It took the entire first half to shake the rust off from a nine-month layoff, but Naperville Central prevailed in its season opener Monday evening.
Behind a pair of second-half goals from senior midfielder Grace Orndorff, the Redhawks pulled away with a 2-0 shutout over nonconference opponent Oak Park-River Forest.
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Naperville Central outshot the Huskies 7-2 in the first half but came away empty-handed after the first 40 minutes.
"The first half of the first game tends to be a little disjointed," Naperville Central coach Ed Watson said. "We didn't link together as well in the first half as we did in the second half. We created opportunities, but the problem with playing on turf is that when the ball gets by you, you're not going to be able to catch it. We had a couple of chances where, if we could have settled down and had a good first touch, we might have been able to put a couple more in."
The Redhawks had a pair of chances in the final 12 minutes of the first half, starting with Julia Irle's shot from the right of the goal that sailed into the waiting hands of Huskies goalkeeper Julian Darden.
Two minutes later, a shot attempt from the top of the box by Isabel Reedy also sailed into the hands of Darden, keeping the game scoreless.
But Naperville Central came out of the break and took advantage of its offensive opportunities almost from the start, scoring just 1:45 into the second half.
The ball bounced off an Oak Park-River Forest defender and toward Orndorff at the top of the box, who dribbled past her defender and sent a shot into the left corner of the net for a 1-0 lead.
"I was pleased that Grace was able to score that goal early in the second half and settle things down," Watson said. "We carried the momentum from that goal."
Orndorff's second goal with 9:11 left was a shot from the left side of the box that rolled past Darden into the net.
"Towards the second half, we started clicking," Orndorff said. "With our freshmen, combined with all of our returning players from last year, we started to figure out how everyone works together."
The Redhawks outshot the Huskies 12-5 and Watson was quick to credit his two veteran defenders, Meredith Tunney and Ellie Fricke.
"We have two center backs that are experienced," Watson said. "Meredith Tunney has been with us since her freshman year playing in the back, and Ellie Fricke is another veteran that played all last year for us. They play well off each other, they respect one another and they support each other."