Wildcats record shutout win at Bolingbrook
By Jeff Davis
Timing seemed to be everything for Plainfield Central on Saturday morning.
The Wildcats managed only two shots on goal in the first half of their nonconference game at Bolingbrook, but the second one found the back of the net at an opportune moment to spark a 2-0 win over the Raiders.
Junior Miguel Sanchez centered a pass from the left corner to sophomore Jarod Petrovic, who flicked a one-touch shot into the right side of the net past Bolingbrook goalie Colin Madgziarz with only 59.5 seconds left before halftime.
The goal certainly boosted the Wildcats (2-0-2), who possessed the ball much more in Bolingbrook’s end of the field in the second half, getting off nine shots (with five on goal) to the Raiders’ four (with two on goal) after Bolingbrook (3-2) had the better of play in the first half.
Miguel Duran added a penalty-kick goal for the Wildcats in the second half.
“It means a lot getting the goal right at halftime. Then we’re going into the locker room all energetic,” Petrovic said. “I think that lit the fire a little bit and after that we started going.”
Petrovic’s goal was set up with a strong passing combination from senior defender Tom Poznanski, junior midfielder Ozzie Gutierrez and junior defender Gage Wuestenfeld.
“We’ve been working on it in practice, like trying to switch the ball,” Petrovic said. “Tom headed the ball to Ozzie, and Ozzie played it wide to Gage.
“And then Gage played it up to Cuba (Sanchez), and Cuba had a nice move in the corner and just played it to me. And I had a one-touch in. I just kind of hit it with the outside of my foot and just prayed for the best.”
That’s the kind of effort Central coach Kevin Fitzgerald wants to see more often.
“It probably wasn’t a great 80-minute game, we probably played hard for about 70 minutes, probably played well for about 55,” Fitzgerald said. “If we play hard and we talk and we move the ball, we’re much better.
“The first goal that we scored was pretty textbook soccer. Now it’s just a matter of consistently repeating that same play – win the ball, move the ball, get it wide, get a cross and finish. It doesn’t get much more simple. We’d just like to see more of it.”
Especially from the start.
Central didn’t attempt a shot in the first 19 minutes of the game, even as one its players yelled, “Let’s go, we’ve got to get rid of the ball quicker,” and “we gotta play quicker,” in the opening minutes.
“In the first half, we started really slow. I think it’s because a 10 a.m. game after Friday night everyone having fun,” Petrovic surmised.
“We did have a slow start in the beginning, but we had to talk a lot and pick it up,” Sanchez added. “Then again second half we started off slow, but we picked it up. After that first goal we were up a little better, and then after we got that second goal we just kept attacking and attacking.
“I think things are going well. We’re improving. I liked that we stepped it up and we didn’t give up. We got two good goals and we just kept up the good effort.”
Wildcat sophomore goalie Matt Bralich turned in a solid effort to earn his first solo shutout of the season.
Bralich, a transfer from Joliet Catholic Academy, had been splitting time with senior Kyle Oehler but played the entire game after Oehler suffered a concussion in Thursday’s 1-1 tie against Metea Valley. Oehler is expected back next Thursday. Saturday’s win marked the Wildcats’ third shutout.
The Central keeper passed his first challenge when he punched away Bolingbrook senior Marcos Barbosa’s 15-yard shot off a crossing pass to the middle of the field just 4:23 into the game.
“It’s usually a hit or miss. If you save a nice shot early on, it kind of gets the nerves out and it gets me pumped,” said Bralich, who wasn’t nervous about his first start with his new team. “I used to play with my older brother’s team, they were U-17, 18 at the time, so I’m used to playing with the big boys.”
Bralich finished with 10 saves, including seven in the first half that featured coming out to stop a threat on a give-and-go between Bolingbrook’s Frimpong Sintim and Luis Flores with 13:15 left in the first half. Bralich credited Central defenders Wuestenfeld, Sam Espinal, Poznanski and Ola Shobowale for his shutout.
“Our defense is doing an amazing job of keeping the shots off,” Bralich said, “especially our center defenders Ola and Tom. And then Sam and Gage on the outside are keeping the through balls and the overlaps and crosses down. So that helps a lot to have a good defense.”
It also helped that Duran converted his penalty kick with a hard shot into the left corner of the net with 27:52 left after being taken down in the top, left corner of the box in a side-by-side race with a defender toward the goal.
“That was just a good play,” Fitzgerald said. “It’s nice to get that second one, takes a little pressure off.”
But Bolingbrook still applied some pressure, which is why Fitzgerald, just like with his team’s offense, is seeking even better play on defense.
The Raiders, who demonstrated strong ball skills throughout the game, misfired on three quality chances in the second half with two coming after the PK.
Sintim’s shot ricocheted off the far post right into Bralich’s awaiting hands with 22:10 left, then Brice Tchamou chipped a centering pass over the goal with 9:04 to play.
“We made some errors in the back,” Fitzgerald said. “We got a little lucky to get out of it with a shutout, for sure. I know we’ve got some things to address. All in all it was a pretty good team effort. But now we have to keep building, keep getting better.”
That’s just one goal for the Wildcats, who begin defense of their Southwest Prairie Conference title Tuesday at Romeoville.
“I think we can win conference again, maybe make a run in the regionals and sectionals,” Petrovic said.