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Grayslake Central continues turnaround, tops Antioch

By Bobby Narang, 04/20/23, 9:00PM CDT


Rams reaping benefits of brutal early schedule, take 3-1 Senior Night win

By Bobby Narang

GRAYSLAKE – Something quietly is building at Grayslake Central.

After playing a brutal schedule filled with talented teams, mostly of the Class 3A variety, the Rams were suffering from a lack of confidence.

Losses, especially of the blowout variety, tend to test a team’s resolve in a long season filled with ups and downs on the pitch and due to Mother Nature.

Grayslake Central, a Class AA team, entered this week badly in need of a few momentum-building victories to contend in the Northern Lake County Conference.

In the first month of the season, the Rams lost to ranked or previously ranked Carmel 3-2, Deerfield 2-0, Mundelein 3-0, Libertyville 3-1, New Trier 4-0, Lane 3-0 and Stevenson 3-0. The Rams started a primarily JV team in a 7-0 loss to Young at the Body Armor event April 15, because the varsity players were in need of a break. 

Junior Sara Armstrong said the players realize they are at the end of the tunnel.

“At the beginning of the season, everyone was getting in the groove of things, kind of playing kick ball,” Armstrong said. “Now it’s starting to work, and we’re starting to connect with each other.

“It’s definitely been hard this season. Everybody has been getting kind of beat up and also having to trust the process. Our schedule really helped us grow,” she said. “We’re now better than ever. It’s a good feeling. All of these losses at the beginning (hurt), but now we’re playing well. Everyone’s morale is boosted. It’s a good feeling.”

Alabama football coach Nick Saban famously coined the phrase ‘Trust the process” in regard to his players having faith in the program’s direction. 

Andersson, wearing a heavy jacket and a shiny white hat, agreed with the well-used three-word saying. Andersson likes to schedule Class 3A programs – did you see the list above? – to prepare his team for the conference and AA playoffs.

His teams take their share of lumps, only to regain their stride in conference play. That formula is in full display right now. The Rams won their second-straight game this week, scoring two first-half goals in a 3-1 triumph over Antioch in league play on a cold and windy Wednesday night.

Coupled with a 5-0 win at Grant 5-0 on Tuesday, the Rams (4-7-1, 3-0-0) can see that the process is working, Andersson said, prompting him to break out in a big grin.

“Tonight, they came out right out of the gates,” he said. “We let them talk by themselves. The energy they are bringing now was kind of lacking at the beginning of the season. I think they were starting to get down on themselves, because they were losing. But they have to trust the process. 

“There’s a reason why we do it. There is a method to the madness, but maybe I should’ve thrown in a few puff games here and there.”

Andersson admitted he made an ambitious schedule, but he said his players are rounding into top form heading into the second half of the season. The Rams fell behind 1-0 Wednesday, but rather than hang their heads, they fought back to score three consecutive goals on Senior Night.

“You learn from your mistakes as a coach,” he said. “This is a young team. We’re starting two freshmen, the rest are sophomores and juniors and we started two seniors tonight. We’re excited about this year, but really excited about next year. 

“It’s great to see the progression, and that they are finally getting it. They are communicating. They were silent in past games. We never heard anything. It’s clicking, and they are getting it. It’s so fun to watch. We can sit back and watch the games. That’s how it has been the last couple of games. I’m proud of the girls. They deserve it.”

Antioch (4-7-1, 2-2-0) won just five games last season, but managed a 2022 2-2 draw against Grayslake Central. 

The visitors caught the Rams by surprise and seized a 1-0 lead in the 13th minute, when junior forward Vera Fogel took advantage of a great feed from Cameron Pluciennik. Fogel beat her defender in a 1-v-1 situation and raced to the free ball. She slowed down slightly when approaching the ball, made a slight dribble to her right, then smacked the ball past Grayslake Central substitute keeper Katie Dinsmore to shock the crowd.

Antioch coach Maddie Lyon said her team let a potential victory slip out of their hands.

“It was a super-tough loss, but Maddie Barrett in goal kept us in the game,” Lyon said. “We struggled attacking, just couldn’t finish the ball. 

