GRAYSLAKE — Grayslake Central senior Ella Tews started in goal Thursday night in the Northern Lake County Conference opener against host Grayslake North.
At some point in the second half, she wanted to know the score of the game — while undergoing tests at a hospital.
“That was a good sign.” Rams coach Keith Andersson said after his club edged the Knights 3-2 after trailing 1-0 and 2-1 in chilly, windy conditions.
Tews suffered a hard blow to her jaw during a frightening collision with classmate, defender and tri-captain Katie Dinsmore in the seventh minute. The pair inadvertently ran into each other while closing in on a Grayslake North chance.
Athletic trainers tended to Tews for about 25 minutes before paramedics stretchered her off the field.
“All I’m thinking about right now is Ella,” Andersson said. “Her teammates played for her. They also played for each other. I’m super proud of the way we came back. That had to be tough on all of them, wondering about the health of their teammate and competing as hard as they did at the same time.”
Rams Nation received positive news later that night: Tews’ CT scan was negative. However, she’ll be out of action while undergoing concussion protocol.
“We’re hoping to get her back next week,” Andersson said. “Fingers crossed.”
Dinsmore took over in net and made three saves. Rams junior midfielder and tri-captain Sara Armstrong scored both of her goals in a 10-minute span in the second half to earn the Chicagoland Soccer MVP of the Match honor.
In the 49th minute, she dribbled wide for about 20 yards before unleashing a far-post shot that eluded Knights junior keeper Quinna Sheets (three saves) and knotted the contest at 2.
Armstrong’s game-winner resembled a “can of corn” in baseball. Her high pop-up, launched from near where she tallied her first goal, was supposed to be a high cross, she admitted.
“I was thinking, ‘Who’s the target on that cross?’” Andersson said. “Then I watched it go in, and thought, ‘Oh, okay.’”
The win was Central’s second of the season and second in three days, following its 2-1 defeat of host Vernon Hills on Tuesday night.
The Rams improved to 2-4-1 overall and 1-0-0 in the NLCC with the win over their crosstown rival.
“We game together after Ella’s injury,” said Grayslake Central sophomore defender Madison Hoffman, who played splendidly all night, clearing dangerous balls, heading away Grayslake North corners and stymieing other threats.
“This win was for Ella.
“We did it for her.”
Grayslake North sophomore forward Ashley Hernandez opened the scoring in the 16th minute off a feed from sophomore Izzy Ceaser, who normally plays outside back but served as an attacking center-midfielder Thursday night.
Hernandez fielded Ceaser’s ball with her back to the goal, turned and then booted a 22-yard, far-post shot.
Each squad scored via a free kick to account for the rest of the scoring in the first half.
Grayslake Central sophomore forward Dahlia Rodriguez drew a foul in minute 30 before curling in a shot that initially looked like a beautiful cross.
Ceaser then answered with a free kick goal from a few yards north of the top of the penalty area. Grayslake North sophomore reserve forward Vicky Rodell had drawn the foul.
Armstrong’s second half brace drew effusive words from Hoffman afterward.
“Sara,” she said, “can run all day. Never stops. With the ball, she’s money. Automatic.”
Armstrong and running go foot in foot. She became a two-time cross country-team state champion when Central captured a second-straight Class AA title last fall in Peoria. She finished in 16th place, four spots better than her showing at the 2021 state meet at Detweiler Park.
Two of Armstrong’s soccer teammates — freshman midfielders Ava Henne and Jordan Sutter — are also two of her cross country mates. Henne and Sutter finished ninth and 25th, respectively, at the state meet in November.
Rams junior midfielder and tri-captain Ava Ramsey provided the assist on Armstrong’s game-winner.
“Back-and-forth battle,” Andersson said. “That’s a great team, Grayslake North. (Ceaser) has a killer shot and great foot skills. (Senior midfielder Bella Moran) is a great player, too. They’re going to be fine.
“The ‘preseason’ is over,” he added, referring to the Rams’ six nonconference games. “It’s all about the conference season now.”
Henne and Grayslake Central junior defender Paige Durley each made a clutch play on defense in the final 13 minutes.
Durley, with help from Sutter, hustled deep in Central’s zone to disrupt a Knights dribbler. The effort led to a goal kick. Henne headed away a dangerous North service in the 79th minute.
“We’re a newer, younger team,” Grayslake North Knights coach Adam DeCaluwe said after his crew — featuring six sophomores and two freshmen — slipped to 3-2-0, 0-1-0 in the NLCC. “Tonight, unfortunately, we played too individually. Lesson learned. (The Rams) played like they wanted to win and fought hard for all 50/50 balls.
“The goals they scored … they all came from (sharp) angles,” he continued. “We’ll look at this game as an opportunity to learn.”
Grayslake Central visits New Trier (7-0-1), which is ranked no.7 in the Chicagoland Soccer Top 25, on Saturday at 11 a.m. in the opening round of pool play at the Lou Malnati’s Deep Dish Classic. The Rams return to New Trier’s Northfield campus on Monday at 7 p.m. to face Lane in round two.
Grayslake North visits Richmond-Burton for a nonconference match Saturday at 11 a.m.
Grayslake North coach DeCaluwe, on Knights sophomore midfielder/defender Ceaser: “She’s instinctive and a very good all-around player. Izzy usually knows what’s happening around her.” … Ceaser has been playing soccer since the age of 3, when her father, John, encouraged her to try the sport. It was love at first tap for the future Knight. “I’ve always been passionate about soccer,” she said. Her father played center back at Waukegan. … Grayslake Centrals Armstrong, on sophomore teammate and back Hoffman: “Her clears are amazing, so long.” … Grayslake Central coach Andersson, on the Rams’ first win of the season, a 2-1 defeat of host Vernon Hills on Tuesday: “The girls clicked. They moved the ball well and made me super proud. Our speed of play improved; we were quicker. We’d been in every game. It was just frustrating not being able to get a win or two in the first couple of weeks.”
GK Ella Tews
D Katie Dinsmore
D Madison Hoffman
D Avalyn Woods
D Kate Kruse
MF Ava Ramsey
MF Ava Henne
MF Jordan Sutter
MF Sara Armstrong
F Dahlia Rodriguez
F Mallory Barrows
GK Quinna Sheets
D Tara Myrdal
D Ellie Sopiarz
D Olivia Tabbert
D Ryann Bernardi
MF Makayla Campbell
MF Bella Moran
MF Izzy Ceaser
F Rylee Jaramillo
F Ashley Hernandez
F Arissa Vettraino
Chicagoland Soccer MVP of the Match: Sara Armstrong, jr., MF, Grayslake Central
Grayslake North — Hernandez (Ceaser), 16’
Grayslake Central — Rodriguez (FK), 30’
Grayslake North — Ceaser (FK), 36’
Grayslake Central — Armstrong (UA), 49’
Grayslake Central — Armstrong (Ramsey), 59’