On another wintry late April evening, Geneva and Batavia contended with the elements as much as they did with each other's girls soccer teams — and this is a rivalry where the teams always meet each other like Sumo wrestlers.
The host Vikings and visiting Bulldogs battled each other through 80 cold, drizzly minutes at Burgess Field and when the teams headed to the warmth of their homes, each team had one goal to think on in a 1-1 Upstate Eight Conference River Division contest.
That left each team knowing they had played well in places, but knowing there were areas in which some improvement might have tipped the match in their favor.
“They're frustrated with the result,” Geneva coach Megan Owens said. “I felt we dominated much of the run of the play, and unfortunately the scoreboard didn't show that, but that tends to happen in soccer and we've experienced that a few times this season.”
And while each team is in the middle of a series of challenging matches — there is always something special about the Batavia-Geneva match.
“I don't think these seniors have ever, at the varsity level, beaten Geneva,” Batavia coach Mark Gianfrancesco said. “This was a good result. I think we panicked a little bit at times. We had some opportunities. We missed some passes we could have connected on.”
Scoring chances were hard to find in a match where passing moves were equally difficult to find. The slick artificial turf left players struggling to control the ball — but the truth was the match was often played as if there was an imaginary field three or four feet in the air. Bouts of “head tennis” were frequent and it was only on occasion that players of either team linked passes together.
“Obviously with the Tri-Cities rivalries, it's always a big competition,” Owens said. “Both sides fought really hard. We're just trying to work on that last touch in the offensive third and get shots off.”
However, there was no surprise that the only goal of the first half came when one of the teams — in this case Geneva (6-7-1, 0-2) — played a lead pass along the ground to a player breaking into the penalty area — and then a crossing pass on the ground to a player running at the far post — who then redirected the ball on the ground into the net.
Mary Landry sent a pass along the ground up the right wing to Amanda Lulek, who sent a cross along the ground to Molly Axen, who met that cross at the left post and redirected the ball into the net.
“It was a great goal, a total team effort,” Owens said. “(Landry) attacked up the middle and played the ball to (Lulek) and (Lulek) had a great cross and it was a great finish. The girls worked really hard and that's all we can ask for as coaches.”
Geneva had the better of the first half chances, which started four minutes into the match when Tory Herbst headed a Megan Kozlow corner kick wide. Eleven minutes into the half, Lulek shot wide from the top of the penalty area.
Though limited in possession, Batavia still fashioned a strong scoring chance with 18 minutes left in the half when Kayla Stolfa sent a ball into the penalty area that wasn't cleared before Molly Stanfa saved a goal from near the end line.
“Molly did a great job,” Owens said. “She was playing very alert tonight and she had to come up big on that save.”
For the second time in a week, Batavia (6-2-3, 2-2-1) used a strong second half surge to rally in a match. It took the Bulldogs three second-half minutes to equalize from a long-range Shelby Stone shot that was only half-saved and then found its way into the net.
“It's awesome — going back to our rivalry — to score against the neighboring school,” Stone said. “It's always 10 times more exciting to score against them and it helped us in the end. I'm thrilled.”
Batavia, which rallied from a 1-0 deficit on Saturday to defeat West Chicago 3-1, continued to press, but like Geneva, found opportunities hard to find.
“I liked the way we came out in the second half,” Gianfrancesco said. “We really kind of took it to them right away and we were in their end, which was nice to see.”
And as with the West Chicago match, the revival came thanks to instant application of halftime adjustments suggested by Gianfrancesco.
“Like we talked about at halftime, we wanted to come out fast,” Stone said. “It's always our goal, but this time, we proved it to ourselves. We came out hard and finished our opportunity that we had. We could have finished more and would have loved to finish more, but you take what you can get and we're happy with the result.”Copyright © 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.