BOLINGBROOK—Naperville Central took the second win toward defending its Class 3A state championship Saturday morning, handily winning the Bolingbrook Regional title with a 4-1 victory over host Raiders.
The Redhawks (11-5-7) advance to the Plainfield North sectional semifinals at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday and will face no. 7-seed Oswego (17-6-3), which stunned second-seeded West Aurora 2-1 in overtime Saturday to capture the West Aurora Regional crown.
“It feels good,” said senior striker Michael Cavalleri, the Chicagoland Soccer Man of the Match who netted two second half goals and assisted the opener. “We obviously won (a regional) last year, but to win this one was a little more special, because we were the underdogs (this season) with the (sectional) seedings.”
The fifth-seeded Redhawks took control early against no. 3-seed Bolingbrook when Cavalleri tapped a pass to senior midfielder Carter Adams, who rifled a 25-yard shot into the upper left-hand corner of the net two minutes into the contest for a 1-0 lead.
Naperville Central, which coach Troy Adams described as “a hard-hat” blue collar team, struck again with three minutes to go in the first half. Senior defender Patrick Berryman sent a cross to the front of the goal that Bolingbrook goalkeeper Diego Guzman swatted away with his right hand. But the ball bounced to Redhawks sophomore forward Ludo Gallina, who rammed it home for a 2-0 halftime lead.
“It' s nice (to get to the sectionals) especially considering there were so many unknowns with our team coming back,” Adams said. “We had good players coming back, but you can’t (lose) 90 percent of your offense without being a little apprehensive about how you’re going to create goals.”
Cavalleri has helped alleviate some of that worry tension with his nose for the net. In the 51st minute, Bolingbrook failed to clear the ball in front of its own goal. Cavalleri pounced on the loose ball and tapped it in, giving the Redhawks a 3-0 lead.
“I’ve just been working on trying to look for opportunities to shoot,” said Cavalleri, who was a starting center-midfielder on last season’s championship club. “As a striker you’ve got to look to shoot more, and I think these last few games I’ve improved my game there.”
Defensively, Naperville Central successfully contained the Raiders, who weren’t able to generate many scoring chances throughout the match.
“Bolingbrook has a ton of kids that are really, really good soccer players,” Adams said. “The biggest concern was not necessarily that they were going to have possession, but where (on the field) they were going to have it -- don’t allow possession in the final third. I thought for the most part we did a pretty good job of that. They had the ball in their half of the field a ton.”
The Redhawks’ only defensive lapse occurred around a minute after Cavalleri’s goal. Bolingbrook junior forward Aiden Montes put a cross from the left side to Ignacio Escamilla up-front. The junior headed the ball past Redhawks’ goalkeeper Dylan Scott and cut Naperville Central’s lead to 3-1.
Things got a little dicey after the goal. Escamilla ran up to Scott and tried to grab the ball from him. A tussle ensued and both Escamilla and Scott spent some time on the turf in front of the net. Some pushing and shoving followed before order was restored. Escamilla and Scott received red cards, as did a second Bolingbrook player. For the final 28 minutes, the hosts played with nine players, and Naperville Central concluded the match with 10.
“This is partly a soccer problem, because we have so many different rules for so many different things,” Adams said. “If you look at the club level, and the World Cup and the pro level, the clock doesn’t stop on a goal. So, the kids are conditioned, ‘All right, (let's do) as much as we can do to delay,' especially if you have a lead.
“Dylan grabbed the ball, not realizing it had no impact on what happens. Their kid, not realizing it had no impact, was trying to wrestle it away. I’m not sure what happened there. Dylan retaliated, which is something we always say you can’t do. The second guy will always get caught. I doesn’t matter what it is.
“When you’re 17, 18 years old, we talked even at halftime about checking our emotions. We’ve got to be able to be mature about it, and play a little bit more like a men’s game where they’re going to whack you. That happens, you’ve got to keep your composure. Then my concern was getting players away from each other. I did see a couple of other punches thrown. I don’t know if my kids did it as well.”
