Huskies strike twice in second half to top Falcons
By Chris Walker
Many Americans can’t function in the morning until they’ve downed that first cup of hot coffee.
Naperville North is functioning in the first half of most of its matches this year, but something seems to be lacking in those first 40 minutes that caffeine simply cannot resolve.
Such a struggle can be difficult to overcome if you fall behind, but when you’re deadlocked at halftime, come alive in the second half, and pull out a victory, sluggish starts are somewhat forgotten.
Except, of course, by coaches.
That was the story on Thursday night in Wheaton as the Huskies tallied a pair of second half goals to blank Wheaton North 2-0, in a DuPage Valley Conference contest.
“I think we need to work on the intensity of our warm-up,” Huskies senior Brandon Hipp said. “I think we could’ve been more tuned in and dialed in so we need to work on that more. Hopefully that will help us out.”
Naperville North junior Chris Ensign believes the Huskies are still adapting to the new season and sluggish starts are the norm for this time of the year.
“I think we’re still too early in the season and adapting each game,” Ensign said. “I think when the momentum goes your way, you go, and when it doesn’t you have to adjust. We go as we go.”
Both squads had limited scoring chances in the first half, although the ball was often situated near midfield rather than deep into each team’s final third.
“I think overall in the first half we did some good things and generated chances but just didn’t score,” Huskies coach Steve Goletz said. “The guys kept fighting and battling and didn’t give up. I give them credit for continuing to stay with what we were trying to do.”
Despite heading into halftime scoreless, Wheaton North coach Tim McEvilly felt the Falcons lost the game in the opening 20 minutes.
“I thought we gave the game away in the first 20 minutes even though it was 0-0 at half,” he said. “We just looked scared the first 20 minutes of the half. It was like, ‘Holy cow, we’re playing Naperville North. We have no chance to beat Naperville North.’
“That’s a problem when you allow them to get some momentum,” he continued. “They’ve got some talented players but we gave them too much time on the ball where they were able to string passes because of that, and when you allow a team to get rhythm like that, which is tough to break sometimes, it can lead to goals.”
Those goals starting coming a little later than 15 minutes into the final half.
Marek Jurkiewicz rebounded a shot with 24:20 left and put it past Wheaton North keeper Alex Jiskra.
“I actually missed a perfect opportunity earlier so I knew I had to get that one back,” Jurkiewicz said. “I just worked my hardest and I knew it was slippery and when Chris (Ensign) took the shot and saw the goalie not come out, I just tried to slip past him, and I did, and was able to get it past him.”
The slippery conditions were due to a bizarre rainstorm, which surprised players, students and parents alike when it arrived during halftime. It came down hard for several minutes to saturate the turf, but dissipated before the second half started.
“I’d never seen rain like that before,” Huskies senior Eddie Graham said. “We just saw it coming across the field and didn’t know what to do. It just started pouring.”
Jurkiewicz had the wet conditions on his mind when he scored what proved to be the game-winner.
“It changes the way the ball plays off the ground,” he said. “Coach (Goletz) was telling us during halftime to put it low because it skips really quick off the turf. So we knew there would be opportunities on rebounds to crash the goal after shots.”
Ensign gave the Huskies breathing room with his goal with 15:25 left.
“My teammates put me in a great position and I turned the ball and worked my way around and finished it,” he said. “Everyone worked hard off the ball today and we worked better together in the second half.”
It resulted in yet another hard fought DVC victory for the Huskies.
“We had some guys step up and have great individual efforts to get goals for us,” Goletz said. “Wheaton North defended well and Tim (McEvilly) always has his team organized. We’re happy to get a win the DVC regardless of how we play and to get two shutouts in a row is a plus for our group.”
Although they yielded two goals in the second half, McEvilly liked what he saw from the Falcons in the final half.
“I thought we answered the call a lot better in the second half,” he said. “For the first 25 minutes we put pressure on them by trying to get behind them and that (first) goal was a communication error.”
In his first season back as head coach of the Falcons’ boys’ program, McEvilly is hopeful that this season is the beginning of a turnaround for a program that struggled for wins the past few seasons.
“Human nature for all of us makes it difficult to respond when adversity continues to pound and pound and at some point you have to decide if you’re going to get up and not take it anyone and try to fight your way through whatever difficulties you’re facing,” he said. “I can’t ask for these kids to give me more in training sessions. I think the guys are getting there and truly are starting to see their potential but they have to truly believe.
“Things are going to get difficult in any high school game when two tough teams are out there and you have to respond when that moment comes and we struggled in the first half to step up.”
On the flip side, the Huskies stepped up in the second half, attacking the Falcons throughout, especially the final 25 minutes, constructing several opportunistic scoring chances and delivering a pair.
“Everyone in the DVC is really good so we’re happy to get out of here with the win,” Graham said. “We knew with the rain that if we let up one goal we’d be in trouble. In a game like this one slip up would give them an easy goal. We just stayed strong in the back and our forwards came through.”