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Game story: Crystal Lake South smells the coffee, toasts Boylan

By Gary Larsen, 08/28/23, 10:00PM CDT


Gators take control early in 4-2 breakfast special

CRYSTAL LAKE -- It may be safe to argue that the average high school student is sound asleep on Saturdays at 10 a.m. Prep athletes, who also train and play games all week, might be even less likely to be fully cognizant before noon on a non-school day.

Saturday’s 10 a.m. game between Crystal Lake South and visiting Boylan thus could have featured some sluggish soccer until the players wiped the sleep from their eyes.

Unfortunately for Boylan, Crystal Lake South came out wide-eyed and ready.

The host Gators (2-0-0) scored twice off corner kicks by the game’s 7th minute and played with early energy along the path to an eventual 4-2 win.
“That was the mindset from the beginning, and those first two goals set the tone,” Crystal Lake South midfielder Nolan Getzinger said. “We didn’t always have control of the game, but we still led and kept the lead. And that’s all that really matters.”
The quieter, gentler sideline version of Crystal Lake South coach Brian Allen is the one he himself prefers, and Saturday’s fast start had the veteran coach sitting comfortably on the Gators’ bench.
“Getting two (goals) in the first 10 minutes today set a really good example, and it helped us ease into the rest of the game,” Allen said. “This year we wanted to start quicker, because last year we didn’t feel like we started quick enough.”
Sure, later in the game Allen had to occasionally spring from the bench to offer his boys an earful of instruction, but the Gators never gave up the lead in “The Swamp,” their home pitch.
Getzinger had three assists, and Diego Paguada added one. Crystal Lake South (2-0-0) got goals from Ali Ahmed, Pierce Johnson, Nico Velasco and Mason Ross in the win.

Ahmed had a hat-trick in Monday’s season-opening 7-2 win over Woodstock North, while Getzinger had two goals and two assists. Getzinger’s play Saturday earned him Chicagoland Soccer’s Man of the Match honor.
The game wasn’t yet four minutes old when Ahmed broke the ice on a Paguada assist, set up by a corner kick. Less than four minutes later, Garrett Hess sent in another corner kick to the far post that Getzinger headed back toward the goalmouth. Johnson finished from there.

Through the game’s first 10 ten minutes, Crystal Lake South’s energy had Boylan pinned in its own end. 
“We pride ourselves on set pieces so it was nice to get two (goals) early,” Allen said. “On Monday we got like 12 corners but only got one goal off of it. So, we really challenged the boys today to be better, because that’s a big thing as we get later into the season.”

After going down two goals in a hurry, Boylan wiped the sleep from its eyes and got rolling. The Titans have talent and quickness all over the pitch and for a good long stretch of the first half and beyond, Crystal Lake South was tasked with holding off a Boylan attack that found feet and possessed the ball.

“That’s why we scheduled them,” Allen said. “They’re a very good team.”
Despite the outcome, Boylan (0-1-1) coach Jose Gomez liked most of what he saw from his boys Saturday.
“Crystal Lake South is physical, and they wanted to play,” Gomez said. “They took advantage of those two early opportunities, but after those goals I thought we dominated a lot of that first half. 

“Then we had some little mistakes that cost us two goals in the second half. We were passing the ball really good, but we just weren’t getting into the final third.”

Credit Crystal Lake South’s back four and keeper Chris Slawek for the job they did withstanding Boylan’s attack.
“We knew they were going to possess the ball, and that we had to sit back and absorb it,” tri-captain and central defender Garrett Hess said. “We figured out what they were doing, and then we just had to talk, pressure and cover. And it was good to have Chris (Slawek) back there. They had us under (pressure), but we stayed compact and gave up as little as possible.”

Boylan managed to halve its deficit near the 15-minute mark of play. Alvin Hernandez crossed to the far post from the left side, and Reese Schlichting was there to settle it and score from eight yards.
But from there to halftime, Boylan struggled to locate a quality shot, as Crystal Lake South’s backline stood firm.
“In the second half when we were taking a lot of pressure, they defense just absorbed, bent, but didn’t break,” Allen said. “And Chris (Slawek) was solid today, very good off his line in reading danger early, and we need that from him. That was a big plus, too.”
Johnson and Paguada, alongside tri-captains Hess and Blake Marunde, anchored the backline in front of Slawek.

