Redhawks' backline making strides
By Chris Walker
Naperville Central wasn’t sure how its defense would play this season with four new players making the progression from JV1, along with sophomore goalkeeper Joe Kallikaden.
Apparently, juniors Sean Flading, Mitch McGuire, Nick Coon and Derek Kerbs have been able to take the cohesiveness they developed a season ago and make a near seamless transition to the varsity speed of play.
They were strong in Wheaton on Tuesday as the Redhawks breezed past Wheaton Warrenville South, 3-0, in a DuPage Valley Conference match.
“The one thing that was especially good to see was our defenders played very well,” Naperville Central coach Troy Adams said. “I’ve kind of been on them about being more disciplined and more organized and today they did a great job.”
Naperville Central has now scored two or more goals in all 11 of its contests, save for the 1-1 draw at Hinsdale Central last Saturday. They jumped ahead 1-0 on Jay Tegge’s fifth goal of the season early in the first half.
“We had a lot of guys moving forward all night which really helps a lot,” Tegge said. “A big part of getting this many chances is having the possessions and by doing that we give our defenders a break so that even when we lose the ball, they are ready to be able to win it back for us.”
The junior-laden backline knows that as long as they continue to deny opponents, their teammates will ultimately find the back of the net.
“We have an amazing offensive unit and we know if we do our jobs and get the ball to the offense they’re going to score early goals,” Flading said. “Today, we had one of our best defensive efforts of the year. I can only think of one shot they had on goal, which is a big win for us.”
Flading’s throw-in also inspired Tegge’s first goal.
“It’s always nice to get that first one, it takes some of the pressure off,” Flading said. “It makes it a lot easier on the defense.”
Wheaton Warrenville South (3-7-2) was able to hang close with the Redhawks, but the Tigers also didn’t threaten much so it was quite an uphill battle.
“I think we played a lot better in the first half than the second half,” Tigers senior defender Lalo Robles said. “We stopped a lot of their shots at the start and tried to contain them, but in the second half they had far more possession and unfortunately they got two goals on us which made it tough to come back.”
Sam Reskala made it a 2-0 contest for the Redhawks when he sent a shot past keeper Edson Gomez.
“We have this play on throw-ins where we have three guys on one post and three on the other and I found some space for myself and just hit it,” Reskala said. “It definitely gave us more breathing room to play more comfortably.”
Such comfort wasn’t necessarily needed as the Tigers had a difficult time possessing and were forced to dedicate themselves to trying to thwart the countless chances created by Naperville Central.
“We’ve been scoring all season,” Adams said. “But we strive for perfection and I bet if you asked the players they would say that they should’ve put three or four in the back of net.”
Tegge added his second goal of the contest with just less than 11 minutes remaining to conclude the evening’s scoring.
While the Naperville Central backline is still a work in progress, they are finding success and doing more than enough of good things to help the Redhawks win. The Tigers haven’t been able to do the same thing, despite having quite a bit of new talent on the roster this fall.
“We have a lot of individual talent but it just hasn’t come together yet,” Tigers coach Guy Callipari said. “People have struggled with change a little bit and with giving up something for something. They haven’t been able to do that wholeheartedly and therefore they’re taking small baby steps.”
The Tigers are competitive as 6 of their 12 matches have been decided by one goal or been ties, but they simply are having lapses over the course of 80 minutes that are catching up to them.
“Guys are coming off the field and sometimes saying ‘Yeah, you’re right (coach),’” Callipari said. “So they’re not always understanding what they need to do so they’re reverting to old habits and the thing is they’re under a lot of pressure against teams like Naperville Central and it presses on them.”
The timetable for cohesiveness obviously varies by teams and the individuals involved. Right now, the addition of several sophomores and former academy players, as well as some inconsistencies in the line-up due to ineligibility, hasn’t helped the Tigers get quite there yet. Plus, different players of different background also often play differently and take time to get to know each other.
“We’re competitive and most times it’s been 1-0 or 2-1, but tonight I don’t think we could play with Naperville Central,” Callipari said. “We just need to decide who we want to be and go through the growing pains. It’s a lot of sophomores and juniors and different demographics and a different mentality and style of soccer. They just need to find each other.”