Mustangs defeat Hawks to stay atop UEC Valley
By Seth Hancock
Metea Valley had to play the role of fire fighters when it took on host Bartlett in Upstate Eight Conference Valley Division play.
After an 0-8-1 start to the season, the Hawks had a hot streak last week with three consecutive wins, but the Mustangs extinguished that fire early in their 3-1 victory on Tuesday night at Millennium Field in Streamwood.
Metea was coming off a three-game winless streak, but Jake Celinski found the net twice in the first half and Daniel Stewart had a goal as the Mustangs (5-5-3, 3-0-1) led 3-0 at the break against the Hawks (3-9-1, 2-3).
“We’ve had a season of ups and downs,” Celinski said. “We’ve had games we’ve played great, and we’ve had games we just didn’t do our best.”
“We knew they were going to come out strong with their three-game streak, but we didn’t let that get in our minds. We’re like, ‘this is one game, let’s just get out there and play our game.’”
The Mustangs dominated possession and scoring chances in the first half and Celinski put his team ahead 1-0 in the eighth minute, off of an assist from Nate Donovan.
Brandon Espino contributed on the Mustangs’ next two goals, the first from Stewart with 24:00 on the clock and then on Celinski’s second goal with 14:55 on the clock.
The Hawks picked up their play after the break and they got on the board just over five minutes into the second half when Marcus Singleton made some nice moves past Metea's defense.
From the top right corner of the box, Singleton found the left side of the net.
“It’s not the thing you want to see coming from a team like ours that’s already been through so much,” said Hawks’ coach Ben Beary. “We finally had an opportunity to do something to get ourselves back on the right track.”
“I was telling them, these kinds of games don’t come along very often, games coming at this point in the season that are so meaningful, and to play like we did in the first half is just not good enough.”
The game did have importance for both sides. The win keeps Metea in the drivers seat in the UEC Valley Division race since wins over East Aurora and Waubonsie Valley will give the Mustangs the title.
“We knew coming in this was our conference game that it was going to make or break our conference season,” Celinski said. “We were 2-0-1, no losses in conference, and we knew we had to come out big.”
“We knew what we had to do coming in. In the first half we had to come out and finish. We did what we had to do. The second half, we had our chat (at halftime) and we knew they were going to come out strong. They did come out strong but we just had to sit back, defend and play our own game.”
For the Hawks, a win could have meant a better sectional seed with the game being their final one before the seeding meetings.
“It’s really disappointing, because this was an important game for us,” Beary said. “I know it was an important game for them too with conference implications, but we wanted to get one more win under our belt before sectional seeding.
“It’s too bad that they played that much better than us in a game that was meaningful to both teams.”
Part of the Mustangs success in the first half came from their defense which limited Bartlett’s scoring chances and kept getting the ball to their forwards.
Along with his goal, Stewart contributed in the back with the Mustangs’ defense. Grant Bolle, Brandon Howard, Ian Connelly, Matt Coley and Donovan also played in the back with Stewart.
“We were pretty solid most of the time,” Stewart said. “We had a few times where they slipped in behind us, but other than that we played pretty solid defense. Our center backs stepped up pretty well when we needed them to.”
Metea did have a few chances to add to its lead in the final three minutes of the first half. Jimmy Kisiel had a shot on goal and he fed Brian Diebold who got an attempt on goal, but Bartlett goalkeeper Andrew Nowak made two of his five saves.
In the second half, the Mustangs chances were few and far between. Donovan had their only shot on goal early in the half and Connelly had a try that went wide in the final minute of the game.
By contrast, the Hawks offense started to find their stride and create chances but it was too little, too late for Beary.
“Way too many turnovers the entire 80 minutes, but I think the effort and intensity increased in the second half,” Beary said. “That was probably the biggest difference on our side, but we still are not making the best decisions.”
“We’re not moving the ball fast enough and we’re allowing the opponent to establish the rhythm of the game instead of trying to establish it ourselves. We’re settling for what they’re giving us instead of trying to create for ourselves, and you cannot win soccer games at this level if you do that.”
“I’m glad we had the intelligence to adjust a little bit. We were able to create more opportunities for us and we had a little bit more possession in that second half, but not enough, not enough. To play 40 minutes in an 80 minute game is just not enough.”
Beary attributed the intensity in the second half to his center midfielders including Joe Butler, Justin Busch and Andrew Gott.
AJ Santori and Mike Parzy had some solid attacks early in the second half, and the Hawks had several narrow misses in the final five minutes.
With 5:01 on the clock, a Busch throw-in found Butler in the middle of the box with Metea keeper Jimmy Wyma away from the net. Butler ripped a shot that went through traffic, but Wyma was able to race back to make a diving stop.
Another Busch throw-in led to another solid chance a few minutes later, and the Hawks final scoring chance came with just over a minute left to play when Singleton made a cross to Adrian Zawada whose header skimmed over the crossbar.
The Hawks face Glenbard West on Thursday and they hope to start a new winning streak.
“It’s really tough because this was the game we needed to come out and really show it,” Butler said. “We had something to prove, and it’s just disappointing we couldn’t finish it.”
“We’re going to work hard in practice tomorrow and we’ve got to come out strong on Thursday. We need to prove to ourselves that we’ve still got it. It’s something that we’ve just got to turn it back on. It’s a minor setback that I think we can overcome.”
The Mustangs have Benet Academy and East Aurora left this week and they hope for a strong finish to the season as they near the playoffs.
“Obviously we want to win conference,” Celinski said. “To get the placement we want in playoffs we need to win our conference so we can start out easy and then get into the tough games. We don’t want to start out playing a top team like (Hinsdale) Central or a St. Charles East again.”