There's no denying that Glenbard East had little to enjoy during DuPage Valley Conference play last season.
The Rams recorded only a single victory in conference play, finishing with a 1-5-1 record and just 3 goals.
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Glenbard East opened DVC play on Tuesday, welcoming last year's co-champion Naperville Central to Lombard. Although the Rams got off to a strong start and led 1-0 at halftime, the Redhawks rallied in the second half for a 3-2 victory.
"(Glenbard East) is going to beat a top team eventually," Naperville Central coach Ed Watson said. "I'm just glad we got out of here and it wasn't us."
Sophomore Alison Kincaide put the Redhawks on the board in the 53rd minute to knot the match at 1. Kincaide got a lot of leg behind her shot from about 20 yards away. Glenbard East senior goalkeeper Veronica Fairbairn lunged at the attempt and got one hand on it but was unable to divert it from finding the right corner of the net.
Later, nearly midway through the second half, Naperville Central freshman Amanda Murphy scored her first high school goal. With a crowd of defenders around her, Murphy still gained possession and flicked a shot out of the reach of Fairbairn.
"That really was an exciting moment and gave me a nice boost of confidence," Murphy said. "I thought we executed much better as the game went on, especially after we scored our first goal."
Glenbard East (4-2) recovered from Murphy's shot and the match appeared to heading toward overtime when senior Jess DeJong connected on a free kick in the 68th minute to make it 2-2.
"I really liked how we fought," Glenbard East coach Kent Overbey said. "We knew we weren't going to get many chances today, but I thought we were efficient. We played well defensively but had a couple breakdowns in the back, but (the Redhawks) also hit their shots."
That included the game-winner from Joyce with 8:02 left in the second half.
"The quality scoring opportunities we had got finished," Watson said. "That's what we needed, and if we score three goals we should win."
The Rams had been shut out during the previous three meetings between the two schools but jumped ahead thanks to junior Alex Ruffer's athleticism. Ruffer ran nearly 80 yards to catch up to a DeJong pass to score the lone goal of the first half during the ninth minute.
It provided a good start for the Rams, but once again the Redhawks proved to be too strong.
"They played us tough and we knew we had to come out in the second half with way more energy," Redhawks junior midfielder Grace Orndorff said. "I thought we stayed positive and patient and then starting clicking."