CHICAGO — Mia Ortega is a master of using the left sideline to leverage her actions, and make everything matter.
The De La Salle midfielder worked efficiently and beautifully, rolling and floating in her own space.
It gets lost in the random and chaotic nature of the game of how a player looks to create moments and opportunities out of the slimmest of margins.
Ortega only thought about what didn’t quite work out.
“We had a lot of set pieces we missed out on, and we didn’t execute the way we normally do,” she said. “We have to practice those.”
De La Salle operated on an upward momentum curve with its six-game winning streak.
DePaul was the undefeated insurgent looking to make something of its own accord.
De La Salle had the greater possession time and more shots on goal, but that doesn't always equate to goal scoring.
That’s a part of the beauty and maddening glory of soccer — plenty of action, not much scoring.
The Meteors walked away frustrated and slightly undone by the lost chances in the 1-1 home draw in Girls Catholic Athletic Conference White Division play Tuesday afternoon in front of about 100 spectators.
DePaul (4-0-1, 1-0-1) secured the draw with its 72nd-minute goal by junior forward Ellie Glunz after a corner by Miyani Sonero.
“I think honestly it was kind of luck,” Glunz said, “all about being in the right place at the right time.
“I think we had a lot more opportunities to score, and I think we should have gotten more than that.”
Two teams that had been ripping up the scoreboard had to settle for a goal apiece in the showdown of the teams that finished in the top two spots in the conference race last year.
The teams had a combined 10-game game winning streak, and reasons for optimism and growth.
Each walked away slightly disheartened by the result -- defiant, proud, a little upset all the same.
“I just think we got down on ourselves,” DePaul star junior Ava Buchholz said.
“We knew coming into this game we were a good team, which is sometimes the hardest part in soccer because the best team doesn’t always win. We play really hard, and I felt like we just lost a little bit of energy.”
The step up in competition proved necessary and vital for both teams.
Defending league champion De La Salle (6-1-1, 1-0-1) had a 26-2 goal-differential during its six-game win streak. DePaul entered the game with a 27-3 advantage from six matches.
Something had to give; it was the scoring.
De La Salle posted 16-7 advantage in shots on goal.
“A game like this is really an eye-opener about what I need to really get done, which I have known about, but really encourages me to want to do it better,” De La Salle forward Kennedi Carpenter said.
“Today was supposed to be a day about getting the job done. You don’t look at all the players, or the stats, because it is just time to focus.”
Both teams were looking to make a statement.
De La Salle returns multiple starters from a Class AA supersectional qualifier.
DePaul is an emerging Class A program.
Both teams are ranked in Chicagoland Soccer’s state-wide Class A and Class AA Super 7 polls.
On their specific terms, these teams both represent.
The rivalry has been growing. DePaul remembered its 4-1 loss to the Meteors last year.
“I think last year we knew that this was a big game,” Glunz said. “We had a couple of people missing, but we are coming back stronger and with a healthy team.
“I think that everybody knew this was a conference game, and we had to step it up. I think, with a new team, we were able to do that, especially late in the second half.”
Overall, De La Salle had the better run of play and advantage in time of possession.
DePaul freshman keeper Reagan Stecz was solid and creative in the box while registering six saves.
De La Salle could never quite solve the Rams. The final touch was missing.
The Meteors also established a significant advantage in corner and free kicks.
“I feel like this is a good wake-up call for us,” freshman forward Dixie Zamago said.
“We’ve had a good season so far, but I feel this was the game that made us pay attention. I feel like we are going to improve and get better for the next game.”
Zamago broke the scoreless run early in the second half.
Dynamic and shifty, she corralled a loose ball at about the 19-yard line, made a quick stutter step and smashed home a left-footed shot from about 24 yards in the 44th minute.
“I had some fakes in there, and then I just took the shot,” she said. “I realized I had to shoot more stuff when I am out there, so I just took the shot.”
The natural left-footer drilled the ball inside the near post.
De La Salle had a barrage of chances, set pieces and a strong run of play.
DePaul withstood the pressure, then turned the tables. In the final minutes of play, the visitors developed a more concentrated and furious attack.
"We saw that we were more than capable of winning,” Buccholz said.
“We have a lot of good freshmen who (are) making us push harder, because they’re faster. I am working off the ball a lot. You have to be able to create plays out of thin air.”
That cumulative pressure finally yielded results in the closing stretch. The Rams peppered the Meteors’ back, resulting in the corner that led to the Glunz equalizer.
Ava Buccholz and Mia Ortega shared the Chicagoland Soccer MVP of the Match honor for their outstanding play.
The hard pill to swallow for De La Salle were the goals unscored on opportunities that were clear and vivid throughout the game.
After the game was tied, De La Salle generated two corner kicks and a free kick at the 19-yard line that midfielder Sissi Loza drilled just slightly high.
Ortega also got loose late and had prime scoring chances where she just could not quite put the necessary speed and volatility on the ball.
Stecz put the clamps on her final shot from about 14 yards on the right edge in the closing seconds.
“I think what we are going to take away from this is we need to practice and execute more,” Ortega said.
“We need to come to practice ready. We need to show up, and not just go through the motions and actually play. We need to communicate more.”
As a team that reached the Class AA Elite Eight last year, De La Salle is now an aspirational program.
That means stepping up to the challenge.
“Having been their coach for a long time, I reminded them that conference opponents come in to play us hard every time,” coach Carlos Nunez said.
“DePaul showed us exactly what conference play is about today, and maybe gave us a little bit of reality in terms of how much work we have to do in order to secure the victory.”
GK: Reagan Stecz
D: Olivia Garza
D: Marley Collins
D: Kaitlin Reap
D: Sydney McLeod
MF: Dylan Greene
MF: Miyani Sonera
MF: Eleanor Farrell
MF: Ali Tabellione
F: Ava Buchholz
F: Ellie Glunz
De La Salle
GK: Emily Samuels
D: Lauren Torres
D: Vicky Luna
D: Joanna Mullen
D: Sophia Torres
MF: Sissi Loza
MF: Imani Coleman
MF: Samantha Velasco
MF: Mia Ortega
F: Dixie Zamago
F: Kennedi Carpenter
Chicagoland Soccer MVPs of the Match: Mia Ortega, jr., MF, De La Salle; Ava Buchholz, jr., F, DePaul
De La Salle—Dixie Zamago (unassisted), 44th minute
DePaul Prep—Ellie Glunz (unassisted), 72nd minute