think that as a team, we're very solid, and they're hasn't been any drama or anything like that. I think that we're going to go far."
The only real down note in the game for South Elgin was that it was called for a penalty in the 43rd minute. Several of the Storm players disagreed with the call, but the referee saw it differently.
Glenbard East’s Maddie Kiefer put in the subsequent kick to pull the Rams within a goal.
But South Elgin went quickly back on the attack and connected for the third time less than a minute after seeing their lead cut to one goal.
In the 43rd minute, Vidic collected her first goal for the program when Kinsella sent her a through-ball, and she got her left foot on the ball to conclude the scoring.
"It was very exciting," Vidic said of her goal. "This was my first time ever playing on this field. And actually, this was like the first time I even walked on it. We definitely throughout a couple of practices have been working on how to play through our middle to our forwards. And in this game, we were trying to connect those passes and through that, we were able to score our three goals that we scored today.
"Shout out to coach Jerzy; he's a very good coach. I feel like he tries to make everybody better, and he has a big impact on our team. And for the players, some of the seniors I've gotten closer with, and they just bring a lot of motivation. And it kind of builds off of that and everybody's able to echo that, and I know that that definitely helps us on the field."
With Gyurko and Vidic both scoring in their home debuts at forward and senior Kiara Andrewin joining junior Dihel and freshman Garcia in the midfield to distribute the ball to them, the Storm hope that they can duplicate this type of offensive attack on a more consistent basis.
Senior goalkeeper Karissa Cruz was understandably happy with another Upstate Eight match where her team allowed no goals during the run of play. Seniors Maille Dunne and Lesly Ulloa and junior Cami Stokes at center back and junior Kinsella and sophomore Traver at wing back held Glenbard East to five shots during the contest.
"After we tied that first game, it was like, we've got to win this next one or we might not be able to get a conference title," Cruz said. "I think coming into this game, we were all excited because it was our first home game. We have a lot of promising players in the middle, and we try to possess a lot. In the past two weeks, we've been practicing possessing in the middle and moving out.
"Also, we have these really good freshmen, and they're really promising. And if we find them more often in games, then we'll be able to have more success. It's really rewarding seeing these freshmen get these first stats, I love seeing them score and passing the ball.
“We really have good team bonding, that's something we really focus on as a team is that we want to come together, because we all come from different clubs."
With the win, South Elgin broke Glenbard East's 11-game conference unbeaten streak. The Rams last league loss, a 2-1 defeat, came at South Elgin on May 19, 2021.
The Storm returns to Upstate Eight Conference action on Saturday at 11 a.m. when it plays at Streamwood. On Wednesday they travel to Fenton for another 11 a.m. league match.
GK - Karissa Cruz
WB - Mia Traver
WB - Adeline Kinsella
CB - Maille Dunne
CB - Lesly Ulloa
CB - Cami Stokes
CM - Ella Dihel
CM - Kiara Andrewin
CM - Laura Garcia
FW - Nevaeh Gyurko
FW - Ellie Vidic
Chicagoland Soccer MVP of the Match: Ella Dihel, jr., MF, South Elgin
SE - Ella Dihel (Mia Traver), 6th
SE - Ella Dihel (Nevaeh Gyurko), 37th
GE - Maddie Kiefer (PK), 43rd
SE - Ellie Vidic (Adeline Kinsella), 43rd