NAPERVILLE – The margin for error the Geneva boys soccer team had to work with Wednesday night against nationally ranked Naperville Central was razor-thin during the IHSA Class 3A Naperville Central Regional semifinal.
The Vikings hoped dropping eight players into the defensive zone and a hard driving rain would slow a Redhawks team that’s favored to return to the state finals, where it finished second a year ago.
Geneva’s plan briefly worked as the Redhawks weren’t able to mount much of an offensive attack in the first 30 minutes – save for a 35-yard rocket from Central’s Mike West that made it 1-0.
A pair of headers near the end of the first half opened the flood gates for Central in a relatively easy 7-0 win.
“They do a lot of simple things very well that makes the game look very easy,” Geneva coach Ryan Estabrook said. “You have to give them credit for being well organized. I was pleased with our start to the game outside the first goal they scored from 35-yards out. We’ve had problems playing a full 80 minutes all season long and it was just a matter of them outlasting us.”
Among the tasks for Geneva (7-8-2) was trying to mark the Redhawks’ all-time leading scorer Pat Flynn. The Vikings put a man on the senior for much of the first half, forcing Central to look to other options.
Those turned out to be headers – one each by David Murphy and Devon Amoo-Mensah – after a long ball and a corner kick respectively. The well-placed balls were among the few options the Redhawks (18-1) had as Geneva bunched up interior passing and shooting lanes.
“It’s sad because this is the last game of our season and I think we could have played a lot better,” Geneva senior defender Nick Konicek said. “We kind of broke down there after halftime. I think we knew that it would be a hard comeback knowing we were down three.”
Konicek said it’s hard trying to run around tracking Flynn and the many other scoring options for a Redhawks’ team that is ranked 12th nationally.
“It’s tough – we play as hard as we can and mark them up as best we can and we should have done a better job today,” Konicek said. “He [Flynn] was actually pretty neutralized in the first half. I don’t know – we should have kept it up. We just broke down in the second half.”
Flynn, who came in with 43 goals on the year, tallied the sixth Redhawks’ score of the night after taking a deflection that caromed off Geneva keeper Joe Mozden.
“You come out and you have crazy weather and everyone was a bit off-kilter in the first 20 minutes,” Naperville Central coach Troy Adams said. “I thought we played well at the start, we just didn’t really have that extra gear. I think they had a lot of patience behind the ball. They didn’t reach, they didn’t step and they had numbers behind the ball.”
Starting the second half, the Vikings may have realized that their season was in jeopardy so they began taking more chances that resulted in more open spaces for Central to work with.
With open passing lanes, the Redhawks had their way after halftime, pushing across four goals while Geneva’s offense sputtered. Despite pushing numbers toward Central’s goal, the Vikings failed to register a shot on goal during the entire match.
“At halftime, I told the guys that we’re treating this game like we’re down a goal,” Estabrook said. “They came out with the right attitude and I’m very proud with the way they played. I wish we could have played better but I’m positive that we played hard.”