Crystal Lake South went up 3-1 in the 63rd minute to deflate Boylan. Getzinger is the cook who stirs the pot for the Gators, and he found himself on the left side with a defender to beat. On the far side of the field, Velasco could be heard calling for a feed.
“I was going to take (the defender) down line, but I kind of slowed down and saw Nico,” Getzinger said. “I got a good enough ball across, and he had a good finish.”

Velasco’s header provided a two-goal cushion, and Ross drove home the dagger. Getzinger put a shot on at 72 minutes, and Ross was there to bury the rebound and make it 4-1. Boylan added a goal in the game’s waning moments on a free kick.
“I give them a lot of credit,” Gomez said of Crystal Lake South. “The moments they had, they took advantage of. If they had six chances, they scored on four of them.

“They played direct looking for their forwards, and they’re smart kids. I wanted our boys to put a little pressure on their (back four), but at the same time, Crystal Lake South has some physical defenders who know how to play. Their center backs were winning those 50-50 balls, and they were able to clear it.”

Saturday’s game pitted Illinois’ 2022 Class AA state champion in Boylan against the 2019 AA state champion Gators. Gomez is in his second season as head coach at Boylan; Allen is in his 17th year at Crystal Lake South.
Boylan didn't go to Crystal Lake by chance Saturday.

“We want to get the best teams we can early this year, that’s why we wanted to schedule Boylan,” Allen said. “We knew they were going to test us.
“The whole starting group set the tempo today, but it goes through Nolan and his work rate in the middle,” Allen said. “I thought Nick Prus in the second half, when we hit our lull, started to really get involved in the middle to disrupt when (Boylan) was finding a rhythm. That was huge.
“I thought our wingers today — Stevie (Smith), Nico (Velasco), and Mason (Ross) — really set the tone. Because (Boylan) was bottling down in the middle, and we had to open them up. They really took advantage of their moments today, and that was a difference-maker.”

Allen also applauded the play of midfielder Hayden Stone, filling in for four-year varsity player Brendan Lewis, who was absent due to SAT testing Saturday.

Gomez kept Saturday’s loss in perspective for his Titans, who were ranked 44th in the Chicagoland Soccer First 50 preseason state poll.
“The guys were upset, but I told them to keep their heads up,” Gomez said. “It hurts to lose but it’s just another lesson. We have a lot of games to play to get us prepared for playoff games at the end of the year. We know what we have to work on and what to focus on in practice.”

With as much skill as Boylan has on the field, the Titans figure to be a different team once they find scoring. It also didn’t help Boylan when its best forward, senior Gabriel Casas, was forced to play on the backline due to an injury.

But come October…

“The potential is there,” Gomez said. “I’ve got guys that have played the last five or six years together. Reese and Alvin have been playing together forever, so they know each other on the field. Last year was more of a building year and now we’re getting stronger and stronger. A lot of them were freshmen last year; now they’re sophomores and they’re a little stronger. Then I have a couple juniors who are more physical and five seniors who have worked on fitness and being more aggressive.”

Starting lineups

Crystal Lake South
GK: Chris Slawek
D: Garrett Hess
D: Blake Marunde
D: Pierce Johnson
D: Diego Paguada
MF: Nolan Getzinger
MF: Hayden Stone
MF: Nick Prus
MF: Nico Velasco
MF: Mason Ross
F: Ali Ahmed

GK: Patricio Lopez
D: Jesus Mandujano
D: Max Hernandez
D: Tyler Marquez
D: Gabriel Casas
MF: Tyler Andersen
MF: Alvin Hernandez
MF: Pedro Perez
MF: Skyler Sowell
MF: Reese Schlichting
F: Luke Wedwick
Chicagoland Soccer Man of the Match: Nolan Getzinger, sr., MF, Crystal Lake South

Scoring summary

First half 
CL South: Ahmed (Paguada), 4th minute
CL South: Johnson (Getzinger), 7th minute
Boylan: Schlichting (Hernandez), 15th minute

Second half
CL South: Velasco (Getzinger), 63rd minute
CL South: Ross (Getzinger), 72nd minute
Boylan: Unidentified player (free kick), 79th minute