“The first 25 minutes was good soccer for us. We couldn’t capitalize on that. After that first goal, we got complacent and let up. At the end, you could tell my girls just didn’t want it as much as Central did.

“I’m disappointed in my team, but it was a solid game and a good challenge, and we hope to continue to do well in our conference games. Central is always a tough opponent for us. It’s disappointing to get the loss to them, but we can hopefully get them next year.”

Grayslake Central eventually regrouped, perhaps gaining energy from the boisterous group of 11 students in the front row who were constantly yelling words of encouragement – even drowning out the howling wind at times.

With just over 21 minutes until halftime, Grayslake Central senior forward Mari Williams knocked in the equalizer. 

Williams, who has missed several games due to injuries, showed her worth to the Rams. Her tenacity fighting for 50/50 balls, combined with her strength and speed, pushed Antioch’s backline. Williams sidestepped Antioch’s goal, who was on the ground, made a move to her left and tapped in the ball.

Standing with three of her teammates for the postgame interview, Williams showed her veteran poise by taking the lead when discussing the victory.

“I tipped the ball to my weaker foot, my right foot and made a touch and shot it in,” Williams said of her second goal of the season. “I missed games, but I’m back. This win feels good. It was a point for me to win since I’m a senior. I want to thank my teammates for getting the win.”

Six minutes later, the Rams took the lead on junior midfielder Ava Ramsey’s netter, which came off a corner kick. As several players were jostling for position near the goal line, Ramsey snuck her foot into the crowd and put the ball in the back of the net for a 2-1 lead.

Antioch junior keeper Barrett kept the game from getting out of reach for the visitors with her solid play in the net. She had three saves at halftime, but held off a strong charge by the Rams in the second half to end with nine stops.

Henne, a freshman midfielder, put the final distance between Grayslake Central and Sequoits with her goal, letting the ball bounce off her body before striking it in with 38:31 remaining in the second half. 

Henne said she was happy to get a win for the seniors.

“This was an awesome thing to see the seniors do what they love,” Henne said. “Playing all these hard teams in the beginning definitely helped us and made us improve. We’ve improved so much. It just shows in the games. Our attitude when we came into the game was a lot better than before. We were all excited for the game. We were motivated.”

Grayslake Central sophomore midfielder Dahlia Rodriguez, a player with tremendous upside, said the team is trending in the right direction.

“It feels good to bring home the win, especially for the seniors,” Rodriguez said. “We went down one early on, but we all picked each other up to help us. 

“We didn’t break. We fought harder for our seniors. I think we can win conference from the way we’ve been playing the last couple of games. The harder teams really pushed us. Those losses hurt, but we’re good now.”

Antioch’s Pluciennik, a first-year starter, said the Seqouits lacked energy at key moments that derailed their strong start.

“I think we had to play them more aggressive,” she said. “Some of us were timid, but the opposing team has some good players, and it was a good game.
 “We showed some heart. It was a tough loss, but at least they got to shine on their Senior Night.”
Starting lineups

GK: Maddie Barrett
D: Kaitlyn Baylen
D: Allie Curry
D: Grace Quirke
MF: Kayla Jackel
MF: Cameron Pluciennik
MF: Hannan Nelson
MF: Hannah Schaufele
MF: Vera Fogel
F: Marisol Mijares
F: Lily Tinker
Grayslake Central
GK: Katie Dinsmore
D: Kate Kruse
D: Avalyn Woods
D: Madison Hoffman
D: Jordan Sutter
MF: Mallory Barrows
MF: Sara Armstrong
MF: Dahlia Rodriguez
MF: Ava Henne
MF: Ava Ramsey
F: Mari Williams
Chicagoland MVP of the Match: Ava Ramsey, jr., MF, Grayslake Central

Scoring summary
First half
Antioch: Fogel (Pluciennik), 13’
GC: Williams (Ramsey), 19’
GC: Ramsey (S. Armstrong), 24’
Second half
GC: Henne (Ramsey ), 42’