Girls soccer: Huntley scores three second-half goals to beat Hampshire

Huntley coach Matt Lewandowski had a simple message for the Red Raiders during halftime of their match against Hampshire on Tuesday afternoon.

Be present right now.

Lewandowski felt like Huntley was lucky to be tied at half after coming out slowly. Whether it was the amount of matches they played last week, the windy conditions Tuesday or the upcoming prom, Lewandowski wanted Huntley to forget it all and just focus on soccer.

The Red Raiders got the message. Huntley scored three second-half goals to come back and defeat the Whips-Purs, 5-2 ,in a battle to keep second place in the Fox Valley Conference.

“I’m really proud of our work,” Huntley senior Gabi Farraj said. “We started off very rocky in the first half. I’m glad that we were able to put some goals in, get it together and play as a team.”

They also had the help of 22-mile-per-hour winds at their back in the second half. Lewandowski chose to have the south side of the pitch for the second half to have the wind on their side and wanted the Red Raiders (9-4-2, 4-1) to come out aggressively.

With the match tied 2-2, the Red Raiders forced Hampshire senior goalkeeper Isabelle Eckert to fight off a couple of scoring chances early in the second half. Huntley junior Maddie Cummings continued that aggressive play and drew a penalty in the box. Farraj knocked in the penalty kick to give the Red Raiders a 3-2 lead with 29:58 left in the match.

Huntley kept firing after taking the lead before Farraj decided to use the wind to her advantage. She fired a shot roughly 10 yards in front of the box that sailed in the corner of the net to give Huntley a 4-2 lead with 26:56 left in the match.

“She has the strength and the accuracy to hit that shot,” Lewandowski said. “When they give it to her, I tell her to just keep go after it. … The more persistent she can be and confident she can be in that shot, the better off we’ll be.”

Junior Bella Fusco made it 5-2 with 4:21 left in the match. Senior Alex Szydlowski and sophomore Maizie Nickle scored in the first half while senior Maddie Lackovic made three saves in net.

Lewandowski was proud of the way his team responded to his halftime challange. While the Red Raiders still need to improve on being ready to start matches in the right headspace, the adjustments they made in order to win is something he hopes they can draw upon late in the season and the playoffs.

“For us to weather that first half because they were all over us and they did everything they could, to get two goals to match their two and then to win that second half outright was good to have,” Lewandowski said.

Hampshire (8-5, 3-2) set the tone early in Tuesday’s match. Freshman Langston Kelly snuck in a deep shot to give the Whips a 1-0 lead with 36:21 left in the first half. The Whips retook the lead when sophomore Shayne Norris knocked in a penalty kick with 12:56 left in the first half.

But the wind and some nagging injuries became too much for the Whips to overcome. Hampshire didn’t register a shot on goal in the second half.

“We don’t have the forward motion that we need,” Hampshire coach Kelly Madison said. “Our strongest part is that back defense, we kind of kept that together. But with the prior injuries in the midfield, it’s definitely slowing us down.”

Hampshire dropped two matches behind Crystal Lake Central for the FVC lead after the Tigers defeated Crystal Lake South on Tuesday. Huntley remained a match behind Central with the win, though Central already defeated the Red Raiders earlier in the season.

Farraj wants Huntley to come out fast in that matchup against Crystal Lake South on Thursday. But she’s proud of the character her team showed to keep up the pace in the FVC.

“I’m really proud of us for not giving up,” Farraj said. “We started the last couple games a little rocky, which is unfamiliar for our team. We’re a pretty strong team to begin with and we want to start out strong. When we don’t and we’re a little shaky, it puts us in uncomfortable situations. I’m really proud of us for working out of that.”

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