Girls soccer: Crystal Lake Central shuts out Hampshire
Crystal Lake Central players have a motto before each girls soccer match.
"First five minutes, let's get a goal."
The Tigers want to score in the first five minutes of a match not only to have an early lead, but that quick start keeps their momentum going throughout the match and helps them build confidence.
The Tigers lived up to that motto Thursday afternoon, scoring in the first five minutes and using the momentum to pick up a Fox Valley Conference win, taking down Hampshire, 3-0.
"It sets the tone for the match," Central goalkeeper Addison Cleary said. "It gets the other team [to think], 'OK, they're up 1-0.' It sets our tone and helps us keep our intensity up because we don't want to be scored on first."
Kaitlin Gaunaurd got Central (8-2, 3-1 FVC) its first goal barely within that five-minute mark when she scored on a fastbreak with 35:06 left in the first half. The Tigers kept up with the intensity throughout the first half and scored again on another fastbreak, this time Lizzie Gray putting the ball in to make it 2-0 with 13:25 left in the first half.
Olivia Anderson scored with 27:40 left in the match to secure the win.
Both of Central's first-half goals were created because of strong defense. Tigers defenders have shown throughout the season they know how to stop the ball and move it up through the middle, passing the ball out wide. The midfielders move the ball up and get a cross pass in to create different opportunities for the forwards.
Opponents' defenses have struggled to keep up for most of the season, and it's been a formula that has worked for the Tigers to create fastbreak opportunities.
"Our defense has really worked well together," Central coach Sarah Fack said. "Shifting together, talking with one another, knowing when to step, that lets us win those balls. They have great vision and distribution, they know where they're going before they get it, it just lets us transition quickly."
Cleary stopped four Hampshire shots throughout the match, including one at the beginning of the second half that almost resulted in a goal. It was the fifth shutout of the season for the Tigers.
Whips coach Kelly Madison thought her team matched up well with the Tigers but was impressed with how much Cleary controlled the match.
"We played our game," Madison said. "I thought we were evenly matched, we just let in those goals. I know their keeper is very talented, she gets a hand on it, she commands that box. She took away a lot of our opportunities."
Hampshire (8-4, 2-2) will travel to Wheaton to take on Wheaton North on Saturday before resuming conference play with a match against McHenry on Tuesday. Central will travel to take on Dundee-Crown on Tuesday.
Wins like the one Thursday are important for a Central team that has its eyes on a conference crown and have encouraged them that they can achieve their goals if they continue to play the way they have.
"We keep running into teams that we know are good teams," Fack said. "To keep getting some wins here, it's what we knew we needed to do, so we're happy that we're doing it, and it's just going to give us confidence to keep doing what we're doing, keep working hard and keep improving a little bit each game."