Adams suggested officials need to give more yellow cards during the game to better keep matches under control.
“I know it’s been written about a lot lately, about the yellow card count,” he said. “I was trying as best I could to tell the referee that there needed to be some cards during the game. There were cleats up multiple times. I don’t know if it’s the yellow card count or what it is, but they are very hesitant to give yellow cards for hard fouls. They’re very good about giving yellow cards for socks not being correct or a delay of game.”
Afterward, Bolingbrook coach Nick Trotter said he didn’t see the initial confrontation.
“From down where I was, I think we were just trying to get the ball very quickly and start again so there was no time wasting or anything — which is unnecessary because they stop the clock,” Trotter said. “It’s just something that kids tend to do. We were trailing in the game, and they (thought they) needed to get the ball back quickly, so I guess that turned into something.”
“I don’t know what the first one (red card) was for; the referee didn’t tell me,” Trotter said. “The second one, our captain (Connor Capp) made a bad decision, and he reacted poorly to something that was apparently said. ... Unfortunately, we reacted poorly to it. We have to respond better than that.”
The Raiders advanced to the regional final after 1-0 shutout of Waubonsie Valley in the regional opener, but Trotter said “our goal was (to go) much further than we did.
“I felt like we had the guys in place to do good things and play good soccer. Unfortunately, we made decisions that to me are unacceptable.”
Trotter had seven seniors on this year’s team that finished 11-6-4. Only three seniors started on Saturday, so next year looks promising with key players returning. The Raiders began 2023 with a 10-game unbeaten streak (6-0-4).
“I thought the guys really established the type of team we want to be and the type of things we wanted to do this year,” Trotter said. “We started strong, went through some adversity, came back, did well, and unfortunately had some rough moments here in the second half (Saturday). But I thought it was a good season in terms of our competition and results, the style of play and the pride that they brought.”
Naperville Central now now sets its sights on Oswego for a match that pits teams with the same seven-match unbeaten streak (5-0-2). The two teams played to a 2-2 draw in the Redhawks second game of the season Aug. 26.
“We saw Oswego, but it was so early in the season,” Adams said. “They were doing some things; we were doing some things. I don’t think that’s an indicator for them. Even at this time of the year, it’s still a lot of times more about us than it’s about the other team. Can we do what we want to do and execute our game plan as well as we can?”
Scott said he believes he and his teammates have a good shot to win sectionals and advance to the supersectional for the second-straight year.
“If we keep working as hard as we do, if we keep giving it our all, really trying in practice, paying attention in the film sessions, we will be set,” he said. “To win on Wednesday, we’ve got to have a strong mentality.”
Cavalleri added: “We’ve had two great games. We tied them (Oswego) so we get a chance to meet them again. I think we can definitely get back (to the sectional championship game). It’s going to be a fun game (on Wednesday).”
GK – Dylan Scott
D – Ryan Gervase
D – Patrick Berryman
D – Ryan Lafferty
MF – Carter Adams
MF –Eli Jarrell
MF – Michael DeFalco
MF – Patrick Bohan
MF – Clay Scherf
F – Michael Cavalleri
F – Ludo Gallina
GK – Diego Guzman
D – Saul Malacara
D – Carlos Gutierrez
D – Connor Capp
MF – Diego Campos
MF – Daniel Balas
MF – Chase Beals
MF – Aaron Palacios-Chaves
MF – Jesus Velazquez
F – Ignacio Escamilla
F – Aiden Montes
Chicagoland Soccer Man of the Match: Michael Cavalleri, sr., MF, Naperville Central
Naperville Central – Carter Adams (Michael Cavalleri), 2'
Naperville Central – Ludo Gallina (unassisted), 37’
Naperville Central – Michael Cavalleri (unassisted), 51'
Bolingbrook – Ignacio Escamilla (Aiden Montes), 52'
Naperville Central – Michael Cavalleri (Ludo Gallina), 56'