Huskies edged by Lancers in overtime clash
By Bill Stone
Senior Mike Catalano and his Lake Park teammates momentarily believed they had to settle for another tie Tuesday after a scoreless 80 minutes against conference opponent Naperville North.
Back when the Lancers were members of the Upstate Eight Conference, no overtime was played. This year, however, they have moved to the DuPage Valley Conference, which uses two 10-minute, sudden-death periods for league games.
“I just thought the game was over (after regulation),” Catalano said. “Then they said overtime so we had to re-collect ourselves and had to get ready for the next 20 minutes.”
The Lancers didn’t need long to adjust.
Catalano scored with 4:26 left in the first overtime and Lake Park earned an impressive and hard-fought 1-0 victory in Naperville in the battle between two early DVC leaders.
With a victory over a perennial state power -- and on the road -- the Lancers (8-1-3, 3-0 in DVC) apparently are getting the hang of their new conference.
“I’m thinking, (now playing) Naperville North, Naperville Central, knowing the history, to get something today was, ‘Welcome to the DVC,’ right?” Lake Park coach Anthony Passi said.
“They knew this (game) was coming. Yesterday at practice was so very exciting. Coach (Chris) Fruehling and I were saying, ‘These guys don’t want to leave.’ ”
Catalano, who will play at Wisconsin, scored already his 12th goal this season with an assist from Kris Lopez to complete a complex passing combination. They also recorded their fifth shutout of the season and third in the last four games.
Lake Park led 17-6 in shots, although the Huskies led 3-1 in corner kicks. Naperville North (6-2-1, 2-1) had all three corners in a strong second half after the Lancers controlled most of the first half.
That included the best scoring chance in regulation, Kevin Coria’s 25-yarder in the 23rd minute that rattled off the center of the crossbar.
“We can play against anyone in the state. We want to make a name for ourselves, make a name for the school as well,” Catalano said.
“We’re making a statement for our team because no one really knows Lake Park. Now we’re taking on the big teams and we’re getting wins and that’s what it’s all about, making a name for ourselves and getting some respect.”
First-year North coach Steve Goletz was convinced. Despite the loss, he also was encouraged by his relatively young Huskies, who nearly pulled off another result reminiscent of beating Waubonsie Valley or tying Lyons Township.
”I thought it was a very good game. They’re the best team we’ve played all year. All of the credit goes to them,” Goletz said.
“We always said going into it we knew they were a great program. I think they’re excited to be in the DVC and we’re excited to have them because it’s another great game. You could see it was a physical game, but not dirty.
“Both teams, I think, respected each other. They can definitely challenge anybody in the DVC and I would put them up against pretty much anybody right now.”
Having Catalano re-join the program from academy soccer certainly had helped. The Lancers strung together several passes for their golden goal.
Joe Keane worked the ball in the left corner to Lopez, who then fed Catalano outside the upper-left corner of the box. Catalano fired a dart along that was too hot for Naperville North goalie Christian Robert to handle.
“(Lopez) just kind of led into the space. I just hit it and didn’t even look at the goal and kind of got lucky,” Catalano said.
“The play started somewhere in the (other) corner and came to this side, four or five passes. It was a team victory. It was a team effort,” Passi said.
“When it came to the end of the game (in regulation, I said), ‘Guys, come on. We’re in the DVC. I’m saying make a statement.’ That’s a tough way to lose, but I think in that overtime we were very physical, very strong.”
Lake Park had just about any combination possible during the first half but couldn’t penetrate a tough North defense that had shut out three of its previous four opponents. Both teams previously defeated Glenbard North and Wheaton North in DVC play with the Huskies blanking both.
The Lancers led 8-2 in shots over the first 40 minutes, but only threatened early mostly through restarts. After handling a hard blast from Keane in the sixth minute, Robert jumped in the crease nearly two minutes later to snag Coria’s left-side free kick from 22-yard line.
In the 22nd minute, Keane headed Gustavo Contreras’ 45-yard free kick on goal, but Robert was right there.
