Oak Park shuts out another foeChicago, 08/29/11--St. Ignatius' Brandon Medina and OPRF's Zack Weigel battle for the ball. St. Ignatius College Prep hosted Oak Park River Forest High School in boys soccer Monday afternoon. | Jon Langham~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: August 29, 2011 9:01PM
Before the season started, Oak Park coach Paul Wright wasn’t sure which goalkeeper he would use to succeed all-starter Sam Euler.
The position was considered an unknown entering the season, but there isn’t much of a mystery anymore. It should be hard to take Granger Sheppard out now that the senior racked up his third consecutive shutout Monday in a 3-0 nonconference victory at St. Ignatius.
The scoring-challenged Wolfpack (1-4) had only one quality shot when Brandon Medina’s diving header was grabbed by Sheppard early in the second half. St. Ignatius didn’t have many other opportunities to score even though keeper Zak Allen took a shot at Sheppard in the final 30 seconds off a free kick from midfield.
“[The team] responds really well,” said Wright, who is in his seventh season. “We’ve never had a 4-0 start [since I have coached]. We always lost one or two games at the Leyden tournament.”
Wright chose Sheppard over junior Andrew Galo in a preseason battle that went down to the final week before the season opener Aug. 23 at Riverside-Brookfield. The Huskies won that game 6-2 and have proceeded to outscore Leyden, Larkin and St. Ignatius by an 8-0 margin.
Euler was a standout for the Huskies and is now playing at North Carolina.
“I know we still have things to work on,” Sheppard said. “As the game goes along, the defense picks me up and gets better and better.”
Sheppard plays in front of a stout defense, led by sweeper Max Menzies. The rest of the back line includes Nate Mitka, Zack Weigel and Danny Pasternak. Weigel, the top returning pitcher on the Oak Park baseball team, injured his left ankle in the second half and could not return to the game. After the game, he had an ice bag wrapped around his foot and could only hop instead of walk.
“My back line are my four best friends,” Sheppard said jokingly. “They pick me up if something happens.”
St. Ignatius gave up the first goal in the game when a defender was called for dangerous play in the penalty area. Ryan Huettel made a left-footed penalty kick with 31:25 remaining in the first half. Huettel scored his third goal of the season to trail team leader Stephen Golz (six goals), who could not score against the Wolfpack.
“We are not able to finish,” Wolfpack coach Jim Luzzi said. “We get the ball down to the middle third and then we lose it. I’m not sure if Oak Park’s defense is really good or the fact that we give it away.”
The Huskies have won 15 games in three of their last four seasons and look to be one of the top challengers to defending champion Lyons in the West Suburban Silver. Lyons (1-0-1) hosts Oak Park on Oct. 11.
Oak Park plays a pair of home games this week against Young Thursday and against Highland Park at 2 p.m. Saturday.
Dave Leitson scored the second goal against St. Ignatius when a defensive breakdown allowed Leitson to boot in an easy right-footed shot past Allen. Mitka headed in the third goal off Henry Burt’s corner kick to end the scoring with nearly 12 minutes left. Mitka scored for the first time this season.
“The defense played great. They keep coming up really big this year. Their play is amazing,” Leitson said. “On the offensive end, we’re playing smart. We play smart with the ball and we have smart runs. Most of all, we play as team. I’ve never played with a team that was so smart.”