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Game story: Naperville battle's fireworks dampened

By Matt Le Cren, 05/03/24, 12:15AM CDT


Powder keg remains unlit in 0-0 weather-shortened Central-North draw

NAPERVILLE – Naperville North junior midfielder Isa Polavieja and Naperville Central freshman forward Emerson Burke had two things in common Thursday night.

Both tried their best to – and nearly did – score the goal that could have decided the annual battle between the cross-town rivals.

Neither were happy that Mother Nature denied them additional attempts.

Fans of both teams wanted to see 80 minutes of exciting action, but they got only 48 before thunderstorms halted the key DuPage Valley Conference match with 32:02 left in the second half at Memorial Stadium.

After a 30-minute delay, the game was officially declared a 0-0 draw.

“It’s extremely disappointing,” Polavieja said. “The way we played, we had so many chances and if we just buried one chance before the half ended…

“Having the rain forcing us to tie just doesn’t show how well each team did.”

All it did was leave everyone unsatisfied.

“We want to play them again,” Burke said. “The emotions were so high.

“We got our momentum the second half, so we were really upset. Honestly, we think we would have gotten one on them in the second half.”

The Redhawks (8-5-1, 2-1-1) nearly got two in the first half on a pair of wicked free kicks off the foot of Burke.

The first one came 10 minutes in when she fired a 20-yarder from just outside the left corner of the box. Naperville North goalkeeper Olivia Ochsner stopped the shot and did not give up a rebound, which was fortunate for the visitors because a Naperville Central player was there ready to pounce.

The second came at the 14:18 mark. This time the shot came from 21 yards near the top right corner of the box.

Burke swerved the shot through the defense and on frame, but Ochsner followed it all the way and saved it under her chin.

“Emerson had a couple of really good dead balls that really jumped off her foot tonight,” Naperville Central coach Troy Adams said. “The first one the goalie covered, but our girl was right there. If it had even bounced off her hands, it would have bounced off us and gone in.

“Second one, I was like, ‘Ooh, that’s one they punch some times, and it drops,’ and we were there, too.”

Those were the only saves of the game for Ochsner, who wasn’t called on to do much. She faced only six shots as the Huskies dominated most of the action in the first half and overall did an excellent job of shutting down the Redhawks during the run of play.

That included limiting the speedy Bella Brozek, who had three of Central’s six shots. Brozek had two legitimate scoring chances, sending a 25-yard runner over the crossbar at the 7:20 mark of the first half and missing wide left after getting into the left side of the box 1:40 after halftime.

Naperville Central’s defense was just as strong as Naperville North’s, and a lot busier. That’s because the Huskies (10-4-4, 3-0-1) brought a lot of offensive pressure to bear in the first 40 minutes and outshot the Redhawks 11-4.

A lot of that pressure came as a result of Polavieja’s effort in the midfield.

“I just work my hardest to get on every ball,” Polavieja said.” My favorite ball is playing in behind and just kind of sprinting into the box, but mostly every time I get the ball, I just want to hold it and keep it. That’s mainly my goal the whole time.”

Polavieja did a great job of that Thursday, which was a major reason why the Redhawks struggled to break out of their own end. She took only one shot, but it nearly produced some fireworks.

Polavieja dribbled into the left side of the box, made cutback moves against two defenders to get free and fired an 18-yard shot that barely missed the right post with 14:18 left in the first half.

“Isa is incredible,” Goletz said. “She brings so much energy for us.

“She started this year playing attacking mid. and she’s a great midfielder. But she’s given us a spark every game off the bench for good stretches in both halves. She’s great on the ball, she has great vision.

“She obviously displayed it tonight, being able to cut back and just missed that shot.”

What if that shot had gone in?

“It would have been a world-class goal,” Goletz said. “That’s what Isa brings every day.

“She’s such a happy, fun kid and the sky is the limit for her. I just want her to keep believing in herself, continuing to push.

“She knows how important she is to this group. Tonight was a great example of her really giving us a boost for 15-20 minutes in the first half.”

Even if it didn’t produce a goal.

“It was a shame that it was just a hair off, but she did everything right on that play,” Goletz said. “The shot was right.

“We always tell the kids to try to hit the back post, and she went for it. It was just a little bit off, but you can live with that as a coach.”

Goletz can also live with the tie, which did not damage the Huskies’ chances for a DVC championship. While the draw dropped them into second place behind Waubonsie Valley, the Huskies still control their own destiny and can win the title outright by beating Waubonsie on Tuesday in Naperville.

“I thought the kids played hard,” Goletz said. “I told them we did a great job of responding after playing a great game against Metea.

“When you play a great game, the hope is you can follow it up the next game and keep getting better. The focus is still the performance, and I thought the performance tonight was great.

“Yeah, it stinks that the game ended (early), because you want to finish it. But at the same time, I think the girls understand that as long as we win on Tuesday, we can … win a conference championship.”

Polavieja concurred.

“I just feel we should take the momentum we ended with,” Polavieja said. “We were doing extremely well, so if we take this momentum into Waubonsie, if we keep playing the way we’ve been playing, we’ve got it.

“We just need to score. We had so many chances. We need to finish one.”

The Redhawks, who were eliminated from the league race, had a big hand in the Huskies’ failure to hit paydirt. Goalkeeper Emma Dram made four saves to record the shutout and got plenty of help from defenders Eleanor Kane, Chloe Mowry, Lauren Thorne and Nicole Smith.

Naperville Central double-teamed Huskies star Claire DeCook and fought off four corner kicks, one of which was headed into the left post by freshman Kennedy Bertsch.

“Eleanor matched up with DeCook first, and then Chloe was coming in and making sure that she didn’t have any space to be able to turn,” Adams said. “Eleanor has done a great job all season.

“But Chloe doing that own her own, we did not tell her to quickly go and cover, and she made a really soccer-smart decision to do that.”

Heady plays like that are why Adams is optimistic about his team’s chances going forward.

“We made a couple of adjustments, and you’re always nervous about that until you take the field against a real team,” Adams said. “Every one of them executed what we wanted to do, and they did it to a phenomenal level, and that really starts with our four seniors. They get the kids to buy in.

“I feel really confident for the next couple weeks. I think we’re getting to where we need to be.

“Every team is different. Sometimes it takes a little while. I think with the number of underclassmen we have, it took a little longer to find how it’s going to fit together.”

Starting lineups

Naperville North
GK: Olivia Ochsner
D: Lily Radek
D: Abby Penn
D: Reagan O’Malley
D: Emily Buescher
M: Audrey Hartmann
M: Kelly Wilson
M: Jacey Sturek
F: Annie Chang
F: Rachael Noren
F: Claire DeCook
Naperville Central
GK: Emma Dram
D: Chloe Mowry
D: Eleanor Kane
D: Lauren Thorne
D: Nicole Smith
M: Emma Russell
M: Nicole Sacek
M: Rebecca Ruggiero
F: Bella Brozek
F: Emerson Burke
F: Malia Shen
Chicagoland Soccer MVP of the Match: Isa Polavieja, jr., MF, Naperville North

Scoring summary

First half
No scoring
Second half (eight minutes)
No scoring