Lancers rally past Redhawks to grab DVC lead
By Bill Stone
In a huge regular-season game focused on seniors, Lake Park junior Lorenzo Mariani stepped in to make the final difference Saturday.
Mariani’s goal off senior Joe Keane’s throw-in with 2:51 left lifted the Lancers to a huge 2-1 victory at Naperville Central with the DuPage Valley Conference lead on the line.
“I don’t even know what’s in my head right now. I was just in the right place at the right time,” Mariani said. “It’s just unbelievable. I’m glad I could just get it for the seniors. They’ve worked so hard. They push everybody to get better.”
In their first season as part of the DVC, the Lancers (12-2-3, 5-0 in DVC) now are in first place outright with league games remaining at home against Glenbard East Tuesday and West Aurora Oct. 15.
Naperville Central (10-2-2, 4-1) was unbeaten in its previous seven matches and allowed more than one goal only twice.
The Redhawks took a 1-0 lead just 37 seconds before halftime on David Murphy’s header moments after a corner kick.
University of Wisconsin-bound Mike Catalano tied the game with 20:15 left off a corner kick by Keane.
After the comeback victory, the excited Lancers gathered for a team photo in front of the goal where Mariani scored.
“We’ve still got two games to go (in the DVC). Enjoy the moment, but we’ve still got Glenbard East and West Aurora. They probably want to play spoiler,” Lake Park coach Anthony Passi said.
“We’ve been talking about that, playing 80 minutes of soccer. All it takes is one shot. You run through a ball and put it in the back of the net and all of a sudden you’re the hero. (Mariani) didn’t stop his run, just met the power and it was a beautiful goal.”
Lake Park’s other big conference victory also came on the road in dramatic fashion. The Lancers prevailed 1-0 at Naperville North September 24 on Catalano’s golden goal in the first 10-minute sudden-death overtime period.
“(Beating) Naperville North was sick but this is up there,” said Catalano, who is playing high school ball this season for the first time since his freshman year.
“I think this is team that we’ve been talking about since before I even played high school, since the beginning of summer, coming to the DVC. We talked about beating Naperville North and Central, and we beat them both so it’s a great feeling. We’re finally starting to earn our respect now.”
The Redhawks also were busy taking photos Saturday, but that was beforehand. The program honored their 12 seniors, many of whom have been a part of their two Class 3A second-place finishes the past two seasons.
Those seniors are Devon Amoo-Mensah, Ben Border, Kenyata Coakley, Justin Geisler, Brad Holland, Nick Jano, David Murphy, Sam Reskala, Mike Senese, Jake Stadelman, Drake Swope and Jay Tegge. Amoo-Mensah, Swope and Tegge are team captains.
Last year, Naperville Central shared the DVC title with Naperville North but actually finished third in 2011. The Redhawks visit Naperville North (8-3-2, 3-2) on October 15.
“It’s disappointing to be Senior Night and not have a win. You want to win conference, but we’ve not won conference before and gone on and made a nice run in the state tournament,” Naperville Central coach Troy Adams said.
“The good thing is this isn’t a fatal loss. We’ve gotten all of those other pictures. We need the one that means that we’ve won a state championship. That’s really been a stabilizing influence in the program. We’ve always had a good group of seniors who work hard, do everything the right way, the way they should.”
This game lived up to the hype.
Naperville Central is the No. 1 seed in the Metea Valley Sectional. Lake Park is the No. 2 seed in the Schaumburg Sectional to St. Charles East, which beat the Lancers 5-1 September 10.
There was plenty of action on both ends, but particularly because of two stingy defenses, there were few good scoring chances.
Central led 16-13 in shots and 5-4 in corner kicks while the Lancers owned a 6-5 edge in shots on goal.
Redhawks sophomore goalie Joe Kallikaden made a dramatic point-blank save with 6:26 left. Lancer senior Steven Mack was particularly active in punching dangerous balls out of the crease but also made a big save with 10 minutes to go.
