PLAINFIELD -- After averaging four goals in its first four matches to open its season with a 2-1-1 record, Waubonsie Valley struggled to connect during its next two, scoring once against Naperville Central and then being shut out 2-0 by Lincoln-Way West in Saturday's opening-round of group play in the Plainfield Classic.
The scoring touch returned for Waubonsie Valley in a big way Monday. The Warriors exited the second tournament match with a 3-3-1 overall record after they connected for three goals in the initial 15 minutes. A second half tally completed a 4-0 victory over Willowbrook at Plainfield North.
Junior Taylor Ahmadian earned the Chicagoland Soccer MVP of the Match honor for scoring her team's first two goals and assisting sophomore Thanya Castelan’s tally. Junior Sarah DiGrazia finished the scoring.
Senior keeper Meredith Stemm recorded the shutout, and a starting defense of senior Kayla Vogt, junior captain Zoe Evans and freshmen Emerson Hallihan and McKinley Ladd helped limit Willowbrook (3-4-0) to only a handful of good chances, most coming in the second half.
Ahmadian set the tone early, connecting in the second minute on a short attempt that was set up by junior Ceci Galarza. Then in the 11th minute, Ahmadian connected again, this time after being set up by Ladd.
"It was really fun today," Ahmadian said. "We were all really calm and handled pressure, and we definitely bounced back from our game on Saturday. We all just came out today ready to play and win.
“Our offense is getting a lot of other people involved in the midfield. The defense is doing a great job at bringing it up and playing it to the offense. I think that we're all contributing to the goals and to our success.
"This is just a great team overall. Obviously, we try to perform at our best, but the pasta parties and social events, I've never had something like this. And we have fun during the games and are great teammates.
“This is my first year doing this," continued Ahmadian, who switch from the school track team to soccer. "I'm really glad that I did, because I'm glad that I've met all of these great people. It's been a great year so far, and I'm excited to see what our season has in store for us."
Waubonsie Valley’s third goal came in the 14th minute when Ahmadian sent a pass to Castelan, who drove to the net in a 1-v-1 situation and scored from close range.
That allowed Waubonsie Valley coach Julie Bergstrom to get a lot of playing time for the non-starters on her 20-player roster.
Much of the early scoring success in the match could be attributed to the distribution that was generated by the starting midfield of junior captain Eleanor Oster, sophomore captain Katie Chapman, sophomore Aria Patel and Galarza.
"I think it's kind of been an overall team thing," said Oster, who is a three-year varsity performer. "And I feel like it starts with the goalie, passing up to the defenders and going to the midfielders. And once the midfielders pass to the forwards, they've been doing a lot of finishing, because the midfielders are able to produce a lot of good balls.
“… And it's really fun to play when you're up, because you can pass it around and try to get more goals than you already have.
"There's a lot of spirit here and playing here is a lot of fun. I really like my teammates, and I think we're all really supportive. We all have fun with anything that we do, and I think that that makes us closer."
After struggling to make much happen during the opening half, Willowbrook coach Julio DelReal's squad began to create some opportunities in the final 40 minutes. Junior Halie Ahrens bounced one off the post, and junior Liz Tretina placed another try on goal a few minutes later.
Waubonsie Valley capped the scoring in the 63rd minute when DiGrazia received a pass from Evans, got free and finished from about 15 yards.
Willowbrook looked for an answer and got the ball into the box a few minutes after that. But the Warriors from Villa Park were unable to get off any good shots. They battled to the end and sent in a final shot-on-goal shortly before time expired.
"We played a very hard game and improved on some areas," said Warriors coach Julio DelReal. "We are working as a team at getting better with our attack. The attack is something that we are lacking and that has placed a lot of pressure on us on defense.
"We will continue to play as hard as we have been playing. The team continues to work on different aspects of the game in order to improve our chances at winning more games."
Waubonsie Valley has a good vibe going.
"A lot of it can be attributed to the fact that within our team, we're encouraged to make mistakes … since we're still learning," Chapman said. "That's something that allows us to succeed since we're not afraid to miss a goal or to make mistakes since we look to play forward and that we're playing to win.
"It's nice to be able to represent your school, and I think that our team does a good job of going into every practice and every match knowing that there's that expectation and that work-rate. When we don't match that, we haven't necessarily just failed ourselves, but our team, as well.
“I think that mentality and the positivity of everyone on the team is … why we win. I like our ability to come out after matches where we should have won or where we didn't think that we played our best and then to have results like this where we're winning games. And we also continue to work hard and to outwork other teams."
The Warriors have a young squad. Six freshmen, four sophomores, seven juniors and just three seniors make up the team. However, 11 players have varsity experience from a squad that went 11-6-3 last season.
Waubonsie Valley ran into tournament host Plainfield North on Wednesday. The Tigers entered the game with 7-0 decisions in the first two group games.
Plainfield North (9-0-2), which is ranked fourth in the Chicagoland Soccer, has now outscored its opponents 61-4 after an 8-1 win Wednesday dropped Waubonsie Valley below the .500 mark.
The host team aims to repeat as the Classic champion.
After opening the season with a 2-1 win over Stagg, Willowbrook has only scored one goal since. That came in a 1-0 victory over Addison Trail in its West Suburban Conference Gold Division opener.
Willowbrook graduated seven senior starters from a 14-7-0 team that recorded nine shutouts and finished third in the WSC Gold. While only a handful of the starters returned, 13 individuals who were members of that squad are back for this season.
They include seniors Maddie Aderholt, Alyssa Basford, Jenna Boynton, Molly Brennan and Kennedy Vannoy, juniors Emma Anderlik, Natalie Garcia-Avila, Amelia Kuban and Grace Soltys and sophomores Halie Ahrens, Emily Barth, Payton Brose and Liz Tretina.
After allowing three goals in their first five matches, the Warriors had a tough time in the Plainfield Classic. Lincoln-Way West defeated them 7-0 in the final group game Wednesday.
GK - Maddie Aderholt
D - Halie Aherens
D - Jenna Boynton
D - Pyro Kunan
D - Annabelle Thompson
MF - Molly Brennan
MF - Liz Tretina
MF - Grace Soltys
MF - Payton Brose
MF - Cam Warnke
F - Emilliy Barth
GK - Meredith Stemm
D - Zoe Evans
D - Emerson Hallihan
D - McKinley Ladd
D - Kayla Vogt
MF - Katie Chapman
MF - Ceci Galarza
MF - Eleanor Oster
MF - Aria Patel
F - Taylor Ahmadian
F - Thanya Castelan
Chicagoland Soccer MVP of the Match: Taylor Ahmadian, jr., F, Waubonsie Valley
WV - Taylor Ahmadian (Ceci Galarza), 2'
WV - Taylor Ahmadian (McKinley Ladd), 11'
WV - Thanya Castelan (Taylor Ahmadian), 14'
WV - Sarah DiGrazia (Macy Evans), 63'