SKOKIE - A quick turnaround led to a much better result for Rochelle Zell.
On August 27, the Tigers played host to rival Ida Crown in a Chicago Prep Conference matchup in Deerfield.
On that day, the Aces got the upper hand with a 4-2 win.
It was a different story Sunday when the teams played again on the Aces grass pitch in Skokie.
Rochelle Zell didn’t exactly get the result it wanted, but the Tigers played much better.
Both Ida Crown and Rochelle Zell clamped down on the defensive end for a 0-0 draw.
The visitors’ Tal Nochimowski, a starting defender despite being just a freshman, said that playing as a team led to his team’s about-face.
“Today we worked together,” said Nochimowski. “We were passing well. We were centering the ball more, and we had a lot of shots on goal.
“We really wanted to improve on the last game. Even though it wasn’t a win, we still improved. We just had to come out and play hard.
“Ida Crown is a tough team. This game was at their home, and we didn’t let them score.”
Junior Ari Schwab led the Rochelle Zell defensive effort, while senior goalie Hayden Gradenstein was outstanding for Ida Crown.
Gradenstein was peppered with shots in the first 40 minutes as Rochelle Zell was fired up and on the attack. He made four quality saves in the initial half.
“I think we’re a little bit happy,” said the keeper, “but also we’re a little angry at ourselves, because we should have done better.
“We should have put in some goals. We’ve got to score goals if we want to beat Holy Trinity and contend for third place in our conference.”
Northtown and Cristo Rey are currently undefeated and tied for first in the league. Ida Crown sits third, while Holy Trinity and Hope are deadlocked in 4th place.
“We stopped them today,” added Gradenstein, who kept his team in the contest in the first half with his stellar play in front of the net.
“We forced them to go offside. We got the ball into the middle quicker, and the guys just played great D.
“We can definitely play better, but this was a good game.”
Schwab said that the Tigers are getting a ton of motivation from an injured teammate, senior midfielder Ari Jankelowitz.
The junior added that Jankelowitz is out for the season with a torn ACL, after missing the 2022 campaign as well with the same type of injury.
“This year we’ve been playing for him,” said Schwab. “He’s a huge inspiration to our team. He comes out to games; he comes out to out practices, even though he can’t play. Ari has really brought drive to us.
“We came in tonight determined that this game would not be a loss. We we’re going to talk, communicate, and do everything right, even on this field that’s bumpy and unpredictable. We wanted to do it for Ari."
Tigers coach David Martinez is of the same opinion, adding that Jankelowitz has taken on a different, but equally important role.
“He’s our captain and our team leader,” said Martinez of Jankelowitz. “And he’s probably the guy with the most soccer IQ on our team.
“Now he’s kind of stepped in to a coaching role, doing what he can to help the guys out. Losing him in the midfield is a pretty intense hit to the team, not only playing-wise but also because he’s the team’s heart.
“So, every time he comes out, it’s a blessing. The guys see him, and they play for him.”
Rochelle Zell started from the opening kickoff like a house afire, controlling most of the possession before intermission and forcing Ida Crown on its heels.
The Tigers had a chance to get on the board in the 4th minute on a give-and-go from senior midfielder Ben Rosenfeld and classmate Jack Shapiro, a forward.
Shapiro fired from 30 yards right on target, and forced Gradenstein to make his first save.
The Tigers kept up the pressure, and again almost scored when Nitai Gorlin launched a rocket after a great cross from Jesse Shapira.
But Gardenstein was johnny-on-the-spot again, diving to make the save, first juggling the ball then corralling it.
Shapira had his own opportunity in the 39th minute, heading a high bouncing ball just wide.
“We came in focused,” said Martinez, “and we came in with a few objectives.
“We also played harder than we did two weeks ago. It was a grind since we were down four starters today (due to injuries and absences), so other people had to step up
“This definitely wasn’t easy. Ida Crown is a competitive team.”
Rochelle Zell continued its strong play after halftime, but Ida Crown picked up the pace as well.
The Tigers almost opened the scoring in the 52nd minute. After a long run, Shapira deked his defender and had open space in front of him, but his attempt from 22 yards hit the far post and bounced harmlessly out of reach.
Then it was Ida Crown’s turn to just miss 7 minutes later.
Aces senior midfielder Jacob Friedman won a 50/50 ball just inside Tigers territory, dribbled in, and sent a flare pass to sophomore Jack Marshall in left corner.
Marshall delivered a perfect cross in to the box, but the shot by Friedman was saved by Rochelle Zell goalkeeper Jonah Frank.
The final four minutes were played in the shadow of the Rochelle Zell goal as Ida Crown pressed hard for the game-winning tally.
Friedman and Marshall both worked hard to get opportunities, but every time it looked like the Aces were on the brink of a score, Schwab and Nochimowski were in the right spot to clear.
“Our guys stepped up to the plate tonight,” said Martinez. “They were able to stay focused for the full 80 minutes, which has been our goal throughout the season.
“We’re hoping to continue that the rest of the way.”
Ida Crown coach Leo Rodriguez praised his squad for its performance, but bemoaned the fact that his team couldn’t convert when the opportunities came their way.
“I think (the difference) tonight was that we didn’t put away our chances,” said Rodriguez. “We had a lack of ideas in the box, whereas in the first game (against Rochelle Zell) we were on it in set pieces.
“We had a lot of set pieces tonight, we just didn’t capitalize. I knew it was going to be a dogfight, but I also know that without getting that first goal it’s hard to beat a team like Rochelle Zell.
“But it’s always fun playing them and getting into this rivalry."
After the match, Schwab mentioned that it was an “interesting experience,” playing the same team in conference matches just 14 days apart.
“At this point,” he said, “we know who their guys are, and we know what they want to do.
“We also watch a lot of film, so we know what they’ll send our way. We just have to have our bodies and minds stay in the game long enough to do what we want to do.
“I’m proud of the boys. We didn’t get the win, but we were missing four guys. I’m happy that we were able to pull it together and see some guys step up.”
“We were able to keep it 0-0 against a team that scored four straight on us last time.”
Nochimowski, Schwab’s running mate in the back, says that being a frosh competing on varsity has been a terrific experience for him.
“I was a little nervous (at the start), because I didn’t know any of the guys,” said Nochimowski, “but now I can say for sure that we’re a team and we’re together.”
GK: Jonah Frank
D: Ari Schwab
D: Tal Nochimowski
D: Mendel Lifchitz
MF: Ben Rosenfeld
MF: Asher Rubinson
MF: Nitai Gorlin
MF: Ronen Ousley
F: Jesse Shapira
F: Shahar Cohen
F: Jack Shapiro
GK: Hayden Gradenstein
D: Moshe Wiesenberg
D: Evan Comrov
D: Ezra Comrov
D: Ben Rosenberg
MF: Jacob Friedman
MF: Ari Klein
MF: Zev Margolin
F: Jack Marshall
F: Aidan Zuckerman
F: Avi Meyer
Chicagoland Soccer Men of the Match: Ari Schwab, jr, D, Rochelle Zell;
Hayden Gradenstein, sr, GK, Ida Crown
Tag(s): Oswego East