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Reavis fights hard, falls in uphill battle vs. TF United

By Patrick Z. McGavin , 03/31/23, 7:00PM CDT


Rams come close, can't draw even with TF United

BURBANK — Reavis played with a combination of desperation and anger, trying everything possible to set its season on the right path moving forward.

“I got really upset about some of the calls that went against us, and I just wanted to play even harder and keep driving the ball toward the goal,” junior forward Alaina Hernandez said.

Reavis beat Curie 2-0 in the opening game of its Windy City Ram Classic and has played hard and intently since to recapture the winning touch.

“This is still the beginning, and we are learning to work together,” midfielder Olivia Symcz said. “Once we figure that out, I think we are going to be really good.”

The Rams showed toughness and resilience after falling behind twice by two-goal deficits in their conference opener. Hernandez sparked the team by scoring her first two goals of the season.

The Rams could not counteract the strong play of TF United senior forward Berenice Zepeda and suffered a 3-2 home defeat in South Suburban Conference action Thursday.

Zepeda scored two goals and midfielder Alanis Gonzalez registered all three assists for TF United (3-3-0, 1-1-0). 

The cooperative program linking Thornton Fractional North and Thornton Fractional South high schools turned the tables after its conference opener against Lemont on Tuesday.

Lemont scored twice in the first five minutes, allowing TF United little chance to breathe or find its way.

“I always tell them they have to have confidence,” TF United coach Aaron Zambrano said.

“Confidence is the key. If they have it, they have to pick their heads up and see where they are on the field, and look at their opportunities to score.”

Zepeda scored her sixth and seventh goals to give her team a two-goal lead. She took her coach’s admonishment directly.

“He always tells us to take our shots. I saw an opportunity, and I took it,” she said. “I saw the opening, and I just shot it.”

Reavis was forced to play a field player, junior midfielder Jasmine Juache, at keeper. In the 21st minute, Zepeda took advantage of the inexperience keeper by drilling a shot home from the right wing from about 21 yards.

The other TF United goals developed out of set piece actions and corner kicks by Gonzalez.

In the 47th minute, after her initial corner was redirected back to her, she played a sharp ball that defender Zayda Gil smashed home with a header from three yards

Zepeda was the beneficiary of another header off a corner that effectively sealed the victory in the 68th minute

“It’s great being part of this program,” said Zepeda, who goes to TF North. “We don’t have a lot of girls on either side, so it's really good to have people from the different sides coming here.”

Zepeda earned the Chicagoland Soccer MVP of the Match for her play.

A four-year starter, she is a savvy and skilled team leader.

“I have been very open with my teammates now, talking more, and looking for opportunities and opening up more space,” she said. “I have learned a lot.”

Reavis (1-5-0, 0-1-0) refused to simply submit.

The team was angered by a non-call on what it felt was an apparent foul on a breakaway. A Symcz free kick in the 51st minute just outside the box marked the Rams first really significant scoring opportunity.

Down 2-0, the hosts went to work, upgrading their work-rate and aggressiveness.

“We have to keep working hard,” Symcz said. “Once we started working hard, we started getting that motivation. We scored the first goal, and it brought motivation.”

Hernandez shifted from her typical winger role to the top of the formation. 

She used her excellent speed to finally break away from the TF United backline. Catching a through-ball from Erica Divizio, Hernandez got loose down the right edge to create a classic confrontation with keeper Angela Mendez.

Mendez came hard off the line to try to cut off the angle, but Hernandez was too quick. She got around the forward charge and blasted the ball home from about nine yards in the 54th minute. 

“Today I felt like their defense wasn’t the fastest, and I could get by them and just shoot it,” Hernandez said.

Reavis combined well out of the back and did a solid job maintaining possession in the middle attack. It was the final third where its actions tended to come apart.

“I think we are playing pretty well,” Hernandez said. “We just have to connect our passes.

“We are passing the ball, but we are not always completely connecting. Sometimes, in the final third, we get tired or break down.”

The pieces are there, bolstered by the athleticism and speed of Hernandez, the playmaking and control of Symcz and the pincer attacks of midfielder Yamileth Torres.

Those three were important players on teams that won the conference in each of the last two seasons.

“We lost a lot of key players from last year, like Jasmin Pascual and our keeper Jazmin Ayala,” Torres said. “It’s been a little hard for us to find our keeper this year. We are fighting hard and trying our best.”

Reavis was also handicapped by the absence of attacking midfielder Emilia Kuca, who was forced to sit out after receiving a red card in a crosstown loss to St. Laurence on Wednesday. It was a call that coach Konrad Dziedzic passionately disagreed with.

Hernandez pushed up-top from her normal winger position.

Even after the second Zepeda goal extended the TF United lead to 3-1 in the 68th minute, Reavis maintained its fight and composure.

Hernandez was again at the center of the activity. With the Rams pushing numbers, she got into the box after a service ball.

The ball deflected off Mendez, giving Hernandez a clear entry to the header in the 70th minute that closed the gap.

“Usually I like to pass it up, or run and pass into the middle, but today I was up-top, and the shots were there,” Hernandez. “I felt like something could have happened in the final minutes.”

Torres got free a couple of times on the left wing. Another Symcz free kick from the right wing in the 71st minute created another tantalizing scoring chance.

TF United dropped enough defenders into the back to stem the tide.

“I think we might have scored another one there if we had a little bit more time,” Symcz said.

The game went down as a loss, a disappointing one.

The effort was telling, as was the fight and toughness to recover from the two different two-goal deficits. The resolve never flagged during or after the game.

“Our goal has not changed, and we want to win the conference back-to-back-to-back,” Hernandez said.

“We are just going to keep practicing, and get better.”

Starting lineups

TF United
GK: Angela Mendez
D: Zayda Gil
D: Jackelin Vargas
D: Yanetzi Alba
D: Janaliz Meraz Cabrales
MF: Edith Ramos
MF: Katie Juarez
MF: Ariana Taboada
MF: Alanis Gonzalez
F: Berenice Zepeda
F: Teniola Odutusin

GK: Jasmine Juache
D: Emily Chavez
D: Jade Guzman
D: Alexandra Mendez
D: Marlene Guiterrez
MF: Ruby Ramirez
MF: Olivia Smycz
MF: Erica Divizio
MF: Alyssa Juarez 
F: Alaina Hernandez
F: Yamileth Torres

Chicagoland Soccer MVP of the Match: Berenice Zepeda, sr., F, TF United

Scoring summary

First half
TF United—Berenice Zepeda (Alanis Gonzalez), 21st minute

Second half
TF United—Zayda Gil (Gonzalez), 47th minute
Reavis—Alaina Hernandez (Erica Divizio), 54th minute
TF United—Zepeda (Gonzalez), 68th minute
Reavis—Hernandez (unassisted), 70th minute