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South Elgin edges Glenbard South in key U8 match

By Matt LeCren, 04/20/23, 3:15PM CDT


Storm take battle of undefeated sides 1-0 

GLEN ELLYN – South Elgin striker Ella Dihel watched with her teammates as Mother Nature staged a laser light show late Wednesday afternoon.

The thunderstorm delayed the start of the Storm’s match with host Glenbard South by 45 minutes.

Within an hour, the junior unleashed a laser of her own, ripping a 19-yard shot under the crossbar 81 seconds into the second half for her team-leading seventh goal of the season.

Senior goalkeeper and fellow co-captain Karissa Cruz made the strike stand up with five saves as South Elgin held on for a 1-0 Upstate Eight Conference victory.

“It was definitely challenging,” Dihel said of the weather, which included a sharp drop in temperature. “But we were making sure even before the game that our mentality was there.

“We need to come out and make sure we work hard, pressure the ball in order to get that goal and in order to beat this team, because a conference title was on the line.”

Indeed, the result of this game will have major implications in the Upstate Eight race. Glenbard South (5-5-0, 4-1-0) remains in first place with 12 points, two points ahead of South Elgin.

But the Storm (5-4-1, 3-0-1) control their own destiny. West Chicago, which is 3-0-2 in league play, is the only other unbeaten team and sits two points ahead of South Elgin.

“We left a lot on the table,” South Elgin coach Jerzy Skowron said. “I’ll take a 1-0 win, but it was not 1-0 close.

“We’ve had this issue all season. I joke with the girls, like, ‘Why are we allergic to the ball?’

“We give it away willingly. And it’s incredibly frustrating, because they’re a lot better than that. No disrespect to Glenbard South, but this should have been much better than a 1-0 win.”

It wouldn’t even have been that without Dihel's play. 

The steady Cruz, a Dubuque recruit, notched her fourth shutout with a series of sure-handed plays. She wasn’t severely tested, thanks to her solid defense, but was properly set for any eventuality.

Glenbard South’s best chance came with 1:30 left in the second half, when Madelyn Weber got a clean look from the left wing. But her liner from 17 yards went straight into the hands of the waiting Cruz.

“She’s super fun to work with,” Dihel said of Cruz. “Even when I’m up-top, I have the perfect vantage point to see her make incredible diving saves across the net.

“It comes in really handy, especially with her punts and being able to clear the backline when we have a lot of pressure.”

Cruz didn’t have too much to do. Glenbard South’s only real flurry came with 32:00 left in the second half when they forced three-consecutive corner kicks, two from the left side and one from the right. South Elgin defenders Lesly Ulloa, Cami Stokes, Callie Miller and Ashley Gonzalez proved up to the task and allowed no shots.

“We knew we had to close down every single shooting opportunity in order to prevent that goal from being scored,” Dihel said. “So just having that mentality to go, go, go and stop the shot.”

Cruz appreciated the assistance.

“I was pretty confident in my backline,” Cruz said. “These past games it definitely shows that our defense is very strong, and we all trust each other. So, we just build out of that.”

The Storm definitely have something to build off of offensively with Dihel and freshman forward Nevaeh Gyurko, who set up the lone goal of the game with a perfect, lead pass.

Dihel got the ball outside the box, beat a defender and then ripped a shot past charging Glenbard South goalkeeper Sofia Alcala.

“It was a good pass from Naveah,” Dihel said. “I was just making sure I was taking the right touches in order to get in front of the net and then get a clean finish off.”

That’s something Skowron would like to see more of.

“She needs to kind of learn and believe that she’s an alpha,” Skowron said. “She gets passive sometimes. When she turns it on she kind of gets that look in her eye, and she’s incredibly dangerous.

“She and Naveah have linked up a few times before.”

The Storm’s offense has a bright future, especially once Dihel, Gyurko and freshman midfielder Ellie Vidic get more time playing together. They already are the team’s top three attackers, and they still have a season and a half yet to play.

“We’re getting there,” Skowron said. “We’re just getting them comfortable with each other and building that chemistry. Then we’ve just got to find somebody who can consistently get both of them the ball. We’ll find that.”

Dihel nearly found a couple more goals. She volleyed a cross from freshman Lauren Garcia just wide of the left post with 4:35 left in the first half. She created another scoring chance just four minutes after her goal when she weaved around two defenders into the box, only to see Alcala make a diving save.

Cruz, who likes testing her skills against Dihel in practice, foresees more success for the forward.

“Definitely next year, and this year she’s going to build up more and more,” Cruz said.

“And she’s going to get more confident going 1-on-1 and finishing.”

Starting lineups

South Elgin
GK: Karissa Cruz
D: Lesly Ulloa
D: Cami Stokes
D: Callie Miller
D: Ashley Gonzalez
M: Janelle Defensor
M: Lauren Garcia
M: Adeline Kinsella
F: Aneya Villareal
F: Alexia Garcia
F: Ella Dihel
Glenbard South
GK: Sofia Alcala
D: Abby Bergmann
D: Isha Shaw
D: Madelyn Weber
M: Katie Seaman
M: Olivia Weber
M: Emma Seaman
M: Caroline Vercoe
F: Olivia Seaman
F: Annika Wise
F: Brooklyn Moore
Chicagoland Soccer MVP of the Match: Ella Dihel, jr. F, South Elgin.

Scoring summary

First half
No scoring

Second half
South Elgin: Ella Dihel (Nevaeh Gyurko), 38:39 remaining