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Game story: Naperville Central retains championship feeling with win over Metea Valley

By Matt Le Cren, 10/11/23, 1:15AM CDT


2-1 victory earns share of second-straight DVC title

NAPERVILLE – Naperville Central senior Carter Adams doesn’t have the otherworldly talent of his younger brother, Chase, who led the Redhawks to their first state championship as a freshman last fall before moving to Ohio to play for the Columbus Crew’s academy team.

What he does bring to the field is an understated steadiness, a calm demeanor and solid foot skills. All of which are appreciated by his teammates and his father, Troy, who also is the Redhawks’ coach.

“He’s been a good, stabilizing influence,” Troy Adams said of his oldest son. “He holds the middle and knows what his role is. At times we’re trying to play him as an out-of-position forward. He will roll with it, but he’s very comfortable in that role in the middle of the field.”

That was the case again Tuesday, when Carter Adams helped control the midfield for most of the first hour of Naperville Central’s 2-1 DuPage Valley Conference win over Metea Valley at Memorial Stadium.

“The ball he played to Eli (Jarrell) is a ball he’s played a number of different times across the field,” Troy Adams said. “He does a very good job of being able to play the ball in behind. As we’ve gotten better about it, it’s looked a lot better.”

It doesn’t get much better than the service Carter Adams gave to Jarrell with 9:14 left in the first half. His 40-yard ball went up the left wing and over defender Cameron Leys, who ran step-for-step with Jarrell in the Metea Valley box.
Jarrell got in behind Leys and headed the ball past charging Metea Valley goalkeeper Ravi Shah for his 10th goal of the season. It put the Redhawks ahead to stay.

“I timed it perfectly,” Carter Adams said. “I think (Michael) DeFalco won it off a 50/50, and it was sort of bouncing in the midfield.

“I saw Eli bending off his defender, and I took a chance and played it over the defender’s head.”

Jarrell, a sophomore who is Naperville Central’s leading scorer, took it from there.

“I knew Carter was going to be able to make it there,” Jarrell said. “When I saw it go over the defender, I knew I had to get my body on it and see what happens.”

That was the same type of mentality Jarrell used when picking up the assist on the Redhawks’ second goal, which made it 2-0 midway through the second half.

“I think Cal Bohan threw it in, and everyone kind of lost it in the lights,” Jarrell said. “So, I went really low, and I decided to flick it back post hoping someone was there.”

Someone was. Sophomore forward Ludo Gallina was unmarked and snuck a three-yard shot in between Shah and the left post.

“Today was a good day as far as work-rate, as far as getting after things,” Troy Adams said. “I thought our front line, this is the hardest they’ve worked all year. And it makes a huge difference when you’re chasing down bouncing balls, and you’re getting to the ball first, and you’re winning head balls out of the air.

“We’ve got to win those gritty type things in order to be successful.”

The Redhawks (9-5-6, 4-0-1) have been successful in the games that matter most to them during the regular-season. This win clinched a share of the DuPage Valley Conference championship with second-ranked Naperville North (16-1-3, 4-0-1). The Huskies took down Waubonsie Valley 4-0 on Tuesday to secure its half of the crown.

It was the second-straight league title for Naperville Central.

“I think it’s the first time we’ve been back-to-back DVC champs,” Troy Adams said. “We prioritize five (conference) games each season.

“Today was a well-fought game. Metea always plays us hard. If anybody’s had the better of us, it’s them. But we finished the game.”

But Metea Valley didn’t make it easy. The Mustangs (7-9-1, 3-2-0) were still alive in the conference race when the match began, but they needed to beat the Redhawks and hope Waubonsie beat or tied Naperville North.

Shah did all he could to keep the Mustangs in it. He finished with six saves, all of them ranging from the difficult to the spectacular variety.

Jarrell had two drives tipped over the bar by Shah, who also denied Carter Adams in similar fashion on an 18-yard liner.

But to Shah, it wasn’t good enough. Rightly or not, he took the blame for the loss.

