WHEATON -- On paper, it looked like Wheaton North might be able to beat rival Wheaton Warrenville South to halt the latter's run of four-straight possessions of the Wheaton Cup trophy that goes to the winner of the match between the District 200 schools.
After all, the Falcons were 9-3-1 and ranked 14th in the Chicagoland Soccer Top 25 after winning seven-straight matches by an 18-1 margin. The run included victories over four teams that were ranked in the Top 25, including a 1-0 victory over no. 15 Benet on April 24. Meanwhile, the Tigers 2-0 win over Mother McAuley on April 23, which halted a seven-match winless stretch (0-6-1).
But records and recent trends often don't mean a whole lot when district rivals go at it and that once again proved to be the case when the two sides met up Thursday at North's Rexilius Field.
Wheaton Warrenville South had a decisive advantage in scoring chances over Wheaton North. However, neither side was able to put one into the net, and the Tigers and Falcons settled for a 0-0 draw in the DuKane Conference match.
The Tigers (3-7-3, 0-2-2) had struggled since getting off to a 2-0-1 start, but that's understandable of the stretch that included five Top 25 teams. Four of the losses were by one goal, including a 1-0 defeat to St. Charles East, which is currently ranked at no. 2.
Guy Callipari, a 2012 Illinois High School Soccer Coaches Association Hall of Fame inductee who has guided the Tigers' girls program since 1995 and along with Brian Papa and Rick Prangen are the only active coaches with 400-plus girls wins and 300-plus boys wins, was pleased with his team's performance.
"I think the first half played out probably like one would expect. There were a lot of nerves. Nobody wanted to make a mistake, and both teams gave the ball away a lot," Callipari said. "But then at some point, you just kind of get into a zone where you start to play freely. You don't hear the white noise around you, and you focus in on what's going on between the sidelines. We did a much better job of that.
"We wanted to connect passes and wanted to possess. We knew that we could get forward. We were lined up and had the ability, and that's going to give you opportunities up-top. The one thing that we didn't get were second chances; they didn't give us any of those.
“But overall, I thought that was maybe the best second 40 minutes that we've played, and most of the girls played the majority of the game. So, you're asking a lot of them to maintain that level of play. The only way to do that is to have the ball do more of the work, of which they finally fell into that sort of rhythm.
“So, there was opportunity, especially in the width areas. We could move up through the thirds and people could rest. In transition, we had the energy to keep up with their directness, and the exposure that they were trying to commit up-top."
The veteran Tigers coach realizes that his team's tough schedule has made them into a better squad than their record suggests.
"That has seasoned us. If you're not getting the W’s, there's an understanding that you're playing with the best teams in the state and you're competing," Callipari said. "Now we just have to tweak this, that and the other to find a way to win games. But we're staying in games long enough now.
“I thought the defense did a really good job. Our backs were solid and centrally the compactness took away that pass that they were looking for at the end. Mar (Marilyn Dixon) had some great saves in the first half to keep us in there. All around there were great moments from everybody, and that's what you expected and what you hoped for. And that's what's so great about high school soccer."
Despite settling for a draw to see its win streak snapped, coach Tim McEvilly's Falcons (9-3-2, 2-1-1) recorded their seventh-straight shutout. Junior goalkeeper Zoey Bohmer came up with several big saves to keep Wheaton Warrenville South from scoring.
"Today we knew that this was going to be a fight, and we went into this game knowing that records don't matter," Bohmer said. "Rivalries are always going to be tough games. We just knew that we would need to play the way that we've been playing and just put up a fight. Unfortunately, it resulted in a tie, and it feels like a loss.
"Confidence has definitely been built up with all of these 1-0 and 2-0 wins against really good teams. We just work hard every single day, and that's how we're getting these wins.
“I have so much trust in my defense, and I go into each game knowing that they're there for me. No matter what, if I make a mistake, they're there. They're a big part of these wins. The reason that we're getting these shutouts is that it's not just me, it's mostly our defense. They have to go through them first. The stress is definitely a lot less with them there. Our chemistry is really good, on and off the field. We get along super well. We're very encouraging of one another. We have a lot of energy, which brings a lot of positives to this team."
Wheaton Warrenville South had several good opportunities to start the final half with sophomore Ashlyn Adams sending in several attempts that were either saved by Bohmer or cleared by junior defenders Mira Spillane and Sophia Fadel.
Some of Wheaton North’s best chances during that stretch came from freshman Jane Rogers and senior Macy Hutchinson, but both were hauled in by sophomore goalkeeper Dixon.
"We were coming off of a loss streak against some pretty good teams," Dixon said. "I think that win on Sunday definitely gave us a boost in confidence. I know that everyone was nervous coming into this game knowing that it was such a big rivalry. I'm really proud of how we played.
“We seem to struggle a lot in the second half of games, so I'm really proud of how we played here. They limited the amount of shots on me, which was good.
"I think the beginning of the season put us down a little bit. But I'm really proud of everyone, because we've really been working hard, and you can tell. Everyone puts in 110 percent out there."
After Adams sent in a long attempt and senior Kate Hartnett bounced a try off of the post shortly before the midpoint of the final half, Adams threatened with a free kick. Wheaton North answered with sophomore Calah Strong’s long-range shot.
"It's always a good match against South," Strong said. "They're our rivals so we expect that they're going to play hard and we're going to play hard. It's always a battle going into the game. It's more like a mindset and about how hard you are willing to work to beat them.
