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Batavia’s Solomon stuns Neuqua Valley with very late goal 

By Matt LeCren, 04/09/23, 8:45AM CDT


Senior's resolve leads to 80th-minute goal, 4-3 win

BATAVIA – Batavia senior Avery Solomon was aware of the situation.

The moment wasn’t too big for her.

So, Solomon was ready when her goalkeeper Addi Cooper launched a punt that landed near midfield. From there junior midfielder Brooke Carlson ran on to it and began dribbling up the field.

Did Solomon know how much time was left in the game?

“Yeah, I did,” Solomon said. “When Addi was about to punt it, I saw there was like 40 seconds left and I was like, ‘I’ve got to do something.’

“I know my team’s not giving up, so I had to use the energy from the bench and get an opportunity to score.”

Solomon did exactly that. Carlson, who already had scored two goals, was knocked to the ground but not before passing ahead to Solomon, so the referee signaled advantage.

Solomon used that call to the max. She neatly dribbling around oncoming Neuqua Valley goalkeeper Zoe Fabian before calmly rolling a shot into the empty net with 15 seconds remaining.

The goal was Solomon’s first of the season and first game-winner of her high school career. It gave the host Bulldogs a thrilling 4-3 victory.

“I saw the Neuqua player, and she kind of mistouched it. I was like, ‘I’m going to take this opportunity to run past her,’” Solomon said. “And I saw the goalie come out, so I just calmed myself down and took a nice touch around her and calmly played it through.”

It was a scene of beauty to Batavia coach Mark Gianfrancesco.

“Just the composure,” Gianfrancesco said. “She needed that confidence, not only for her but Lily (Figueras) and Riley (DeBiase).

“We’re breaking teams down and getting those chances. We need that final composure to pass it in the net, and she hadn’t done that yet. It’s a big confidence boost for her.”

Carlson, the two-sport star who is a Division I basketball prospect, was thrilled to see Solomon’s finish, too.

“It was amazing,” said Carlson, the Chicagoland Soccer MVP of the Match. “It was so fun, and I think our team is so connected.

“We all give each other energy, and we all want to see each other succeed. It was amazing to see that.”

It was also an amazing end to a seesaw match that saw the Bulldogs (2-2-0) score three-consecutive goals to take a 3-1 halftime lead before Neuqua Valley (1-2-0) rallied to tie it with second half goals from sophomore Selma Larbi and freshman Alexis May.

May’s goal was the first of her career and tied the game at 3-3 in the 78th minute. Larbi, whose 50th-minute strike had cut the deficit to 2-1, tried to gather a bouncing ball in the box but got tangled up with Cooper.

“I saw the ball, and I knew it was going to go over the goalie, so I was trying to get it,” Larbi said. “But I think I collided with the goalie a little and my legs were just giving out. I felt myself falling over, and all of a sudden I see Alexis, and she shoots it.

“I was planning to hit it, but I was falling over. I had no idea Alexis was there.

“I’m glad that she was there, because I didn’t see her. I’m happy for her.”

May was happy, too.

“It felt pretty good,” May said. “I was really excited. It meant we were back in the game.”

That it did, and while Neuqua Valley manager Arnoldo Gonzalez would have been satisfied with a draw, his players had other ideas and pressed for the win. Their chance at victory ended when Cooper got the ball in her hands for the final time.

“At halftime we knew we were the better team and only (needed) two goals and we would be back in,” Larbi said. “So, we just focused more on connecting passes instead of just kicking it, and staying calm on the ball.

“At the end, we probably should have taken our time. There was a minute left, and we probably shouldn’t have gone for the fourth goal.

“We probably should have calmed down, connected passes and killed some time instead of rushing to get the fourth goal.”

But Batavia did the same thing, and with even less time. That mentality is part of the Bulldogs’ DNA.

“We’re very relentless,” Carlson said. “We play together, and we always keep each other going.

“We never get down on each other, so it’s just fun to pull out a game like that. It gives us a lot of confidence.”

Gianfrancesco has a lot of confidence in the Bulldogs, especially when they play hard throughout.

“One of our goals in the last couple games, and something we’re building on, is to play 80 minutes,” Gianfrancesco said. “I’d say we played 80 minutes today.

“There may have been a little bit of a lull here and there. But they’re a good team, and they’ve got some quality goals and had us under duress a little bit.”

Indeed, Neuqua Valley may have deserved better. They took a 1-0 lead when Jeffery scored on a rebound after Batavia starting goalkeeper Natalie Dean made back-to-back saves in the 21st minute.

But it didn’t last long, thanks in part to Gianfrancesco’s strategy to conserve Carlson’s legs. He subbed her out several times for short rests.

The move paid off -- Carlson scored both of her goals shortly after checking back into the game. The first came on a breakaway which tied the match. The second was achieved on a corner kick when Carlson bent the ball in from the left side, and it somehow eluded Fabian and a defender and went inside the near post in the 38th minute.

That gave Carlson the first multi-goal game of her career.

“I was so surprised,” Carlson said of her second strike. “At first, I thought it was out of bounds because nobody moved.

“They kind of just looked at it. Then it went in, and I was like, ‘Oh, my God.’ I put a little bend on it, and the wind helped, obviously.”

Sandwiched between Carlson’s brace, the Bulldogs got a little lucky on their second goal.

Sophomore forward Natalie Warner chased after a long lead pass when Fabian came out of the box to try and clear the threat. But the ball caromed off the back of Warner and sailed all the way into the goal on the fly to give Batavia its first lead of the game.

Despite the ending, Gonzalez was pleased with how his young squad battled back.

“They had two unlucky goals in the first half, so it wasn’t really an indication of the way we were playing,” Gonzalez said. “So just to be able to get back to 3-3 was awesome.

“Ultimately, we couldn’t control the clock.”

But Batavia did and now has wins over Neuqua Valley and Naperville North.

“I’m really proud of my team, because it’s a new team,” Solomon said. “We had a good warmup.

“We came out here ready to play and we just kept pressuring them as hard as we could.”

Starting lineups

Neuqua Valley
GK: Zoe Fabian
D: Lauren Milani
D: Kate Wohlfeil
D: Mollie McBrayer
M: Allessandra Russo
M: Anna Yuccas
M: Grace Petrina
M: Chloe Orlow
M: Brianna Clasen
F: Safa Jeffery
F: Selma Larbi 

GK: Natalie Dean
D: Alexa Schorr
D: Sophia Vozza
D: Delia Perfect
D: Reese Recker
M: Kailey Hansen
M: Avery Solomon
M: Brooke Carlson
M: Addison Lowe
F: Laila Figueras
F: Riley DiBiase
Chicagoland Soccer MVP of the Match: Brooke Carlson, sr., MF, Batavia

Scoring summary

First half
NV: Safa Jeffery (unassisted), 21st minute
Batavia: Brooke Carlson (unassisted), 23rd minute
Batavia: Natalie Warner (unassisted), 25th minute
Batavia: Carlson (unassisted), 38th minute
Second half    
NV: Selma Larbi (Jeffery), 50th minute
NV: Alexis May (unassisted), 78th minute
B: Avery Solomon (Carlson),   80th minute