“At the end of it, the team did everything I could ask for,” Shah said. “We got the goal, defense played amazing.

“The rest of it is on me. I could play a game where I have 10 amazing saves, but if let in two easy goals like that, eventually I’ve got to step up and make those saves.”

Shah, a senior and aspiring doctor who is in his first season as a varsity starter, felt he should have prevented both goals, especially Jarrell’s strike.

“Great job by Cam on marking, great job by their team,” Shah said. “But I need to get my hands on that ball.
“And even on the second one, (I need to be) aggressive coming off my line. As a goalie especially, it’s all about leadership and communication and dedication to getting to the ball. I can’t let those balls get past me.”

But nobody else was blaming Shah.

“He was awesome,” Metea Valley coach Josh Robinson said. “He’s been awesome all year.

“It’s a bit of a mindset. It was unfortunate – a bit of miscommunication on the first goal between him and Cam.

“He got a little tentative at the end of the first half. We talked to him at halftime about, ‘Ravi, you’ve been tremendous. We need you to be aggressive the way you are.’ And his resilience to bounce back and do the things he did has been so positive.”

There was plenty of positives about Metea Valley’s performance in the final 20 minutes. The 2-0 deficit seemed to spark something in the Mustangs.

Naperville Central goalkeeper Dylan Scott, who made three of his four saves in the second half including back-to-back stops on point-blank drives from Michael Senese and Sahil Khare, made a kick save around the right post on a five-yard shot from Nicolas Villalobos.

Abel Lopez headed home a tally on Khare’s ensuing corner kick, putting the Mustangs within 2-1 with 14:05 remaining.
Metea Valley had two more great scoring chances. Senese’s shot from the left side of the box hit the underside of the crossbar and the right post before being cleared over the end line by the defense. Metea Valley failed to capitalize on the resulting corner kick.

With 2:00 left, Naperville Central was called for a foul just outside the top of the box. They mustered a five-man wall to disrupt the 19-yard free kick.

Senese rolled his free kick past the wall, but Scott lunged to his left to make the diving save.

“The bummer is we decided not to play until the last 20 minutes,” Robinson said. “We’ve run into that all year.

“For as much as we’ve enjoyed the fight in them, it’s like we could probably do that all game long.”

Shah vows the Mustangs will do just that in the upcoming playoffs.

“I would say amazing job by the team to battle all the way to the end,” Shah said. “We stayed in it to the last second.

“It’s a testament to our spirit. We may have taken some losses. Our record may be worse than it should be.

“Our seeding for sectionals is not that great, either, but that doesn’t mean anything to us. We’re going to fight every minute of every game.”

Naperville Central will need to do the same as they begin their defense of their Class 3A state championship. But for one day, they are going to savor another league title, one achieved with a vastly different roster than last year.

“We want to look forward with the players we have now,” Carter Adams said. “I feel back-to-back conference champs is a big thing for our class and the classes below us. Maybe we can carry that on to next year as well.”

Starting lineups

Metea Valley
GK: Ravi Shah
D: Cameron Leys
D: Eric Jernigan
D: Tony Cuautle
D: Jack Kusumpa
M: Sahil Khare
M: Michael Senese
F: Brandon Loos
F: Abel Lopez
F: Cole Hatfield
F: Nicolas Villalobos

Naperville Central
GK: Dylan Scott
D: Patrick Berryman
D: Ryan Lafferty
D: Ryan Gervase
D: Michael Cavalleri
D: Cal Bohan
M: Michael DeFalco
M: Carter Adams
M: Clay Scherf
F: Eli Jarrell
F: Ludo Gallina

Chicagoland Soccer Man of the Match: Carter Adams, sr., MF, Naperville Central

Scoring summary

First half
Naperville Central: Eli Jarrell (Carter Adams), 31’

Second half
Naperville Central: Ludo Gallina (Jarrell), 61’
Metea Valley: Abel Lopez (Sahil Khare), 74’