Huskies even their record with win at Niles West
By Dan Santaromita
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Oak Park-and-River Forest has a deep and young team with plenty of speed up top. The Huskies utilized all of those assets in a 2-1 win at Niles West Saturday afternoon in Skokie.
Sophomore Ruby Gonzalez scored the game-winner and assisted on the Huskies’ first goal to spark the win. OPRF improved to 2-2 on the season. Niles West, which dressed just 12 players due to a rash of injuries, fell to 0-5 against a difficult early schedule that has included four teams that won regionals last year.
The Huskies had plenty of opportunities to score more, but with some players away on college visits coach Ignacio Ponce brought up three sophomores to varsity making for eight on the roster. Ponce will take the win no matter how it came.
“We’re going to have to work on some finishing drills, but I think that we’re headed in the right direction,” Ponce said. “You can see it’s a young team and they’re learning and it’s a transition year where we’re not only learning different tactics but we’re also learning to play with a younger squad. The physicalness is different in the sense of playing the bigger girls, but they’re motivated and they said they feel great to feel what it is to win.”
OPRF started the scoring in the 17th minute when senior Joy Dennis redirected the ball into the goal off a Gonzalez corner.
Later in the half the same duo nearly missed another connection. This time it was Dennis sending in a terrific cross from the left wing towards Gonzalez, but the sophomore couldn’t connect with the ball in front of an open goal.
The Wolves got back into the match late in the half and got the equalizer on a Molly Kleppin free kick from over 40 yards out. Kleppin’s lobbed ball bounced in the area and popped over Katie Oldach (5 saves).
“She did well with defending the net,” Ponce said of Oldach. “It skipped and bounced right over her and anybody could have probably missed that one. It was a fluke shot where the ball didn’t even reach the goal and it popped over, but I mean she’s still a great goalie.”
In the second half the Huskies struggled to score the go-ahead goal despite having the run of play. Gonzalez had a pair of close-range opportunities denied by Wolves’ keeper Jackie Cardenas (15 saves) just before the hour mark, but she got on the score sheet not long after.
With 16 minutes left a pair of sophomores hooked up for the game-winner. Tess Trinka fed Gonzalez in the box, who slotted past Cardenas.
“I just called for it because I saw the seam and Tess played it,” Gonzalez said. “I should have shot it with my left, but I shot it with my right instead but it still went in. I missed one really nice cross by Joy so I really wanted to try and score another goal.”
Instead of absorbing pressure from the Wolves in the final minutes, OPRF continued to press for a third goal. The Huskies unleashed several shots in the match’s final 10 minutes, but as Ponce joked they missed at least six open goals during the game.
The back line did well in front of Oldach to limit the pressure on the senior keeper. Sweeper Renata Voci anchored the defense and Ponce was impressed with the play of junior Naomi Johnson as a substitute.
“We have enough rotation that are all consistent in the level of play that there’s no standouts that you can say well you’re a definite starter, you’re a definite all-gamer,” Ponce said. “It’s just consistency throughout the field.”
Up top, it was the speed of Gonzalez, Trinka, Dennis and sophomore Erin Schrobilgen that ignited the Huskie attack. Schrobilgen rattled the post with a shot in the early minutes and was a factor throughout.
“Her height, her speed on the outside, she runs like a horse and never gets tired,” Ponce said of Schrobilgen. “Her and then Joy on the other end, our speed is helping us out on the wings and obviously it shows with the results.
“I think Gonzalez with her speed and talent has the ability to pull one of two players on her and then when we have Tess up at the top, she was also very physical, and our addition today with Lauren Wilkes that really helped the distribution.”
Gonzalez noted that while the Huskies will need to work on shooting, their speed is essential to their attack.
“It helps that we can get the ball up so quickly and throw teams off guard,” Gonzalez said. “I think that really benefits how we can just start finishing more goals and I think that’s something to work on is scoring more, but I definitely think we have that in the bag just running the ball and being there first.”
OPRF’s speedy attack will look to be less wasteful when they take a trip to Morton on Tuesday.