"The defense is just incredible. They block almost every shot, but if it gets through we have Zoey, and she's an incredible goalkeeper. Our mids are great at moving the ball and passing it up to our forwards, who are amazing at capitalizing on the chances that they get, like Jane Rogers, who's a great addition to our team.
“It's just amazing how we can move the ball up the field but also help back on D when needed. We've had some great wins against some really tough teams. South brought their game and the same with us and it ended in a tie. I like our energy and how we just bring our all to every game. If someone's down, we pick them up and it's just amazing how we all work together as a team. Everyone is so energetic, and they're ready to fight in every game."
Adams and Hartnett continued to threaten during the last part of the match. Adams bounced one off the post. Senior Carolyn Harvey, who shares captain duties with seniors Lauren Barnett and Ella McClatchy, also had a good attempt but Bohmer stopped everything that came her way. Senior Ava Hodel and junior Addison Falco joined Fadel and Spillane on the Falcons defense to continue their shutout streak.
Wheaton Warrenville South knows what it has when it steps between the lines.
"Our record definitely doesn't show what kind of team we are," Harvey said. "I feel like we all play really well together and control the majority of our games. Obviously getting those chances and those shots in helped, but their keeper was just all over our shots, She was amazing.
"Everybody works so hard on our team throughout all 80 minutes. They don't stop until the final whistle blows. You can see that in our front-line players like Lauren (Barnett), Kate (Hartnett), Ashlyn (Adams) and Lucy (Jethani). And obviously our backline with Ella (McClatchy) and Brooke (Ittersagen) and Kate (Gronlund) and Lily (Petrie), who recently moved back there. Just everyone is constantly giving their all throughout the entire match. That's really nice to see, and it's fun to work with. I definitely like our spirit and the community with each other. And how we always keep working with each other and always trying to lift each other up."
Some of the best scoring chances in the opening half were presented by Hartnett and Adams for the Tigers and sophomore Talia Kaempf and Rogers for the Falcons.
Wheaton Warrenville South recorded its second-straight shutout and fourth of the season. The earlier clean-sheets came in the early season wins over Oswego and Oswego East.
"In the first half, we were a little bit on our heels," McClatchy said. "Just with the big Wheaton Cup, we were a little anxious. But we talked at halftime to calm our nerves and to just play our game. We definitely saw that in the second half. It's always good to test yourself against some harder teams; we love that. We do want to win, but it's also important to learn from our experiences and in our past couple of games, we learned a lot.
"We're kind of looking forward to just going into the postseason, even though we're not ranked as high as we want to be. I like the way that we all jell together, not only on the field but also definitely off. The community is just so good here, it's like a family. I love coming to practice with them, the pasta dinners and just playing with them."
With back-to-back shutouts to their credit and a recent win preceding the draw against their rivals, the Tigers are upbeat. They hope to add to their recent success when they play six of their last seven regular-season matches at home, beginning with Downers Grove North on Saturday and Schaumburg, Lake Park and Washington the rest of the upcoming week.
"It was real exciting. It's always an exciting day playing the other side of town," Barnett said. "I told a lot of people that I definitely don't think that our record reflects who we are. If people look at that, they're not going to expect us to come out strong. In our first 10 games, we played some top 20 teams in the state and some of those were undefeated. We've definitely held our own against all of those teams, like St. Charles (East), where we were one of the only teams to really challenge them.
"Confidence is definitely a key in a sport like soccer, and not just having confidence in yourself but in all of your teammates and your coaches. I just like how positive everyone is. We're kind of like a little family, and they're all my best friends. Being a senior, I'm going to be really upset leaving them. But definitely the seniors have left their mark, and the team is great."
Wheaton North got a few hours of sleep before hopping on a bus to play in the Tournament of Champions Soccer Village Bracket in Bettendorf, Ia., this weekend. The Falcons topped St.Teresa (Mo.) 1-0 Friday and upset no. 7 Evanston on Saturday morning to earn a finals berth opposite Edwardsville, which is ranked eighth in the Chicagoland Soccer Illinois 10 poll.
Wheaton North hopes to continue its local success and strong defensive play as they close out the regular-season with three DuKane Conference matches, playing at current no. 13 Geneva on May 4 and hosting Glenbard North and St. Charles East the following week.
Both teams were seeded in the top half of the Class 3A West Chicago Sectional. Wheaton North is fourth behind ranked schools St. Charles East, St. Charles North and Geneva. Wheaton Warrenville South is the seventh seed, finishing behind Batavia and West Chicago.
Wheaton Warrenville South
GK - Marilyn Dixon
D - Brooke Ittersagen
D - Lily Petrie
D - Ella McClatchy
D - Kate Gronlund
MF - Lucy Jethani
MF - Ella Byrnes
MF - Carolyn Harvey
F - Ashlyn Adams
F - Lauren Barnett
F - Kate Hartnett
GK - Zoey Bohmer
D - Addison Falco
D - Sophia Fadel
D - Ava Hodel
D - Mira Spillane
MF - Annie Pyykkonen
MF - Calah Strong
MF - Kylee Gosling
F - Jane Rogers
F - Talia Kaempf
F - Macy Hutchinson
Chicagoland Soccer MVPs of the Match:
Kate Hartnett, sr., F, Wheaton Warrenville South;
Ashlyn Adams, so., F, Wheaton Warrenville South;
Zoey Bohmer, jr., GK, Wheaton Northl
Macy Hutchinson, sr., F, Wheaton North