Burlington Central’s coach Jessica Arneson and her Crystal Lake Central counterpart Sarah Fack agree that the teams’ mental approach to Tuesday’s showdown match will play an important part in the contest’s outcome.
The Fox Valley Conference contest at Crystal Lake Central may decide which team captures the conference crown. The host Tigers currently sit atop the league with a 6-0-0 record; the Rockets are chasing two points in second with a 5-0-1 mark. The teams would switch places if Burlington Central wins.
Both squads have two more conference matches after Tuesday.
“We need to go in with the attitude that we can win this, and we will win this,” Arneson said.
“Just having that mind frame instead of being reserved, conservative and stepping back just because we think they’re better than some of the competition that we have played in the past will make the difference.”
Staying on task will be important to Crystal Lake Central.
“One of the biggest things at this point in the season is going to be that mental focus, everyone being on the same page” said Fack. “We know that they’re a really good team this year. I just think it’s going to be a battle. We are going to have to be ready to go the full 80 minutes and battle them to the end.”
With senior midfielder Eva Boer out due to a season ending injury suffered April 27, the Rockets are going to have to count on production from other players.
“I think our kids, like (freshman) Sydney Batts and Ali Kowal, are really going to step up,” said Arneson “If they can see that, if they can prove that to themselves than I think our team is on really good trajectory.”
Batts, a midfielder, knows the match will be a challenge for her squad.
“It’s probably going to be the hardest game that we’ve had yet,” she said. “I think we just have to stay composed, keep connecting passes and take a lot of shots on goal.”
Kowal is looking forward to the showdown.
“I’m excited,” she said. “I think we got this if we keep working hard and doing the things that we’ve been doing.”
Huntley (11-3-1, 3-1-2) is the only common conference opponent that both teams did not defeat. Crystal Lake Central topped the Red Raiders 2-0 at home April 11; the Rockets battled to a 1-1 home tie April 6.
Overall, Crystal Lake Central, which is the newly minted no. 1 team in the Chicagoland Soccer Class AA Super 7 poll, has a 10-3-0 record. All three of the Tigers losses have come against Class 3A teams, including Metea Valley, the defending state champion, which is ranked no. 1 in the Chicagoland Soccer Top 25.
The Rockets, ranked fifth in the Super 7, are 9-4-1. They also have three losses to Class 3A ranked teams. Their fourth loss came against Class A state runnerup Richmond-Burton in a game shortened to a half by the weather.
Playing the bigger schools helped Crystal Lake Central focus on areas that needed improvement.
“We wanted to get some strong teams on our schedule this year, because we have a really talented group of kids.” the Crystal Lake coach said. “Playing those schools in the beginning of the season helped us figure out what we needed to work on.”
The Tigers’ coach knows her squad will have to keep an eye on several Burlington Central attackers.
“We know (Ava) Elders is one of their top scorers, but I know too that they’ve got a lot of good freshmen this year that we’re going to have to watch out for,” Fack said.
Crystal Lake Central can also count on several players finding the back of the net.
“We’ve done a pretty good job this year spreading out our points. We have eight different players with at least eight points this year,” said Fack. “Brooke Carlson is our top goal-scorer. Jillian Mueller and Liv Anderson are some of the other ones with the top points.”
Fack expects the match will be like past contests with Burlington Central.
“We know it’s going to be a competitive game and we’re looking forward to a good one,” she said. “Because we know that we’ve had close games with them in the past, and they’re always a tough team for us.”