Hilltoppers blank Blazers to claim third straight win
By Eric Van Dril
Perfection is rarely achieved in soccer, but junior forward Ian Winans experienced it in Glenbard West's 2-0 nonconference victory over Addison Trail on Saturday in Glen Ellyn.
The Hilltoppers began the second half with a 1-0 lead and were full of energy. Junior midfielder William Lanzillo beat a defender down the field in the first 30 seconds of the second half and struck a low, bouncing shot toward Addison Trail goalkeeper Jonah Moran.
Moran saved the Lanzillo's shot, but the hosts sustained their initial surge and then Winans struck with 38:51 remaining in the match.
West pressured an Addison Trail defender into making a mistake seconds before Winans scored on a picturesque volley from about 20 yards away.
The ball bounced slightly in front of Winans, who was running toward net, and the junior struck the volley and hit it purely.
He said, after the match, that as soon as he struck the ball he knew it was headed into an area – the top corner of the net, to Moran's left – which few goalkeepers can save.
“You know where it's going the second it leaves your foot, especially (because) the other defender teed it up perfectly for me,” Winans said. “It was a perfect volley. It went right to upper-90.”
Winans' strike gave the junior a goal to go along with an assist, which he picked up with 10:52 remaining in the first half. Winans set up the eventual game-winning goal when he sent a perfect cross into the box.
He picked out junior outside midfielder Spencer Rojc, who was left unmarked, and Rojc beat Moran with a header. Rojc was near the center of the box when Winans made his cross, but he managed to angle his header in such a way that it had enough speed and accuracy to clear the keeper's outstretched arms.
Playing forward has been a bit of an adjustment for Winans, Hilltoppers coach Maciej Kusmierz said, because he's used to a little bit more of a direct style of play than the Hilltoppers use.
The speedy substitute had two moments of brilliance against Addison Trail, however, which didn't surprise his coach.
“With Ian, we never know what to expect,” Kusmierz said. “There's times when it's something amazing and there's times when we need to improve the play a little bit,” Kusmierz said.
“But obviously he has the tendency to find himself in the right spot in the right moment and, when he gets the chance to finish, some of his finishes are of the top quality.”
West (6-2) proved to be the more dangerous team throughout the majority of Saturday's match, even though AT threatened to score in the match's final 12 minutes.
The Hilltoppers were effective in holding possession and controlling the midfield because of players like seniors Paul Selman, David Ortega, Shawn Herrera, Mario Sotelo and junior Steven Rojc.
All five players showed the ability to defend well and calmly distribute passes all over the field.
While Winans picked up a goal and an assist on Saturday, Selman took on an equally-big role for the team. The lightning-quick midfielder played tenaciously against Addison Trail.
He challenged almost every ball that was near him, regularly dispossessing his opponent and intercepting passes before they could reach the West defense, which consisted of seniors Robert Schoeneich, Ivan Barajas and Herrera, as well as juniors Nathan Gaertner, Owen Knotts and Nolan Stelter at times during the match.
Selman “is an outstanding defender – a very good player when it comes to destruction, intercepting,” Kusmierz said. “He intercepts a lot of balls in the middle. He defends very well, one-on-one, with the opponents. With him there, we were able to take a little bit of the pressure off of our defenders. He's a tremendous ball winner in the middle of the field.”
West's midfield and defense, led by co-captain Barajas, stayed in formation throughout the match and often dealt with scoring chances before they reached the box.
The one time it looked like they would concede a goal came with 27 minutes remaining in the match, however, was when Addison Trail drew a penalty kick.
The penalty kick was the first time sophomore goalkeeper Alex Ruckstaetter, who took over the goalkeeping duties from junior Robert White at halftime, was tested with a shot on goal.
AT's Cesar Chavez, a center midfielder, lined up for the penalty kick. Ruckstaetter said he used to strictly guess on penalty kicks, making up his mind which way he would dive before the run up to the ball.
He said he changed that strategy, however, because some players go straight down the middle and make the goalkeeper look like a fool when he guesses and dives to a side.
Ruckstaetter now looks at a players' knee, and that is what he was focusing on when Chavez struck the ball.
“What coaches teach you is (to watch) the position of the knee – like if it's going out,” Ruckstaetter said. “But sometimes, players can switch at the last second and it screws you over.”
Chavez didn't switch the position of his left knee, which is his plant leg. It pointed out, indicating he was going to shoot to Ruckstaetter's left, and the sophomore dove in that direction and was able to block the shot.
The match seemed in the Hilltoppers' control after that moment.
“After that, we definitely knew we had it in the bag,” Winans said. “I was really excited for him. He hasn't had that many opportunities to show himself in the goal so far this season and that definitely shows how good of a goalie he could be.”
Ruckstaetter said most of his playing time has come on weekends, where he splits time with White in nonconference games. He hadn't played for about a week before Saturday's match, but he showed his ability against the Blazers.
The ability of both goalkeepers, who Kusmierz said have been trained by specialized goalkeeping coaches, is a luxury many teams don't have.
Kusmierz views it as a strength of his team, but added that it can be difficult to choose between the two players.
“I really do enjoy having two quality goalkeepers, but on the other hand, it's a tough decision for me to make at times, to put one on the bench and have the other one playing,” Kusmierz said.
“In Alex's case, he's only a sophomore and games like these will only make him a better player. He still has to challenge and fight for his playing time with Robby, who's also an outstanding goalkeeper.
“As much as I can, I'm trying to give him the opportunity to play to get better. I think every time he gets the chance, he responds. That's what he did today.”
West's next match will arguably be one of its biggest regular season contests when Lyons Township, one of the best teams in the state, comes to Glen Ellyn on Tuesday.