Huskies use good defensive effort to hang tough with York
By Mall Le Cren
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For 71 minutes Tuesday night, Oak Park and River Forest some how held Christina Ordonez and her York teammates in check.
But all that great defensive work went for naught when Ordonez broke through in the 72nd minute, scoring her 20th goal of the season and 101st of her brilliant career to lift host York to a 1-0 West Suburban Conference Silver Division victory in Elmhurst.
Ordonez, who had reached the 100-goal mark Saturday in a 3-0 win over Deerfield, took a pass from Bryce Banuelos and beat OPRF keeper Katy Oldach with a short shot with 8:49 remaining for what turned out to be yet another game-winner.
“She has the ability to finish and that’s such a natural ability,” York coach Chris Halupka said. “I think that it’s a huge asset to our team, obviously, to get goals, whether it’s early in the game or whether it’s a big goal like this to win a tight game.”
The game was tight because, although the Dukes (9-3, 2-1) dominated the midfield, the Huskies were outstanding in the defensive third thanks to fullbacks Renata Voci, Katherine Skrine, Wren Osler and Joy Dennis and senior goalie Katy Oldach, who made 10 saves in one of her best efforts of the season.
“They have a tough defense,” Ordonez said. “OPRF has always been a tough game for us, so I think they played us hard and we did what we could and we just ended up getting one in the back of the net.”
That York took as long as it did to do so was a surprise considering the Dukes outshot the Huskies 21-7 and held a 12-0 edge in corner kicks, nine of which came in the first half.
But it was the visitors who nearly struck first, narrowly missing two golden opportunities eight minutes into the match. A 27-yard shot by Ana Agboola hit the crossbar and a rebound header by Ruby Gonzalez from nine yards out also hit the pipe before York goalie Anna Bell Lansdowne grabbed it.
“We should have capitalized [on] the header, open goal and everything,” OPRF coach Ignacio Ponce said. “She hit it with the top of her head, unfortunately, or that could have changed the whole pace of the game.”
Indeed, the York bench breathed a collective sigh of relief.
“I think we had the majority of the play of the game but I think that they challenged us at the beginning of the game,” Halupka said. “[Agboola] had a nice shot from very far out that hit the crossbar.
“We were very lucky to get away with it. I think everyone was shocked by it, the initial shot and the reaction from it, but after that situation I think we controlled the majority of the game.”
Even so, the Dukes couldn’t take advantage of numerous chances. Dennis, a converted midfielder, stuck to the elusive Ordonez like glue and Voci tried to contain Courtney McHugh, who was stopped by Oldach on a one-timer in the first half and missed a 10-yard shot from a tough angle after stealing the ball from Oldach in the 64th minute.
“They did a very good job of trying to slow down our forwards,” Halupka said. “Their defenders were playing very aggressive and that’s their style, I guess, to put a physical tone to the game and I think we reacted well to it. We matched them physical and then I think the soccer came from there.
“Of course, McHugh had a great game for us. She got in behind the defense and was unlucky not to score.”
Oldach came up with the defensive play of the game with 5:15 remaining in the first half when she leaped to tip a 30-yard drive by Abby Wilkins over the top of the right post before crashing into the post.
“That was definitely [heading] top corner,” Oldach said. “I’ve been practicing on those high balls coming in and got my drop step in. I got my top hand out and it worked out.
“I have to bring the same level of focus like that each game, so I’ve just got to be aware that they can shoot the ball.”
Despite the loss, Oldach was happy with her squad’s effort in holding a side that had scored 19 goals in its last five outings to one goal.
“Our defense was really strong and we knew that they had some tough forwards, so we made sure we had people on them at all times, or we tried to,” said Oldach, a Grinnell College signee. “We just had a good game overall.”
But the one thing the Huskies (7-5, 2-1) lacked was consistent offensive pressure. They had just two chances in the second half; Meredith Blatner sent a 30-yard shot over the crossbar and Lauren Wilkes had a 43-yard free kick caught by Lansdowne, who finished with three saves.
“We always know we have to capitalize on every opportunity that we have because you never know when those come around,” Oldach said. “But the intensity we played with today and the drive we had, we just know we have to bring that every game.
“We were right there with them. They’re a ranked team and we know that we can play at their level.”
“They had a lot of opportunities but I thought we did a great job shutting them down,” Ponce said. “You know what, one mistake and when you’re playing good players like that they capitalize. But for 70-something minutes, we had them. Every time one of their star players grabbed the ball, we were on top of them and putting pressure.
“Our keeper did an outstanding job and Joy Dennis did a wonderful job after we asked her to step in. She doesn’t have much time playing as a defender. The past four games we’ve converted her to defense and I’m very proud of her.
“And then Renata, she’s a little running machine and Skrine doesn’t let anybody get by. She protects the ball.”
But the Dukes did manage to expose one area where the Huskies need improvement.
“Their defenders just kept kicking it to their forwards, which was an effective method,” said Ponce, whose team had won five of its last six matches. “It was going right over our midfield, so we just have to try to get a little bit more possession attack. I think if we meet them again in sectionals we’ll give them a run for their money.”
In winning their first 1-0 game after losing twice by that score to Metea Valley and Lyons Township, however, the Dukes proved to themselves they are ready to win a defensive struggle.
“I think our goal from here is just to keep on winning,” Ordonez said. “We’ve learned from our losses and taken a lot from them, so I think from now on we want to move forward as a team and try to continue winning.”