Hilltoppers, Panthers settle for a scoreless draw
By Chris Walker
The good news is that neither Glenbard West nor Glenbard North has to turn in its uniforms.
But, those offerings are coming soon as the squads will likely meet early in the postseason of the Class 3A IHSA playoffs, later this October, if both teams win their respective playoff opener.
Regardless, unis weren’t on either teams’ minds during a scoreless draw on a Saturday.
The Panthers earned the No. 5 seed while the Hilltoppers were seeded No. 4 in the upcoming Schaumburg Sectional.
The teams fought through a muggy afternoon on Saturday in Glen Ellyn before settling for the draw in the nonconference game.
A tight match between the District 87 squads was expected.
“We knew coming in, because of seeding, that it would be a tough game,” Hilltoppers coach Maciek Kusmierz said.
“Unfortunately the crossbar got in our way and eliminated our best chances, but I thought we got in a good rhythm and challenged them.”
“Looking at the seeding, we kind of knew to expect this kind of match,” Panthers coach Gregg Koeller said. “Both teams played fast and played well.”
A well-played game wasn’t beyond the norm for the Panthers as they’ve risen toward the top of the DVC standings, an area usually dominated by Naperville Central and Naperville North.
“It was a defensive game,” North’s CJ Koeller said. “We hoped if we kept battling that we would’ve been able to come up with a big play.”
Defenders are so often unheralded in soccer, but the Hilltoppers (7-4-2) know they wouldn’t be where they’re at today if not for their strong play at the back line.
Owen Knotts, Ivan Barajas and Nathan Gaertner are three key players who were strong again on Saturday nullifying the few chances that North was able to create.
“The leadership comes from the seniors from last year and anchoring the back line,” Kusmierz said. “Most games they’ve stopped any opportunities.”
Knowing that a rematch could likely come in the playoffs didn’t necessarily change the way either team played, but it certainly was in the back of some player’s minds.
“We just wanted to play solid no matter what,” North’s Zach Jones said.
“It’s just one game at a time and we’re not going to play much differently now then we did earlier in the season except that hopefully we’re playing better. If we see them again, hopefully we’ll be playing our best.”
West was up to the task as well, playing very well in the midfield and minimizing any threats by the Panthers.
“I thought our center backs played huge and made sure nothing bad happened,” West’s Spencer Rojc said. “They were very quick and were able to take away any of the threats they had.”
The Hilltoppers are one of the few teams in the state that can say they’ve been in every game they’ve played.
Three of their losses have been 1-0 decisions. Still, they were hopeful to put this one away, and a 1-0 decision would’ve been enough.
“Yeah, we wanted to win but it didn’t happen so we’ll focus on our next match,” Rojc said. “We’ve shown we can play with anyone in the state and we’ll take that into our next match.”
West closes out West Suburban Conference Silver play this week with a Tuesday game at York and a Thursday home match with Downers Grove North.