VILLA PARK -- Leyden sophomore forward Tereza Cerna was simply spectacular Tuesday night.
She scored an unassisted hat-trick and propelled her team to a 4-1 West Suburban Conference Gold Division road victory at Willowbrook.
Cerna was just about unstoppable. She gave a lot of credit for her superior play this season to a trip she made overseas last summer.
“I went to play in Europe with a girls team, Sigma Olomouc in the Czech Republic, and I trained there all summer, “she said. "My father knew about the team, and he contacted the coach. They let me try out.
“It helped a lot. They play a lot different. It’s a whole other type of game, but I applied our game here and tried to show them the American way. They asked me to come again this year. So over the summer again I’m going to train; also train with a boys team, so I can get extra training in in Austria and Germany.”
The big win by the Eagles overshadowed a spirited second half effort from Willowbrook. The Warriors were down 2-0 at halftime but put together an energetic re-start after intermission and halved their deficit.
“We’ve been talking to the kids about this (falling behind early), and trying to get them to understand,” said Willowbrook coach Julio Del Real.
“In the past, when we play teams like York, Downers South, and Morton - the really good teams - these teams always come out and play an outstanding first half, and we fall apart. So seeing that we didn’t play well in the first half tonight, (assistant) coach Montgomery, invited them to have a second half opposite of what the first half was like.
“They came out and performed a lot better in the second half. Like I told them, it’s not necessarily that we were putting a lot of passes together or anything, it’s that we were hustling more.”
Willowbrook had the better chances early in the game. In the third minute sophomore Emily Barth made a long run down the left sideline. She passed the ball to teammate Annabelle Thompson, who delivered a laser back to Barth. But the play was well defended by Leyden’s Megan Martinez and the Warriors couldn’t get a shot off.
Willowbrook junior midfielder Lexi Rattin had another opportunity minutes later but couldn’t connect.
Then, the momentum began to swing. The switch was slowly but surely reflected in the visitors column on the scoreboard.
Leyden’s Lizeth Montiel had a point-blank shot that was saved by Warriors keeper Payton Brose, wno next made a save on a shot by Cerna.
After that, however, the Cerna scoring show started.
The sophomore opened the scoring with a tackle at midfield. She took possession of the ball and dribbled through four defenders before sending a rocket from the right flank from about 25 yards to the back of the net.
She did it again just before halftime, picking the pocket of a Willowbrook player, weaving through traffic and scoring from 15 yards for a 2-0 Leyden halftime league.
“It was very intense,” said Leyden junior Sherlyn Cebero of the first 40 minutes. “We tried to get the lead right away and keep playing aggressive.”
Willowbrook was chasing two goals, but it could have been a bigger deficit without the strong effort of Brose. The sophomore kept her team in the game by making more than a couple big saves.
Tuesday’s game was her fourth-consecutive start. She came to the starting role after an injury to regular keeper, senior Maddie Aderholt.
Aderholt was injured in a game against West Chicago two weeks ago and is out for the season with what she described as a “heavy MCL sprain.
“I was going for the ball, it was one of those plays,” said Aderholt of the mishap. “Their forward played a through-ball. As a goalie, I went to kick it out. Our legs kind of got tangled up, and my knee turned in.”
Aderholt, who will play at Wisconsin-Platteville next year, knows that despite being out of action she has a big role to perform for the squad.
“I want to help the girls by bringing positive energy, and do everything I can to be here and find a purpose.”
She’ll also be mentoring Brose.
“She’s a very strong keeper,” said Aderholt of the sophomore, “and honestly, she deserves this spot. She knows what to do and how to talk to everyone. She’s super young and still has a lot of room to grow, and I’m excited to see it.”
Willowbrook went on the attack in the second half and put Leyden on its heels.
The Warriors finally broke through in the 49th minute on a corner kick. Midfielder Liz Tretina sent a perfect boot into the box where Rattin knocked it to the back of the net.
The home team kept the pressure on the next 15 minutes but couldn’t get the equalizer. That was due in large part to the stellar play of Leyden defender Natalie Salgado and her backline teammates, and the strong effort of Eagles keeper Priscila Perez.
Cerna scored the dagger in the 65th minute after a tackle on a shot that curled around Brose to make it 3-1.
Midfielder Cebero added an insurance goal in the 72nd minute when she buried a header after a shot from Ximena Magana bounded off the crossbar.
“I didn’t expect that,” said Cebero,” but I was there (in front of the net) and ready just in case.”
Willowbrook had its share of strong performances. Defender Alyssa Basford was all over the pitch, and Brose was dynamic in goal.
“We’re very rich in the goalkeeper department,” said coach Del Real of the Warriors. “When Payton goes in, she plays hard and gives everything she’s got. We’re never going to worry about that.
“The only thing she’s lacking is a little bit of experience, and she’s going to be picking up a lot of that as we go on.”
Still, the Warriors miss their co-captain Aderholt, who is doing everything possible in rehab to get ready for her college career.
“I should be back in time for summer training,” she said. “Just got to get back to it and get stronger.”
Aderholt added that it’s been a bittersweet ending to her prep career.
“It’s very disappointing,” said the senior, “putting so much into one team for four years, waiting for your senior season, playoffs and things like that, and then this (the injury) happens at the very last moment.
“But it’s all part of the journey. It’s something to learn from and keep working through.”
Aderholt plans to pursue a career in nursing.
“It’s very exciting,” she said. “My dad was a fireman and a paramedic, and growing up and seeing him do the things he did, I knew I wanted to take the medical-field path.
“I love the hospital setting, actually, and I always knew I wanted to help people.”
For her part, Brose said that she has “learned a lot” from Aderholt.
“She really pushes me to do better,” said the sophomore. “It feels now like it’s an opportunity to show what I can do. It’s just not under the circumstance that I would like, due to the injury to Maddie.
“(As a team), I think we have really good chances. We often hold ourselves back by not pushing ourselves a little harder. I think if we give 100 percent in the next game we’ve got a great chance."
Cerna was the difference-maker for Leyden (8-10-1, 2-4-x).
“It was great competition tonight,” she said. “Willowbrook is a really good team.
“We had to come in with our heads held up and match their intensity, no matter what.”
Cerna added that last season's rookie experience was a proving point for her and a launchpad to this year’s success.
“Last year I was a little scared,” said Cerna. “I didn’t expect to make varsity, but I made it. It was a great way to show as a freshman on varsity that I have what it takes.”
GK Priscila Perez
D Jasmin Ambrocio
D Natalie Salgado
D Reyna Morales
D Jenny Herrera
M Denisse Salgado
M Sherlyn Cebero
M Megan Martinez
M Kim Pazos
M Ximena Magana
F Tereza Cerna
GK Payton Brose
D Jenna Boynton
D Alyssa Basford
D Pyro Kuban
D Annabelle Thompson
M Emily Barth
M Natalia Garcia-Avila
M Lexi Rattan
M Liz Tretina
M Camryn Warnke
F Grace Soltys
Chicagoland Soccer MVP of the Match: Tereza Cerna, so., F, Leyden
Leyden: Cerna (unassisted), 25"
Leyden: Cerna (unassisted), 32"
Willowbrook: Rattin (Tretina), 49'
Leyden: Cerna (unassisted), 65'
Leyden, Cebero (Magana), 72'