Hornets edge Warriors on PKs to claim first win
By Dave Owen
Hinsdale South’s Jose Moreno was determined to literally put a stop to his team’s early season frustration.
With the Hornets and Willowbrook in a penalty kick session to determine the winner of Tuesday’s West Suburban Conference Gold match, Moreno made saves on the last two shooters in a prolonged seven-kick PK showdown as South earned a 3-2 win over the Warriors (5-4 in the penalty kick session) in Darien.
“This one is huge for us, especially ending it that way,” said Moreno, who stopped three of the seven PK’s he faced to clinch the Hornets’ first win of the season.
“I hope it gives us the momentum we’ve been looking for all season to really get things rolling. I think we did a great job – we lost focus in the second half, but we put it back together.”
Dylan Sarocco, Alec Raatz, Nathaniel Michaelis, Giancarlo Cianelli and Lucas Carlson scored on PK’s for the Hornets (1-6-1, 1-1).
Mike Rogalski, Lucas Betts, Tito Cabral and goalkeeper Asmir Perviz converted on penalties for Willowbrook (0-6, 0-1).
Carlson put the Hornets up 5-4 before Moreno’s diving block sealed the win.
“I’m still wrapping my head around it,” Moreno said of the win. “They (Willowbrook) put up a fight the whole game. We honestly shouldn’t have let it come down to that, but once you’re there it’s all focus and you just have to get the job done.”
“We still need to work on finishing,” South coach James VanDenburgh said. “We should have finished a lot more and not been in that position, but I thought both teams did a great job of battling down to the last PK.”
The extended match seemed unlikely late in the first half when South used a pair of great individual efforts to lead 2-0.
Cianelli’s midfield steal, dribble up the middle and perfect 40-yard blast under the crossbar put the hosts up 1-0 with 11:17 left in the half.
Just over two minutes later, Michaelis fielded a Dean Serritella throw-in and launched his own 35-yard missile over a leaping Perviz for a 2-0 lead.
“We had two ridiculous shots from Giancarlo and Nathaniel,” Moreno said. “Most of our players thought we had the game won at that point and we tried to settle things down so we didn’t lose momentum. But that’s exactly what happened.”
Willowbrook’s rally began 1:50 before halftime, when after a potential Warriors’ handball violation was waved off, Arkadiusz Szlachta broke between defenders and fired a low 20-yard shot just inside the left post to make the score 2-1 at halftime.
“I thought Arkadiusz gave us a nice game today,” Willowbrook coach Peter Ginter said. “He’s coming off a bad ankle injury and isn’t 100 percent fit, but he gave us a lot of minutes today, which we needed.
“On that first goal we scored we played to the whistle, we didn’t stop. It looked like there may have been a foul, but we were pushing forward and we took advantage of that with a nice goal.”
Willowbrook just missed a tying goal with 37:13 left when Betts’ finish off an Anthony Pieroni cross was nullified by an offside call. But with 26:55 to go, an similar play produced a finish that counted.
Gideon Karasek’s high cross from the sideline found Betts open in the box, and he chipped a 12-yarder into the corner of the net to tie the game 2-2.
The goals were part of a solid midgame offensive revival for the Warriors.
“I thought we got a little more possession of the ball,” Ginter said. “That’s really key for us. We distributed the ball better to the wings and got more support on the attack. We’re trying to play the wings a lot more and bring the ball into space. That stretches the opponents’ defense and opens things up in the middle.”
Several Warriors made an impression.
“We’re trying to get our outside fullbacks into the attack, and I thought Dylon (Jones) did a nice job coming up on the attack,” Ginter said. “We’re starting to see a little bit more of that.
“Raymundo (Alvarado) didn’t play that much, but he filled the fullback position nicely and also gave us some punch up front. He held the ball and distributed nicely. Mike Rogalski is getting stronger and tougher in the middle, and shielding the ball better. We’re trying to teach him how to use his body a little bit more and his game is starting to get better.”
Willowbrook maintained its pressure after tying the game, as the next five minutes featured two Warrior corner kicks and Moreno’s diving save of an Alvarado 25-yard shot.
But South quickly renewed its own offensive charge.
Strong Hornet chances the rest of regulation included a Michael Meyers’ point-blank header that went wide with 13:50 left, a chance set up by Raatz’s cross from the end line.
Then the first overtime was a rapid-fire blitz by South’s Michaelis – first came his low 25-yard shot inches wide of the left post with 2:40 left, then Michaelis headed a powerful 55-yard free kick by Lucas Carlson just wide with 1:30 to go.
The third threat was Michaelis’ best – with 55 seconds left, his 12-yard blast off a Serritella cross was denied on a diving save by goalkeeper Perviz.
South also had the best chance of the second OT, when Mike Noble headed a Raatz cross just over the net. Carlson and Pieroni had dueling shot blocks late in the session to pave the way for PK’s.
The Hornets’ dependence on recent sophomore additions continues to fuel improvement after a rocky start to the fall.
“Mick Meilus is one of the sophomores that stepped up,” VanDenburgh said. “And Mike Noble did a great job here up top. He came out maybe once, and he gives us a spark up front while Mick gives us a spark in back and solidifies the back three with Lucas and Griff (Karpeck).
“Mick and Griff on the outside of the defense have done a great job of changing things we needed to change. That was instrumental in the renewed energy.”
Willowbrook was so close to seeing a great comeback result in a win, only to be narrowly denied.
“It’s tough,” Ginter said. “This is two years in a row that we lost to Hinsdale South on PK’s, and it went beyond five (shooters).”
“Every time we play Willowbrook we’re in for a fight,” VanDenburgh said. “Last year it went down to the last PK, so it was déjà vu. It’s one of those gut-wrenching wins or losses either way, but I thought Willowbrook did a great job of battling.”
Goalkeeper Perviz was one of five sophomore starters for Willowbrook (with Aaron Johnson, Betts, Szlachta and Mike Sommers).
“He was under a lot of pressure today and did a nice job,” Ginter said. “I like this kid – he’s going to give us a great future. I’m really excited about him, and he’s a nice kid, too. He’s a hard worker.”
The Hornets’ hard work for a win finally paid off.
“Today we essentially had the game won in the first half and gave that up,” Moreno said, “and that’s the first time this season we’ve had the game in our hands. We were hungry to get that back tonight, and I think that’s what carried us through.”
“We’ve changed some positions around and had a closed door session to look at ourselves, where we’re at and what we need to change,” VanDenburgh said.
“I think it’s a testament to their mental discipline. They’re losing some tough ones, but they’re out here every single day working hard, trying to get better and having fun in the process. That’s what’s important to us.”