Trojans edged by rival Mustangs in shortened match
By Matt Le Cren
Downers Grove South didn’t get to celebrate its 1-0 victory over Downers Grove North on the field Thursday night due to inclement weather, but that didn’t take any of the shine off the accomplishment.
The host Mustangs had lost their last three matches to their crosstown rivals, so this win was the first for Downers South’s seniors.
“Oh, it’s a great feeling, especially because we haven’t won in a long time,” Downers South senior midfielder Jon Sleeper said. “Apparently, we might play them in the playoffs so it could be as bittersweet as it is for them right now. But we’ll be ready.”
Both squads were more than ready to battle for the full 80 minutes but Mother Nature had other plans as an approaching thunderstorm halted play with 27:10 remaining in the second half, at which point it was an official game.
“It is unfortunate,” Downers South coach Jon Stapleton said of the weather. “I thought it was a pretty even game. I thought North was playing well and we were trying to establish a rhythm for ourselves so it is unfortunate.
“I know [North coach] Brian [Gervase] is disappointed. I know his team’s disappointed. It doesn’t feel right.”
But everything felt right for the Mustangs when they scored the game’s only goal with 10:54 remaining in the first half on what turned out to be the only shot on goal of the match.
Senior defender Scott Holakovsky’s pass from the center of the midfield sprung Sleeper on a breakaway down the right wing, forcing North goalie Ray Greco to charge out of the penalty area.
Sleeper got around Greco but found his path to the net impeded by a defender so he passed to his left to forward Mike Flores.
The Trojans made a nice recovery on the play as they managed to get two defenders between Flores and the goal but neither could stop the 17-yard shot from rolling in.
“I’m just really proud of my team because we all that we worked on last practice was not to get trapped offsides,” Sleeper said. “We did it a few times but overall we kind of got over that and our goal was mostly a hustle goal but it still counted.
Sleeper, who has one goal and two assists this season, doesn’t get many breakaway chances but he stayed composed when Holakovsky found him.
“It was a perfect ball,” Sleeper said of the pass. “It was a great ball and I’m happy Mikey got on the end of that to put that in.
“I was just hoping it would go in. I meant to shoot it but I didn’t have the chance so I tried to lay it off to Mike. It rolled by him and he shot it in. It was perfect.”
Aside from that play, the fans didn’t have much to get excited about as both defenses did a solid job of shutting down the other team’s offense in a game played mainly between the penalty areas.
The Mustangs (8-5-2) held the edge in midfield play but rarely got through North defenders Tony Zea, Jake Maurer, Carter Tome and Brett Pyburn.
South held a 3-2 edge in shots and neither Greco nor Mustangs counterpart Nick King was required to make a save, though both handled the ball frequently on errant passes or punts.
“It was a good match for us today,” Trojans coach Brian Gervase said. “I think Matt Maletich, my assistant, put it right [in saying] that they’re very similar to us.
“There’s not a really flashy goal scorer, they work hard, they’re pretty solid in the back and they get good touches. We played against a team who I believe we can play like so it’s good.”
The Trojans (2-11-3) didn’t even get a sniff of the net, with Liam Budnik’s shot from a tough angle rolling wide left with 2:00 to go in the half the only thing resembling a scoring chance.
But that could change as North, which saw its winless streak extended to nine games, is getting healthier and more experienced.
Junior forward Mike Molloy returned from injury in this game and Gervase is hoping to welcome back senior forward Dan Lott, who hasn’t played this season after spraining an ankle in a practice scrimmage.
Another talented offensive threat, Jordan Nunez, is awaiting results of an MRI on his knee in hopes of seeing some action before the end of the year.
“We feel good about where we’re at,” Gervase said. “We knew it was going to be a while to get old because we’re very young and now we’re finally going to get Dan Lott back.
“He’s our best player, there’s no doubt about it. He’s at another level above a lot of guys on this team. We’re hoping he starts for us on Saturday against Morton.”
That’s why the Trojans have stayed positive even as the losses have piled up.
“[The mood of the team] has been good,” Gervase said. “I think I kind of knew how the season was going to go for us a little bit so we’ve had a goal to [be ready] at the end of the year.
“There are a few premium teams in our section but at the same time we’ve played all of them and we feel good about how we’ve played with them. I expect us to make some noise.”
The Mustangs feel the same way about their chances as they have now won three of the last four, with the only loss a close 1-0 decision to West Suburban Conference Gold Division power Morton.
“We’ve been playing better and better,” Sleeper said. “We know what we’ve been doing wrong and we’ve just been picking out the flaws and working really hard.”