DOWNERS GROVE — Momentum is an accelerant where everything exists in its own time, except it’s elevated, heightened, hyper fast.
The end goal is the ultimate object; how you can get there is secondary.
Things tend to happen fast and clear.
Oak Park and River Forest had it, lost it and never quite rediscovered its relevant form until it was too late.
“I felt like we came out really strong, and I was impressed with our team,” Oak Park and River Forest midfielder Cate Ryan said.
“I was super happy at the beginning. I felt like we made a couple of mistakes in the central midfield that gave them a goal and put our heads down. We definitely lost the momentum, and that sucks.”
Downers Grove North capitalized. The Trojans fit all the pieces beautifully into shape.
“It is definitely exciting to see what we have been doing in practice actually come to the field,” forward Kate Goray said.
“We are working hard, and it’s cool to see the plays that we are working on actually show up in the game, and get goals off them.”
Goray scored two goals that powered the smoldering Trojans’ 3-1 comeback victory in West Suburban Conference Silver Division play Tuesday night.
Downers Grove North (8-5-2, 2-1-x) won for the seventh time in its last eight games.
Goray was a dramatic centerpiece of the attack, echoing her play Sunday in the victory over Plainfield South in the Body Armor tournament. She created two assists, and midfielder Kaitlyn Parker scored twice in that 3-2 victory.
Against the Huskies, Goray changed her stripes, making the seamless transition from creator and facilitator to finisher.
“At the start of the game, I tried to get down on the wing and get some crosses in, like I did in our game Sunday,” she said.
“Tonight, I was not able to do that as much. But I found success making those runs inside, because they had such a high line. Rather than waiting out wide to get the ball, I found there was more space in the inside.”
Also just like the Plainfield South game Sunday, the Trojans fought off an early deficit.
In the ninth minute, Oak Park and River Forest forward Lilah Malik took a beautiful ball from midfielder Gweny Lopez, broke free in space and hammered home a shot from about 14 yards for the lead.
The early action showed the Huskies (4-6-1, 1-3-x) at their best.
“When we have focus for the full 80 minutes, that is when we play at our most effective,” Lopez said.
“Sometimes we let the game get into our heads really easily. Like we said, we live as a team, and we lose as a team. That’s how we pick each other up.”
Lopez said the early movement and passing evoked comparisons to one of their best games, a 3-1 victory over Downers Grove South on April 13.
“When we have seen our really good outcomes like that game, we stay focused. We do all the little things like passing, playing one-touch in the middle and having really good communication,” Lopez said.
“I think, as terrible and awful as it is to lose, a lot of these mistakes are easy to fix because most of them are mental.”
Downers Grove North’s Addison Liszka is a two-way force, a dual threat as either a big and disruptive center back or a midfielder.
She has the natural instincts to play either role, creator or stopper.
She was a little of both against Oak Park and River Forest.
She set up the Trojans’ first goal by finding Goray down the left seam that opened up the forward push.
Liszka has a sharp command of the game.
“It was really important for us to figure out when to just go big, and when to try and slot it through the midfielders, because every team plays differently,” Liszka said.
“I was just trying to find the open slot. I also noticed that we were able to be successful the minute we started to connect with the simple balls rather than just to find those big passes.”
The free and innate ability to connect has been the driving engine of the Trojans’ turnaround.
“Everyone is stepping up, and I think that has been really important,” Liszka said.
“We have worked so much in practice with the different roles of the forwards, wings and outside backs. Now that we have the outside part down, and we are connecting with the midfielders, it is basically really easy for us to get through everyone.”
Goray equalized with her goal in the 25th minute.
Midfielder Annika Isacson secured the game-winner by finding open room in the middle for a 10-yard chip in the 32nd minute.
“Callie Fletcher played me a ball right in between the center back and outside back, and I was able to make that run on,” Isacson said about her first goal of the season.
“I just saw my chance, and I popped it right over the keeper’s head.”
The game had bookending actions at the end of the first half and start of the second half that ruled the outcome.
Building pressure, Goray again found movement and the necessary opening in the closing seconds of the first half.
Forward Elle Larsen delivered a sharp pass that Goray controlled, and finished from about 16 yards.
Just 15.8 seconds remained on the clock.
For the second-consecutive game, Goray earned the Chicagoland Soccer MVP of the Match honor for her outstanding play.
“It was definitely exciting to score that, look at the clock, and go into the half with more smiles than excitement,” Goray said.
“We knew the lead was not completely safe, but we were a little bit more comfortable after that goal.”
Downers Grove North secured the first half momentum and ostensibly the game.
“I think right now, we are definitely at the top of the hill, but we could still go either way,” Goray said.
“We are starting to pick up more momentum and figure things out. We are learning how to use our strengths to beat some pretty good teams.”
Oak Park and River Forest hadn’t lost its fight. The Huskies appeared ready to close the gap early in the second half after Malik was fouled inside the box after Trojans’ keeper Elizabeth Reilly came off her line to stop her shot.
The two collided, and a penalty kick attempt was awarded.
Ryan stepped up with too much force, and the ball skipped high over the bar.
“I was just so mad at myself,” Ryan said.
“I told myself not to look at the keeper, and I have been here before. I made and missed penalties, and I was going on the ground to the right corner.”
Any chance of a Huskies’ comeback sailed away with the penalty attempt.
“I tried not to put my head down after that, and show my team that I missed the penalty, and I still tried to work really hard and tried to win this game for my team,” Ryan said.
“Definitely mentally that was a blow.”
The result stung, but Oak Park and River Forest remains secure in their optimism of better times ahead as long as the team remains positive. The playoffs don’t care what your record is.
“With the season we have been having, sometimes it’s hard not to lose your composure in the course of a game,” midfielder Addison Bliss said.
“As Cate said, at this point of the season, we have nothing to lose, and we are just going to put our all into it. Playing these tough games, that’s how you are going to improve and make changes.”
Oak Park and River Forest
GK: Jackie Bollinger
D: Malie Cassel
D: Tess Wright
D: Isabella Kalina
D: Sophia Henry
MF: Gweny Lopez
MF: Cate Ryan
MF: Abby Cockerill
MF: Addison Bliss
F: Lilah Malik
F: Kiki Lemon
Downers Grove North
GK: Elizabeth Reilly
D: Katelyn Hennelly
D: Kailyn Ziroli
D: Addison Liszka
D: Ava Locker
MF: Taylor Kuelthau
MF: Lexi Keown
MF: Kaitlyn Parker
MF: Ellie Watts
F: Sophia Patrey
F: Kate Goray
Chicagoland Soccer MVP of the Match: Kate Goray, sr., F, Downers Grove North
OPRF—Lilah Malik (Gweny Lopez), 9th minute
Downers Grove North—Kate Goray (Addison Liszka), 25th minute
Downers Grove North—Annika Isacson (Callie Fletcher), 32nd minute
Downers Grove North—Goray (Elle Larsen), 40th minute