“Mack played well. He did a nice job,” Passi said.
In their last year in the Upstate Eight Conference, the Lancers shared the 2012 Valley Division title with East Aurora and Neuqua Valley.
They entered this season with high hopes behind 16 seniors, eight of whom started Saturday, and the additions of Catalano (team-high 16 goals) and junior starting midfielder Giovanni Ciaccio (6 goals, 3 assists), who was lost to a broken ankle just prior to the Naperville North match.
The Lancers had their Senior Day Thursday in beating Proviso East 4-0 in a game shortened to one half by bad weather. Mariani sat out that game after straining his calf muscle in Tuesday’s 1-0 victory at Wheaton Warrenville South.
Mariani's game-winner was only the starting outside center midfielder’s second goal this season. His first came in an 8-0 victory over Prairie Ridge on September 20.
“I was really anxious coming into today,” Mariani said.
The Redhawks repelled a right-wing corner kick and eventually put the ball out of bounds on the other side of the field. That gave Keane another chance with his long throw-in from near the 25-yard line.
Catalano slightly flicked the ball along in the crease. As the ball hit the artificial grass, Mariani was marked but snuck in his left foot around the defender to put his shot into the upper-left corner of the left.
“(Catalano) gave me a good flick, and Joe giving those throw-ins -- they’re perfect every time,” Mariani said. “I finally got a back-post (goal). Usually I misjudge those. I finally got that one. It feels amazing.”
“We said that during practice. We needed to limit dead balls. We need to limit opportunities where they can take advantage of their height,” Adams said.
“They have a pretty tall team. For the most part, we did a pretty good job and, unfortunately, we gave them just enough opportunities to sneak two in.”
The Lancers’ equalizer by the 6-foot Catalano off Keane’s right-wing corner kick almost looked like an own goal.
Catalano said he again got just enough to re-direct the ball into the upper right corner of the net.
“There were three guys up there (with me from Naperville Central),” Catalano said. “I told everyone at halftime we’ve got 40 minutes left of soccer and we just recovered. I knew we were going to score.”
Central’s goal was just as beautiful. Tegge quickly set up a right-wing corner kick and tapped the ball to the nearby Swope.
Swope approached the goal and delivered a left-footed cross to the far post that seemed destined for Murphy’s head.
“The serve (was great). It was a nice finish. We almost had another one similar,” Adams said.
It was the first goal scored on the Lancers in three games and only their fourth allowed over the last nine games.
“We took a nap,” Passi said. “The ball got played. We didn’t mark short (on Swope. We) were disorganized in the back, which led to the goal, and that’s all it takes.”
Central earned its last three corner kicks in the final 16 minutes with Mack punching out the first one. With 10 minutes left, the Redhawks had a free kick just outside the box. With his back to the goal, Jordi Heeneman tapped the ball to Tegge, whose shot required a sprawling Mack save.
Then it was the Lancers’ chance to strike with 6 1/2 minutes left. Keane hustled the ball downfield, passed to junior Ricky Claudio, who put the ball down the left wing to junior Kris Lopez.
Kallikaden stopped Lopez’s shot, but the rebound leaked into the center of the crease. Kallikaden quickly recovered to stuff Claudio’s rebound attempt.
“We started finding space later in the second half. Mike and I like to combine in there and our team does a great job to get open for us,” Keane said.
“It just feels so awesome (to win). We work so hard every day. We started August 14 as a team and we’ve come this far. This game was circled on our calendars. We compete in the DVC first year and go to 5-0, it’s awesome.”
Mariani’s tally resulted in the most goals allowed by the Redhawks’ all non-senior defense since their 3-2 loss to Benet Academy on September 7 in the Best of the West finals.
The Redhawks get another chance to play Benet on October 12 in Lisle. Adams said he certainly wouldn’t mind playing the Lancers again this season.
“That means we’ve made it again into the state finals,” Adams said.