It's never too early in the soccer season to have a controversial call decide the outcome.
After officials threw a lifeline to visiting Huntley when they missed an obvious goal from Palatine just before intermission, the Red Raiders would use a second-half goal from Taylor Hilbrant to come out on top 1-0 Saturday morning in the season opener for both clubs.
Contact information ( * required )
"In the big picture, (that) call doesn't really mean a whole lot, and that's really the bottom line," said an understanding Willie Filian, the head coach from Palatine, who begins his 21st season in charge with one of his younger clubs in recent memory.
"The center official talked to us afterward, and said he was sorry for the missed call, and that was fine with all of us. We played a pretty decent second half after struggling in the first half, so we'll take (that) and go forward from there."
Filian, who would open with three freshmen in his first 11, and a handful of other varsity newcomers, much like his counterpart, Kris Grabner, might easily have one of the youngest clubs in the area, and the Fox Valley Conference this season.
"We had so many freshmen on our roster last year, and the great thing is they are all one year older, and back with that important year of experience under their belt," said Grabner, who led the Red Raiders into the sectional final last season, before eliminated by MSL champ Barrington 2-0.
In the early stages of Saturday's match at Palatine, the visitors would easily enjoy the run of play with a high-tempo attack, led by junior Delaney Loprieno, and her new running mate, freshman Taryn Jakubowski.
"It's exciting to have a player like Taryn in the middle because she can do so many things with the ball, and after we get more time together I really feel like the both of us will become a perfect fit together, and for our team," said Loprieno, who was one of four who wore the captain's armband for Grabner.
The Pirates' back line, led by junior Morgan Radtke, would soak up all of the pressure the Red Raiders put upon them during the first half, and with a little help from freshman keeper Hannah Tipper, along with a bend but not break mentality, the home side kept the quartet of Deanna Hecht, Beth Parks, Loprieno and Jakubowski from finding the back of the net, despite spending plenty of time in the Pirates' end.
"We kind of struggled in the first 10-15 minutes today, but we have a lot of new faces, who have never played at this level, so I wasn't surprised that we had some trouble in that first half, but everyone played so much better in the second half," said Radtke, who with Jessica Malak are two of the most experienced players back on the Pirates' roster.
As the half wore on, the Red Raiders had a difficult time exposing the Pirates in their end, despite having a high percentage of the possession, a fact which did not go unnoticed by Grabner and his staff.
"Palatine did such a good job of clogging the middle, and each time one of our midfielders came off, the message going out with her replacement was to switch fields, and use the width of the field to open things up for us, but we didn't do a very good job of that, and that played right into (their) hand," said Grabner.
A whistle free half could have used one important one when Emily Sund's shot in close had just enough pace to somehow find the farthest corner of the net at 38 minutes.
Players from both sides stopped, waiting for a call from the center official, and after a brief discussion with his assistant, he ruled no goal, despite the fact that Huntley keeper Jessica Galason was seen retrieving the ball out of the back of the net.
"Right when you think you've seen just about everything in this sport, there's a call like that (which) makes you just shake your head," admitted Grabner.
The Red Raiders made sure their first good look on frame was picture perfect when Hilbrant unloaded a fiercely paced right-footer from 25 yards which went just over the outstretched gloves of Rachel Rhodes, who came on for Tipper after intermission.
The inexperienced Pirates could have folded after conceding the 49th minute goal, but to their credit, they did not, and instead fired back with their best soccer of the day. Emma Grochoski, Michelle Raymond, Erica Amezcua, Kellie Reynolds and Sund responded beautifully with pace and energy as the home side searched for the equalizer.
Grochowski helped create a freekick opportunity for the dead-ball specialist Radtke, and her blast from the far side rattled off the underside of the bar and out of the box before the Pirates could react quick enough to put something on Galason.
Amezcua would put Reynolds through, but the senior was correctly ruled offsides before getting in on Galason.
The speed of play from both sides was way up for the final quarter hour, making for some entertaining, and thrilling soccer for the sun-kissed crowd to cheer for.
Two more freekicks from Radtke would help keep Galason alert during this time, but it was Rhodes who would help keep her team close when she bravely stopped Loprieno, who nearly finished a superb helper from Hecht in the 78th minute.
"It was great to finally get out of our gym and compete," said Grabner, "and we did some very good things, but we also did some things that we'll need to clean up before playing Hersey next week.
"We played that game like it was a 1-0 game, and we all know it was really a 1-1 result, and I made sure to tell Willie and his girls just that afterward."
"We obviously have a long way to go, but it was nice to get so many players time out there today, and hopefully, next time out, we'll be a little bit better when we do," added Filian.