The Benet and Metea Valley boys soccer teams gathered Thursday night at Metea for a nonconference contest and a break from the rigors of conference play.
Well, actually both teams took a break from the rigors of league play and went right into the rigors of nonconference play. In a physical game at a consistenly quick pace, the host Mustangs prevailed 2-1 on their senior night.
Metea (7-5-2) won with a strong defense that fought back a tough Redwings onslaught, offense at just the right time and some versatile goalkeeping. Senior starting goalkeeper Gabe Gongora-Falla made 8 saves during the first half.
As it was senior night, Metea coach Josh Robinson wanted to give another senior goalkeeper, Ian Jindrich, some playing time, and Jindrich went into the net during the second half and Gongora-Falla went into the field as he has done before this season when Jindrich is in goal.
With just 12:01 left in the game, Gongora-Falla connected for his first varsity goal to give the Mustangs the 2-1 advantage.
"That goal is all Chris Freeman. He was tripped. A tough call, but a foul nonetheless. And he sent a beautiful ball in and I was lucky I got a touch on it," Gongora-Falla said.
It wasn't lost on the Mustangs that they joined an exclusive club. Benet fell to 12-2-1, and only Naperville Central and Metea have stopped the Redwings so far.
"Benet is an amazing team, probably one of the toughest we've faced. The way they pressured the ball was incredible," Gongora-Falla said.
Metea needed strong defense and goalkeeping to stop the Redwings, and Jindrich came through in the second half with 7 saves. Benet led in shots on goal 16-7.
Jindrich said he definitely faced a challenge coming off the bench and into the net for the second half.
"Especially with a team like Benet, I definitely had to mentally prepare myself," he said.
The Redwings got on the scoreboard first when James Colletti made good on a 10-yard header off a corner kick by Robert Tomecek with 14:29 remaining until halftime.
Less than a minute later, Metea tied the game. Freeman raced down the field with three Benet defenders right with him and converted a 15-yard shot with an assist going to Jake Goehring.
"This was good for us. It was like a playoff atmosphere. It's their senior night and they're pumped. And in reality, we played good soccer," said Benet coach Sean Wesley.
"We have to have an idea not just to kick the ball hard and not just be happy to be on the ball, but do something with it," Wesley said.
Benet takes its 5-0 East Suburban Catholic Conference record to Chicago Heights on Saturday for a noon game at Marian Catholic.
"It should be a good match. We'll work on finishing tomorrow at practice and give some guys who have some bumps and bruises some rest," Wesley said.