By Bobby Narang
PALATINE – Offensive firepower was on full display Thursday when Oak Park and River Forest met Waubonsie Valley in a Naperville Invitational consolation pool clash.
In the second and final weekend of the tournament, the schools combined for the highest combined goal total of the 35 games played so far.
A light crowd at Fremd High School was held in rapt attention as both teams scored in the first three minutes.
Oak Park and River Forest broke open a tie game in the second half with three-consecutive goals for a 5-3 victory.
Several Huskies walked out of the stadium with smiles on their faces. Before Thursday’s match, the team had topped the three-goal mark only once all season, an 8-0 victory over Proviso West on April 18. Oak Park and River Forest senior goalie Violet Allgood recorded seven saves and made two big stops midway through the second half that prevented Waubonsie Valley from mounting a comeback.
“I love a lot of goals,” Oak Park and River Forest midfielder Keira Kleidon said. “This was probably our funnest game of the season. I was happy when we scored first.”
Waubonsie Valley standout sophomore Thanya Castelan, who finished with a goal and an assist, noted that the two goals in the opening minutes picked up the pace of the game.
“Those goals got me really up and my energy up,” Castelan said. “I tried to stay focused because I wanted to get a goal right away for our team.”
Amid warm temperatures and a bright sun, the two teams put on an energized show of nonstop action.
Oak Park and River Forest opened the game with a goal by Addison Bliss at the 38:41 mark of the first half. She was in the right spot for a rebound that landed right at her feet.
Huskies coach Christie Johnston said her group answered the call with a fast start and second half resurgence to counter the Warriors’ bid. Oak Park and River Forest (5-6-1) washed away any residue from Tuesday’s 3-1 defeat to West Suburban Conference Silver Division rival Downers Grove North.
“I think we have a ton of talent on our team, and we have a tough schedule this season. Our record doesn’t demonstrate the true talent that we have,” Johnston said. “It all came together tonight, the combinations and the build-ups which we have been focusing on. It’s a good feeling.
“We talked about being the first to take the lead and focused on how we would respond to being scored on. They held their ground and didn’t break down. They answered back three more times, so that was nice to see.”
Huskies senior forward Kiki Leman led the scoring binge with two goals. Her final goal off a pass from Kleidon capped her team's scoring with 23:16 left in regulation.
“The beginning was really crazy, both of us scoring in the first three minutes,” Leman said. “At halftime, with the game being tied, we wanted to come out strong and put the first one in, and not let up after that one and don’t let them get back on us.
“Our intensity was a lot higher in the second half. We stepped up to all the 50/50 balls. Before that, we were letting them get to them. We played a lot calmer in the second half and kept possession.”
Waubonsie Valley junior defender Zoe Evans said the Huskies relied on their athleticism and quickness to grab control of the game in the second half.
“We have a lot of potential, but this game didn’t go our way,” Evans said. “They were very good and moved the ball really well. You have to give them credit. We played with good intensity. I just wish we would’ve finished our chances.”
Oak Park and River Forest senior midfielder Cate Ryan, who had one assist, played stellar in the fast-paced game. She said the Huskies played free and loose, which translated into their five-goal game.
“I’m super proud of how we’ve played,” Ryan said. “In the past, we’ve been overthinking games and getting into our heads. This time we stepped on the field and just wanted to have fun. I felt we were all playing with confidence, and it showed. Even when it was tied, we turned it up. I’m really proud of how we stepped up to the game.
“Moving forward, we are improving and getting more competitive and showed we can play with anybody going into the playoffs.”
Kleidon noted that Thursday’s win could be a springboard toward a strong finish. The Huskies battled all game, attacking with vigor and not backing down from the challenge.
“I feel like in the past, we haven’t really found the back of the net,” Kiera said. “Today, we finally started doing it. Everyone was getting goals and assists. We stayed composed and played confident.”
Waubonsie Valley (5-6-1) has lost two of its last three games to lose some steam from a solid 2-1 invitational win over Oswego East on April 21. The Warriors must rebound quickly; they play at previously ranked Hinsdale Central in their final game of the invite at 7 p.m. Friday.
Forty-seven seconds after Bliss scored the first goal of the match, the Warriors found the equalizer. Freshman Macy Evans slipped past the defense and drilled a shot into the far-right corner for a 1-1 tie.
The Warriors came back to tie the game again late in the first half. Castelan picked up an assist after slotting a great feed through a gaggle of defenders to Taylor Ahmadian, whose clean shot tied the game at 2-2 with 2:38 left until halftime.
Castelan played with passion in the 80-minute match, hustling to seek out scoring opportunities. She finished with a goal and assist. Her tally in the 67th minute ended the scoring. She tapped in a shot, via Eleanor Oster, for her 12th goal of the season.
“(Oak Park and River Forest) was a very talented team,” Castelan said. “A lot of their girls were really good players. We had to match their physicality, and we didn’t. We can learn from this. We have to play strong and communicate with each other.”
Waubonsie Valley junior forward Ceci Galarza said her team let a potential victory slip away.
“I thought we came out really strong, but we just had to keep the intensity and toward the end we definitely lost it,” she said. “They were a talented team and aggressive to the ball. We have to keep a high intensity and connect passes and not use all of our energy right away.”
Oak Park and River Forest finishes its four-game invitational run with its final consolation-pool matchup The Huskies meet Saint Viator at 11 a.m. Saturday at Naperville North.
Oak Park and River Forest
GK: Violet Allgood
D: Isabella Kalina
D: Tess Wright
D: Sophia Henry
D: Dee Dee Golla
MF: Gweny Lopez
MF: Cate Ryan
MF: Addison Bliss
MF: Abby Cockerill
MF: Malie Cassel
F: Kiki Leman
GK: Meredith Stemm
D: Chloe Shaffer
D: Zoe Evans
D: Kayla Vogt
D: McKinley Ladd
MF: Macy Evans
MF: Katie Chapman
MF: Taylor Ahmadian
MF: Ceci Galarza
F: Eleanor Oster
F: Thanya Castelan
Chicagoland Soccer MVP of the Match: Kiki Leman, sr., F, Oak Park and River Forest
OPRF: Bliss (Ryan), 2’
WV: Evans (unassisted), 3’
OPRF: Leman (Kleidon), 32’
WV: Ahmadian (Castelan), 38’
OPRF: Lopez (unassisted), 48’
OPRF: Simkowski (Leman), 54’
OPRF: Leman (Kleidon), 57’
WV: Castelan (Oster), 67’