Golden Eagles blank Wolves to claim first FVC win
By Curt Herron
When a senior scores a goal for the first time in his high school career, it's a big deal.
When a team has been outscored 17-0 in its last three outings and doesn't allow a goal while scoring one, it's a big deal.
When a squad has gone through a 1-8 stretch and is finally able to get back on the winning track, it's a big deal.
All of those scenarios unfolded for Jacobs on Tuesday and that's why there were plenty of big smiles on the sidelines afterward.
The Golden Eagles held off Prairie Ridge 1-0 in Algonquin to claim its initial Fox Valley Conference Valley Division win in three tries.
Danny Vandewalker connected in the 52nd minute to provide the only scoring in a match where both sides had a hard time creating chances.
Jacobs (5-11-1, 1-3) posted its fourth shutout of the season with Spencer Dixon stopping the few threats that came his direction.
Much of the credit for that goes to the defense of Nick Paganucci, Marcus Inglisa, Erik Merdinger, Mitch Materna and Vandewalker.
"It felt great for the team to come out and get a win since we've been struggling," Inglisa said. "We had to pick up our heads and get some intensity and give it all that we had.
"Our defense was spectacular tonight since we all had the same mindset and knew that we had to communicate. If someone was getting down, we had to make sure that they got their confidence back up.
"Getting this win was so important because we needed this confidence boost and it feels good to get back on the right track. We've got our heads in the right place now and know what we need to do and we can do it."
Despite having the wind advantage in the opening half, the Wolves got plenty of corner and free kicks, but most weren't very threatening.
It was a different story in the final 40 minutes, however, as Prairie Ridge's Mike Perhats sent in threatening efforts on a regular basis.
Things started shortly after the break when a corner went into the box and Adolfo Baca got a touch on it before Dixon shut down the try.
Jacobs also had a good opportunity early in the final half when Tim Hubner got free in the box but his shot was blocked by a defender.
A similar situation met Cristian Guzman and Andrew Kaufmann a few minutes later as defenders altered close-range efforts by the pair.
But things finally clicked for the Golden Eagles about a dozen minutes into the new half and the spark came in a surprising fashion.
Vandwalker was near the sideline when he sent in what originally looked like a cross but turned out to be a rather nice-looking shot.
The attempt by the Jacobs senior found its way to the other side of the net, ending a stretch of eight halves of scoring frustration.
"I got a nice pass from a mid and and I beat a guy," Vandewalker said. "Honestly, I'm a right-footed player so I was just concentrating on hitting it nice with my left foot and it just happened to go in.
"When it was in the air, I kept thinking, 'that looks like it's going in' and I was getting excited when I saw the goalie running back on it as it was going over his head. I was pretty excited about it.
"Confidence is everything in sports so it's huge to get this win. That was only our third game in conference so we have a few more. We've been struggling so it's good to build a little confidence going into the final stretch."
The Golden Eagles nearly scored again a bit later when Ean Wilson sent a throw-in to Hubner, whose try toward the post was thwarted.
Around the final half's midpoint, Perhats had a pair of long free kicks and lined in a corner kick, but Dixon hauled in each attempt.
On the other end of the field, Nick Voss was denied on a free kick and then Konrad Wasilewski sent in a try which also was halted.
With about a dozen minutes left, Austin Ryan and Daniel Kim saw short tries halted and then Paganucci broke up an attempt by Perhats.
Prairie Ridge's final good threat came with a little over a minute to go but Perhat's liner on a free kick went to the Jacobs keeper.
"In the last few games we'd been giving up a lot of goals so the key today was that we really locked down on defense and really didn't give up any good opportunities," Hubner said. "We didn't make any key mistakes.
"Even though this wasn't the prettiest win, it gets our confidence up for our last few conference games. It shows a lot that we haven't given up and that we were able to come out strong today and get our first conference win."
Most of the opening-half excitement happened in the final 10 minutes when each squad had chances to grab a lead prior to the break.
Wilson sent a liner that went over the net while Jordan Oates had a liner stopped by Dixon and Merdinger was denied on a free kick.
The Golden Eagles get a week off for practice before returning to FVC play next week with matches against Cary-Grove and McHenry.
"Prairie Ridge had some good runs, but for the most part, we had them marked and had bodies on them," Jacobs coach A.J. Cappello said. "I really felt that we only gave up one good free chance and that was in the later stages.
"Erik and Marcus, our center backs, did a nice job of keeping it organized and tight. Nick, Mitch and Danny also played in the back today. They made the other team earn everything and that's all that you can ask from them.
"We conceded close to 20 goals in a week and a lot of them were on soft breakaways where we had no business allowing those goals. It's okay to lose a game 3-0 or 4-0 but you just want to make that the other team earned it.
"Our kids have great character. They've kept their heads up and they show up to work every day even though things haven't always gone how they wanted. I know a lot of coaches say it, but this is a quality group of kids."