Cougars fall to Wolves in 2 OTs in SPC play
By Curt Herron
Like many other squads this fall, goals have been very elusive for Oswego East.
Having collected just one tally in their last four outings, the Wolves hoped for some better fortune on Monday.
That's when East traveled to Plainfield South to kick off a busy week in which it would have four matches in six days.
Three of those take place through Thursday in Southwest Prairie Conference play, the same scenario that the Cougars face.
Although there was plenty of back-and-forth throughout regulation, all that the two sides had to show for it were a pair of penalties.
Finally in the 93rd minute, someone managed to connect during the run of play, and it was the squad that has struggled so often to score.
East claimed its second win and initial SPC victory when Nathaniel Paisley sent a nice pass to Jesus Cepeda, who scored to cap a 2-1 win in Joliet.
It marked only the fourth time in a dozen outings that the Wolves (27-3, 1-1) had managed to record a multi-goal performance.
More importantly, coach Steve Szymanski hopes that it provides a spark for his squad as they hope to challenge in a competitive league race.
"This was our fifth overtime in conference in the last two years and we were 0-4. so it was nice to get the monkey off of our back," Szymanski said. "It's definitely a nice feeling to be on the other end of that.
"We've been struggling and we had only one goal in our last four games. We were holding the ball a little much in the midfield today but he (Paisley) but he played it quickly and we got a good result out of it.
"It's hard to tell kids that we're playing better and getting better, but I really feel that we have. We play a super-tough schedule and when you're getting beat 5-0 by these good teams, it can be frustrating.
"We showed that we can compete with everybody in our league, which I think is wide open this year. This is a huge week with three straight conference games and we put ourselves right there if we do well this week."
But while the final shot sealed the deal for the Wolves, it was their play on the defensive side that kept them in the match.
With Danny Madrigal leading the way, East's defense of Josh Walter, Anthony Padilla and Arnold Arevalo kept the Cougars at bay.
Sean Phetchanpheng started in goal before moving to forward in the final half while Alex Santillan went from the field to the net.
"I thought Danny was unbelievable," Szymanski said. "He won every ball and was strong to every ball. He's been our best defender all year and he showed why today. He's really taken up the leadership role in the back.
"Josh played the whole game and Anthony's been playing tougher. Anthony isn't really a defender by trade but he's a smart kid and has stepped into that role. Arnold is a young kid but he's right there in the mix."
The Wolves play at Romeoville today and host rival Oswego on Thursday. They wrap up the week by entertaining Batavia on Saturday.
While the Cougars (4-7-3, 1-1) struggled at last week's St. Charles East Invite, they also beat Plainfield East in their SPC opener.
South coach Dave Brown was hoping that his squad would get off to a 2-0 start in the league as they also head into a tough stretch.
The Cougars play at Oswego today before hosting rival Plainfield Central on Thursday in what is also their program's senior night.
"We told the boys before the game to expect to play 80 minutes-plus since Oswego East was going to play hard the whole game," Brown said.
"Their record isn't great but they've been in almost every game they've played. We knew that they were going to fight and that Steve would have them ready.
"I didn't like our intensity at the beginning of the game, but we found kind of a goofy PK in the first half and they found one in the second half to even things up.
"We had a chance late in the regulation and hit the post and then they get a chance and put it away and that's ultimately what it comes down to when two even teams meet."
Although the Cougars coach realizes that his squad has gone through a tough stretch with a lot of matches, things don't get any easier.
"We had a tough week playing five games in six days," Brown said. "And this week started off Monday and Tuesday, so there's no rest for the weary. We don't have time to feel sorry for ourselves.
"Our competition has increased and unfortunately it's been kind of a rough patch for us. I'm hoping that these guys have enough pride in themselves to pick themselves up of the floor and dust themselves off."
With South holding a 1-0 halftime lead, the two sides got into a routine of exchanging runs during the final 40 minutes of regulation.
The visitors started things off in the frenzied second half when Madrigal sent a long free kick to Cougars keeper Eric Fischer.
About a dozen minutes later, Adam Burt cleared an attempt by Padilla and then Miguel Espinoza found Parker Gallt, who was thwarted.
South caught a break right after that with an indirect from just outside of the six-yard box but Espinoza's liner bounced off the wall.
Prior to the half's midpoint, Christian Vazquez lined one off a defender, Walter was denied on a liner and Cesar Bautista had a try halted.
Not long afterward, a Michael Santillo free kick led to a header that was deflected by Santillan and then Padilla and Espinoza were denied.
The Wolves caught a break similar to the one the Cougars got earlier when a controversial penalty was awarded to them in the 70th minute.
Phetchanpheng was ruled to have been fouled just inside of the box and the junior converted the opportunity to once again even things up.
A bit later, a long free kick by Santillo was headed away by Madrigal and Salvador Chavez was stopped on a header following a corner kick.
As time wound down, Espinoza found Dominic Nirchi, but Arevalo slid to alter the attempt and then Julian Tejeda's header was hauled in.
With about a minute left in regulation, an Espinoza pass to Burt led to a shot that deflected off a Wolves defender and hit off the post.
"This win really brings our confidence up," Madrigal said. "It's our first win in conference and hopefully we'll get some more now. We finally started to shut them down and stopped letting them get balls into the air.
"I think this shows that we can rise to the occasion and get a win against any team. We're starting to win more balls in the air while before we were afraid to challenge. It was important to win to get our confidence up."
There were far less oohs and aahs during the opening half, in which the hosts converted a late penalty to grab the advantage at the break.
Santillan and Bautista traded early efforts before Padilla headed away a try and Espinoza was turned away on a shot and then a corner kick.
In the 32nd minute, the Wolves were called for a foul in the box and Bautista put the penalty just inside of the post for the first score.
Not long after that, Padilla sent in a long effort to Fischer, who stopped a similar attempt from the same player as halftime approached.
"It feels really good to finally come away with a win," Walter said. "And it's a big deal since it was against a conference team. We're able to stay in the race and if we would have lost we'd have been at the bottom.
"I was relieved when I saw the goal in at the end. I think that this win will give us a boost for the week since we have two more conference games to come and if we play like this, I think that we can win them both."