Erin Mayer put Palatine ahead midway through the first half with a first-time effort from a Morgan Radtke corner kick, and the Pirates made that strike hold up in a 1-0 victory over visiting Rockford Boylan on Saturday afternoon in the season opener for both clubs.
"We've been playing Boylan in the first week of the season for 15-16 years, and I cannot remember the last time we beat them -- so this was a nice way to begin a new year," said Palatine coach Willie Filian, who is cautiously optimistic about the chances of a 180-degree turnaround after a 14-loss year in 2013. "There's a solid core group back this time around, and we finally have some speed and a little more size and strength in the middle. Our overall depth might be an issue at times, however overall it's a good group of kids who will get better if they continue to work hard."
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Mayer, one of a handful of veterans back this spring, was a key figure at midfield for most of the near 80 minutes she put in. Her game-winner came in the 18th minute.
"One of the important roles for me, and the other seniors will be to lead by example," said Mayer. "With the freshmen and sophomores we have, and others who were here last year who are ready to step up this year, there's a good chance we can have a very solid season."
"That's one of the reasons we like to have Palatine on our schedule," said Boylan coach Mark Couper, who directed the Titans into the sectional finals last May where they were stopped 3-0 by eventual third-place medalist Barrington. "Willie does a great job each and every year, and they are always well coached in set-piece and dead-ball chances, as well as a team that plays hard for 80 minutes on both sides of the ball. That helps us find out right away what we need to work on in order to get ourselves ready for our season."
The Titans have a much different look this spring, now that they are without former scoring star and all-state striker Abby Reed, who enjoyed a marvelous rookie season at Indiana State. Also gone is Sydney Rumple, who anchored the Titans' backline.
Mayer and teammates Gina Falato and Carly Iacullo were involved in most of the Pirates' attacks and also did quite well to disrupt Boylan when it was able to get forward. That helped keep the talented duo of Taylor Howe and Tatum Norton from causing too much trouble.
On the second consecutive corner conceded by Boylan, the Pirates found the back of the net.
"I always know where Morgan (Radtke) is going to put the ball, and fortunately I was in the right spot at the right time," said Mayer, who redirected from in close after teammate Emma Grochowski helped keep things alive in the box.
Just moments after the Mayer goal, Boylan almost equalized when Kailey Parnello nearly beat keeper Rachel Rhodes to a loose ball.
Rhodes was called upon minute later when a more dangerous opportunity fell to the Titans, but the senior did well to stay with a low drive from Parnello, who ran freely to the back post to collect a lovely cross from Emma Krahmer.
Kellie Reynolds, the Pirates' leading scorer a year ago, played with plenty of pace up top all afternoon, along with freshman Carolyn Soukup. Reynolds almost doubled the Palatine lead just before the break, and if not for a well played tackle off the end line by Halle Stull, the junior striker would have scored in the 38th minute.
Michelle Raymond rattled the crossbar at 44 minutes, but the second half was rarely in doubt for the home side, as Radtke and backline mates Allison Rzepka and Tori Jackson helped keep the Titans from getting anything of value on frame, and at their keeper Rhodes.
"It was a good first-time effort, and any time you get a result like this against a quality opponent like Boylan, you have to say it was a good day all the way around," said Filian.