Down a goal and not playing particularly well, Batavia needed to find some spark to its play as the second half began in Saturday's nonconference girls soccer match at West Chicago.
Instead, the Bulldogs lit an offensive bonfire in the first 25 minutes of the half -- scored three times and left town with comprehensive 3-1 victory.
"We kind of came out sleepwalking a little bit," Batavia coach Mark Gianfrancesco said. "We didn't really take advantage."
As an added bonus, Batavia (6-2-2) tightened its defense, limited chances for a powerful West Chicago (6-7-2) attack and showed their readiness for Tuesday's key showdown with rival Geneva.
"With the (St. Charles) East and (St. Charles) North losses, we were kind of down, especially in the first half," Batavia central defender Emily Stanczak said. "Going down to a penalty kick is especially difficult. But you have to have the team strength to say we can came back from this and we have come back from this."
West Chicago led at halftime thanks to a penalty kick by Andie Lazzerini six minutes before halftime. Batavia keeper Nicki Seiton guessed correctly but Lazzerini's shot to the left post soared into the net.
The goal was ample reward for West Chicago's play in the first half. Though neither team generated many clear chances, the Wildcats had an edge in possession and threatened more around Batavia's penalty area.
"I'm happy with the progress that's being made," West Chicago coach Cesar Gomez said. "It's hard to be happy when we had the game in our hands and then we played their style. They have more athletes, so we have to play 100 percent possession all the time."
And the main threat was Lazzerini, one of the best strikers in the western suburbs. As with every West Chicago opponent, Batavia was well aware of Lazzerini's lethal potential.
"We kind of got pumped up before the game," Stanczak said. "We were talking about how she was going to be a tough one to play and we had a plan going against that. It was kind of nerve-wracking, but it was good knowing my teammates were backing me up and helping. We knew how she played and what we had to do to shut her down."
The change in Batavia's pace and movement was apparent from the start of the second half. Most notable were the team's off-the-ball runs into spaces when a player attacked on either wing. And it was just such a move that created the formula for the Bulldogs' first goal -- in the 10th minute of the second half.
"Something we've been preaching to them all year is mental toughness," Batavia coach Mark Gianfrancesco said. "I told them we couldn't do anything about the first half of the PK and we moved on. We kind of started to play Batavia soccer."
Karina Rosales moved up the left wing and sent a cross toward the center of the field -- where Megan McEachern was running. McEachern volleyed Rosales' cross into the net.
"In the second half, we did a good job getting balls in early," McEachern said. "We got a lot more chances and it seemed like we controlled it a lot better."
Two minutes later, the Bulldogs again stretched the field, this time with a pass from the right wing by Kayla Stolfa to Tori Renfus on the left -- with Renfus scoring to the left post.
"Those runs were happening and we were getting there and we were getting up quickly with numbers," Gianfrancesco said.
Batavia's third goal came with 15 minutes left when an Anna Zeyen flip throw-in bounced, was uncleared and came to Kim Stanczak, who scored.
With Batavia's attack reaching fluency, West Chicago struggled to attack as it had in the first half. Late in the half, however, the Wildcats had a pair of strong chances. With 7 minutes left, Kayla Kirkwood forced Seiton to make a save from a well-worked free kick. And as the match neared its end, Lazzerini raced up the right wing and struck the left post with a low drive.
"I think our maturity is going to kick in at some point," Gomez said. "The middle of our midfield has a freshman (Alexa Vega) and a sophomore (Kayla Kirkwood) and our sweeper (Stephanie Mata) is a freshman. The maturity's still not there. They know what they need to do, but executing is still a little bit of trouble."Copyright © 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.