Naperville Central starts fast, holds off Waubonsie Valley

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Unlike Tuesday’s opener in the Metea Valley Class 3A Sectional, Naperville Central got two goals early and then held off Waubonsie Valley’s comeback efforts for a 2-0 triumph that keeps alive the Redhawks’ hopes for a third straight berth in the IHSA Soccer State Finals.

Naperville Central, the 3A runner-up for the past two seasons, will now face Morton in Tuesday’s 5 pm Romeoville SuperSectional hosted by Lewis University.

The Redhawks, who improved to 17-2-2, got a huge boost just 1:17 into the match when Jay Tegge earned his team-high 11th assist with a forward pass that Ben Border raced after and toe-poked over out-rushing Waubonsie goalie Jordan Ward. Border then got under the bouncing ball and headed home an eight-yarder for his eighth goal of the year and third match winner.

“I saw Jay looking up field and started my run and saw the keeper rushing out, I got my toe on it enough to pop it over him and then managed to head it in,” Border explained. “Scoring two years in a row in sectional feels great, but scoring in the playoffs is always special.”

In the sectional-opening 2-1 win over Neuqua Valley, the Redhawks had to overcome a 1-0 halftime deficit and that factored into their approach against the Warriors.

“We played two different halves last time and we especially.wanted to have a better start,” Border added.

That became apparent as Central’s continued pressure resulted in a second goal at 12:21 as Mitch McGuire set up Jordi Heeneman for a12-yard header from the right wing. That marked the senor’s team-best 13th strike.

“Winning a sectional championship is always something to be proud of,” Central coach Troy Adams insisted. “So often it’s just hard to get out of a sectional, especially one with this type of quality. But this is just one of many step on the journey we’re hoping to take.”

That journey had some anxious moments both offensively and defensively during the second half. While Central had 15 more overall shots to go with 16 from the first half – 19 of the total were on frame – there were a few posts, crossbars and shots sailing just high or wide.

“Hopefully we’ve saved something for Tuesday and a couple of those posts can turn into goals,” Adams added. “The best part is not having any one kid make us roll. But there’s no question Drake (Swope) moving to the back makes us a better defense. He’s just so calm and keeps us organized, that’s why we call him the Ice Man.”

Redhawk goalie Joe Killkaden had some ice in his veins as well having to make five second-half saves including a block followed by a stellar dive to keep consecutive shots from finding the net with 26:58 still to be played.

“That felt great after it was over. I stopped up the first one but knew the rebound was there and was thinking I’ve got to get back up, but as a tried to get to my feet I saw their guy coming in so I just dove toward the post and luckily made the save,” Killkaden said in regard to his sixth shutout of the season and Central’s 11th clean sheet.

“Being up 2-0 at half, coach said to be ready because they’ll start shooting every chance they’ll get, from distance or in short, a goal is a goal and we didn’t want to give up any.”

In contrast to the opening 40 minutes when Waubonsie had a single shot that Killkaden saw all the way to a save, the warriors launched nine attempts, five of which required saves during the second half. Unfortunately for the Warriors, not scoring meant the season ends with a 10-8-2 record.

“Central was obviously the better team today,” Waubonsie coach Angelo DiBernardo said. “In a sectional like this, any one of four teams could be a contender for a state title, but if you go by tonight, we’re not ready to make that leap. There’s no question we did better than some expected, but since our tournament and the last month throughout the regional, we played much better soccer. I only wish they would have started to believe and play that way earlier.”

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