Kelli Hubly's game-winner at 68 minutes got Elk Grove off to a terrific start to its girls soccer season Tuesday night in Park Ridge as the visitors defeated Maine South 1-0.
Hubly lashed home her right-footed blast into the far side netting from a difficult angle after taking a well-paced and -placed assist from Stephanie Solis to break a scoreless match which had been played at breakneck speed for most of the evening in this nonconference matchup.
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"We played kind of frantic at times, and really could have possessed the ball a lot better (and) through out midfield, but it was still a good start to the season -- especially against a team like Maine South, which had plenty of depth and played very hard for 80 minutes," said Grens coach Dan Klaus.
With two-time all-area striker Michelle Calmeyn now at South Carolina-Upstate, Klaus has moved Hubly up top to replace the 20-plus goals Calmeyn furnished last season.
And if this match was any indication, Hubly is fully recovered from an ACL tear she suffered last season. The senior was easily the fastest player on the pitch, with or without the ball on her foot, and a constant terror in the Hawks' end.
"Kelli is going to be a lot for teams to handle this season," said Klaus, "and although we're going to miss Calmeyn's goal-scoring ability and talent, (Kelli) is going to be a threat for us while helping open up some space for others as everyone gets more comfortable with each other."
Senior Katie Naughton looked to be in midseason form as the Grens sweeper turned away the Hawks when they threatened. That was usually when the ball was on the foot of junior striker Allison Curry, who had several good looks on frame.
Elk Grove keeper Melissa Solorio made a couple of quality saves to help keep the hosts out of the net. She turned away Jessica Schmidt in the closing moments of the first half. Later, at 59 minutes, the sophomore stopped Lexi Kiotis who was put through by Curry.
"I was really impressed with the toughness and physical play that Maine South brought for 80 minutes, which we'll need to get better (with) as the season goes on," said Klaus.
The Grens eventually began to win more of the play at midfield, with Sarah Stram, Kelly Naughton and Rachel Prium winning more of the 50-50 balls, then finding Hubly to help keep the Hawks under pressure.
Solis, who had just been brought on by Klaus, showed plenty of composure and patience in waiting for Hubly to get deeper into her run up the right side before connecting with her mate on the decisive goal.
Once with the ball, Hubly found another gear to beat her mark and fire past the outstretched gloves of keeper Emily O'Grady.
"Stephanie gave a nice ball to Kelli down the side, and she did the rest," said Klaus. "It was a great ball, and it was good to see us grind out a win to help get our season off on the right foot."