Coria created his chance with a brief dribble as Passi said he saw a narrow window to score. The ball went off the crossbar and was cleared by the Huskies.
“I saw the hole. I took my chance. It almost went in, but I always have to go for another one, just keep moving forward, keep my head up,” Coria said.
“It was 0-0 at halftime and you felt like you were the better team. We were a pass away, a shot away,” Passi said. “In the second half, they just kept pressing us and pressing us and it’s like, ‘Oh no, this is not going to be pretty.’ Defensively we held our own against a very, very physical team, a very strong team.”
It wasn’t easy. After two shots on goal in the first half from Alec Thompson on Lake Park senior goalie Steven Mack, the Huskies had none in the second half but more dangerous balls that converged on the crease.
In the opening two minutes of the half, Marek Jurkiewicz and Eddie Graham delivered balls that had to be cleared. Peterson and forward Chris Ensign then had a good give-and-go attempt that was blocked but resulted in the team’s first corner kick in the 50th minute.
With 14 minutes left, Thompson put a free kick from 40 yards out in dangerous territory only to have Catalano head it out. Thompson later took a pass along the crease with less than five minutes left but turned and put the shot wide.
The clock was stopped with 13.0 seconds left and Wesley Wong attempting a free kick from midfield. Catalano headed out the first cross, the ball went back out to Wong, and the second cross was cleared by Keane.
“I thought (we) played a great second half after Lake Park definitely had the better of the play in the first half. We challenged them at halftime, they responded as a group and that’s good to see,” Goletz said.
“We've kind of squeaked some games out in places this year that we haven't been playing a great game soccer-wise, and tonight we end up losing a game but I thought the second half was the best performance we've had so it is encouraging to us.
“I've told them from the start that I want to be performance-based and not so much results-based. I know that's hard, but if you keep getting better, then obviously the results start going your way."
Both coaches are pleased with the progress of their defenses.
The Lancers’ backline of seniors Contreras, Riker Tifhof-Steere and Anthony Devereux and Carlos Torres in front of the goalie platoon of Mack and senior Zach Czesak has allowed more than one goal only twice.
Devereux took over at outside right defender after an injury to senior David Franz. Devereux was injured during Tuesday’s game and junior starting outside midfielder Lorenzo Mariani moved to his spot.
“We’re proud of the defense. They’ve only let up one goal so far in the DVC. They’re coming together,” Keane said.
“We wanted to come out and earn our respect. We had this game circled on our calendars. We like (playing in the DVC).”
The only varsity returnees on the Huskies’ defense are central defender Wong, a junior, and senior outside defender Thompson, a part-time player there in 2012. They’re joined by seniors Geoff Horn inside Eddie Graham.
“That’s a high-scoring team (38 goals). I think we limited them to not so many dangerous chances,” Goletz said. “Three of those guys are (practically) brand new and that says something.”
The lineup also starts freshman Chris Sullivan at forward and sophomore Grant Borg at center midfield. Borg spent most of the night as the primary marker of Catalano.
“(Catalano) is an absolute load. He’s an all-state type kid. He’s a Division I kid for a reason,” Goletz said. “You could see that all over the field. He was box to box, won balls defensively and then gets them into the attack offensively.”
The Lancers were coming off a busy and costly weekend in which they won the Prairie Ridge Invite with a 2-0-1 record over three games in a 24-hour span. In their second game, a 3-0 victory over Maine South Saturday, they lost junior starting midfielder Giovanni Ciaccio, to a broken ankle.
“It’s hard without him, but we’re doing it for him,” Coria said.
Like Catalano, Ciaccio has joined the Lancers this season from playing academy soccer. With their joining, a seasoned and strong senior class in place already, who knows what the Lancers may accomplish in the DVC, and the postseason.
“This is something (Catalano) really, really wants,” Passi said. “I think he was the No. 1 player out there today, his style of play, his level of play, his intensity, his hustle.
“He was holding the ball a lot, and there were a lot of hard fouls. It was a man’s game today. It was definitely a man’s game, but something was going to come from him, something special, something memorable.”