Szalach’s goal enough for Huskies
Naperville North midfielder Christa Szalach knew exactly what she wanted to do.
Unfortunately for Naperville Central, she did it well.
Szalach took advantage of some open space and scored on a 25-yard shot with 30:51 remaining in the first half and that was enough to lift the Huskies to a 1-0 victory over crosstown rival Naperville Central Tuesday at the Class 3A Waubonsie Valley Sectional semifinals.
Szalach’s shot was a bullet that eluded diving Redhawks goalie Jill D’Amico and whistled inside the right post.
“Honestly, I didn’t really know where (D’Amico) was at the time,” Szalach said. “I was just aiming to the right. (Naperville North coach Brent) Terada always tells me to take that shot if I have it because I’m a center mid, so I was just focusing on that. I thought I had the open shot so I just took it.”
The play began when the Huskies’ Hunter Drendel got the ball just outside of the top left corner of the Central penalty area. Drendel quickly passed into the middle to Szalach and the Redhawks (14-7-3) were a split-second slow in reacting.
“Hunter made a great decision there,” Terada said. “Rather than force a tough turn, she did the unselfish thing, laid it off to (Szalach). She made the right run and we were fortunate to beat Jill with one.”
D’Amico, a junior who has committed to Jacksonville, doesn’t give up many goals from long range, so the shot needed to have pace on it.
“It was a good shot,” Naperville Central coach Ed Watson said. “We didn’t do a real good job of stepping out on her, but it was well-struck.”
The Huskies (15-5-1) could not extend their lead and had to defend against a stiff wind in the second half. Central outshot North 9-1 after intermission but couldn’t take advantage, though a shot by Katherine Short hit the crossbar and went over the net with 10:15 remaining and 40 seconds later Krissy Many headed a corner kick wide of the left post.
The Redhawks’ last opportunity came with 4:15 left when North goalie Abby Green made the last of her three saves, diving to knock a shot by freshman Abby Joyce around the left post.
“We had a couple of really good long-range shots and then I think we had a couple opportunities when composure, or lack thereof, played a role,” Watson said. “The fact of the matter is we don’t have a big-time, No. 1 attacking player.”
The Huskies reacted with a celebration worthy of winning a state championship, and for them it felt like it since the Redhawks eliminated them last year with a double-overtime victory in the regional finals.
“Last year we lost to them off of a free kick and it was terrible,” Szalach said. “This team is amazing. They always bring great competition to the table so it’s a good feeling to know that we defeated them.”
Naperville North will take on top-ranked Neuqua Valley (24-0), which ousted defending state champion Waubonsie Valley 5-1 in the other semifinal, in Friday’s sectional title game.