Wildcats keep up pace in win over GenevaGianna Dal Pozzo (21) of Neuqua Valley kicks the ball past Kristin Rodriguez (4) of Geneva. | Jon Cunningham~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 30, 2011 12:10AM
Everyone who has seen Megan Oyster play figured the Neuqua Valley star was going to blast a shot on goal when the Wildcats were awarded a 20-yard free kick just outside the top of the penalty area Friday night.
Geneva’s four-person wall was ready to take a bruise or two for the team if it meant blocking the shot.
Oyster did put the ball on frame, but not in the air. Instead, the UCLA-bound defender sent a groundball to the left of the wall that crossed up Vikings goalie Victoria Fortney, who didn’t see it until Gianna Dal Pozzo rushed in for the tap-in goal with 34:31 remaining in the second half.
The top-ranked Wildcats (16-0) went on to a 2-0 victory in the Naperville Invitational semifinals at Naperville Central and will take on Lyons (14-2-1), which edged Waubonsie Valley 1-0, in Saturday’s championship match. Both sides will be attempting to win the tournament for the first time.
“I was looking for the goal, actually, and to my surprise (Dal Pozzo) was right there,” Oyster said. “It was kind of like a ‘shot-pass’ you could call it.
“In practice we always learn to follow through with the play no matter what. Even if I’m shooting it we have to have players in the box at all times and that’s what we did and we capitalized on it.”
Dal Pozzo, a sophomore who is gaining a reputation for knowing where to be at the right times, thought Oyster was going to unleash one of her patented missiles. Oyster, who has scored on free kicks from as far as 47 yards out this season, had received a pass on the opening kickoff and fired a 57-yard shot on goal that Fortney, who finished with eight saves, leaped to tip into the crossbar.
“I expected it on goal,” Dal Pozzo said. “I just wasn’t sure if it was going wide so I figured I’d tap it.”
Neuqua scored again at the 29:10 mark when Allie McBride made a similar back-side run and finished a cross from Shannon Pimmel. That released some pent-up frustration for the Wildcats, who had plenty of scoring opportunities before that but could not dent a Geneva defense that became the first squad to hold Neuqua scoreless in the first half.
“We were really frustrated,” Oyster said. “At half all of us were talking about how to calm down and play our game because we were getting opportunities to score but we weren’t capping on them and once we finally did we relaxed and we were able to play our game a bit better.”
“(The first goal) just made us relax more,” added Dal Pozzo, one of four Wildcats with 10 or more goals this spring. “We were really stressed out that we weren’t getting any but that just settled us down.”
Though Geneva (8-4-4) defended valiantly against Neuqua’s high-powered offense, the Vikings managed just two shots, only one of which was on goal. Freshman goalie Courtney Keefer had to make one save for Neuqua.
Saturday’s title match could be a preview of the Class 3A Benedictine Supersectional, where Lyons and Neuqua would meet if both win their respective sectionals. The Lions are the top seed at the York Sectional while the Wildcats, who are playing this week without star sophomore striker Zoey Goralski due to national team training, are the No. 1 seed at Waubonsie Valley.
“I have a bunch of friends from that team that I play with on club and I know them well,” Oyster said. “They’re good players and they’re definitely going to give us something to play against, so it’s going to be a challenge.”