Spartans blank Chargers to claim first SCC win
By Darryl Mellema
It's been a rough opening couple of weeks to the 2013 season for St. Francis and a glance at the team's schedule helps explain why that's been the case.
A team that perhaps could have used some matches to settle into the season has run an absolute gauntlet so far – first at the Lake Park Hillner Classic – and then in in its opening matches of the Suburban Christian Conference.
But from start to finish on Tuesday night, the Spartans attacked and pressed Aurora Central Catholic and emerged with a 2-0 SCC victory in Aurora.
“When you look at a specific season, you look at the wins that you know should be there and then you hope to throw in a few more along the way,” St. Francis coach Kristin Keigley said.
“We had a tournament with some pretty good 3A schools in it to start the season and then in the conference, we started with Wheaton Academy and Marmion. I think we're going in the direction now with getting some wins.”
Producing 80 minutes of attacking soccer was one of the things that pleased Keigley about the victory. Aurora Central had some attacking moments, but they came at the end of long periods of St. Francis attacking play.
“It's one of the things where we haven't had a lot of practices,” Keigley said. “We've had three practices within the last 14 days, just because of the sheer number of games that we've played.
“So it's been nice that, in those practices that we've had, we've been able to focus on the right kind of attacking. In the earliest games, it was dump-and-run. Now it's trying to develop a more organized attack.”
St. Francis (2-5-2, 1-2) needed nearly 60 minutes of Tuesday's match to open the scoring – though when the goal arrived, it was one to remember.
Given a free kick just outside the penalty area, Ian Hart chipped the ball forward and Nick Roehl collected it behind the ACC wall and stabbed the ball into the net.
Roehl plays in central midfield and is in a position where the ball should move through him constantly. But the fact that it moved so well to and beyond the sophomore on Tuesday was a sign of the fluency of St. Francis' attack.
“He's definitely one where you can put him in and you know things will develop around him,” Keigley said. “He's kind of a lightning rod for everything to go into and he's fun to watch.”
The Spartans got their second goal with 12 minutes to play following strong buildup play involving Zach Bess, Michael Downs and Joe Wood.
The ball eventually came to Hart following a Wood right wing cross and Hart delivered an emphatic finish.
“That was a well-developed goal, which had passing before the goal,” Keigley said. “We've been harping on that all season, that there was passing from our defensive half into theirs.
“I think it was nine connected passes before we had a really nice finish and that's what we're looking for – not just shots, but development.”
After enduring three straight shutouts, St. Francis took full advantage of its ability to get forward and attack on Tuesday. Even after Hart's goal, the Spartans continued surging to try to score again.
“It's always that difficulty of getting that first goal,” Keigley said. “Once that first goal was scored, then they started to click and develop a little better. It's nice to see that happening.”
St. Francis gets some practice time before returning to action at home on Monday against IMSA in an effort to continue the momentum from Tuesday's match.
“We lost 13 seniors, many of them had been on varsity for three years,” Keigley said. “Some of them were on varsity for four years.
“So we have a large number of sophomores and we're still figuring out what we're doing and we're almost to the halfway point of the season.”
And having recorded their first shutout of the season, there isn't an area of the Spartans' formation that won't take some comfort from this victory, including the non-starters.
“They call themselves the 'Bench Mob' like the Chicago Bulls,” Keigley said. “The first half, the energy just wasn't there from the starters.
“And then our bench came in and all the energy came out – and that was nice to see. It wasn't just the starters getting the game going, but the bench players got in and made a difference for us.”