Kelly Naughton's opening goal in the 12th minute and Nikki Zaino's subsequent double ensured Elk Grove a return to its winning ways in a 3-0 victory Monday night at Rolling Meadows.
The visitors were in control over a home side which was not at full strength, and the Grens solved the Mustangs when Naughton finished under keeper Sarah Bohoc, who later left after suffering an injury when Zaino doubled the lead for Elk Grove (4-2-1, 2-1-0) at 22 minutes.
"I was really surprised at the start of the year when we had five freshmen on the varsity, but they're really coming around and making contributions, and we are starting to come around as a team as well," said Elk Grove senior Emily Wary, who appears to have made the transition from all-MSL defender to quality partner alongside striker Zaino quite well. "I wish we could have that (3-0) loss back to Buffalo Grove (last Friday) but I really feel like the team is coming along, and that we'll continue to get better as the season goes on."
It was apparent from the opening whistle that Wary, Zaino, Naughton and Sarah Stram had too much pace and energy for the Mustangs (3-5-2, 0-3-0). Coach Mike Drenth's club was missing starting goalkeeper Ashley Ingolia, and Meadows used a top field player, Evelyn Lopez, between the sticks when Bohoc was taken off after she and Zaino came together on a 50-50 ball which eventually ended up in the back of the net.
"We've been hampered by injuries to an already short roster, and even tonight, we lose Sarah, then have to pull back Evelyn, which made us that much thinner," said Drenth. "But despite all that, you saw the girls play hard for 80 minutes, never giving up and putting out a terrific effort, and that's all you can really ask for."
Elk Grove's Jocelyn Potratz and back-line mate Stephanie Solis generally had an easy time of it, as did keeper Melissa Solorio, who was asked to make just a couple of saves on this cold evening.
Mary Collins, Ivette Delgado and Hannah Busse did their best to try to pry open the Grens' defense, but the trio did not have the support of others in the way the aforementioned quartet from Elk Grove did.
There was plenty of one-way traffic from the time Zaino struck the first of her two goals, and the trend continued after intermission, when the visitors kept up the pressure for long stretches.
Stram started a sequence which saw Zaino, Wary and Kelly Regan each have a go on frame, with Wary getting closest when she hit the post.
Minutes later, Wary and Naughton fashioned up another opportunity for the Grens. This time, Zaino tricked her way in close before teeing up from just inside the box to make it 3-0 at 51 minutes.
"We created some very good chances tonight, but we still weren't as sharp as we should or could have been in the final third," said Grens coach Dan Klaus. "Credit (Mike Drenth) for getting his girls to play hard, and (to) defending with all they could, and not allowing huge gaps in their end. But I liked our effort and hopefully we can continue playing this way, especially with Barrington coming up next on Wednesday."
Conant 1, Fremd 0 (OT): Senior midfielder Courtney O'Keefe had the game-winner in OT for host Conant as Cougars keeper Haley Anderson made 5 saves to get the shutout in MSL West play.
Hersey 1, Prospect 1 (2 OT): First-half goals held up for each side through regulation and two overtimes in a 1-1 tie in Mid-Suburban East play in Arlington Heights.
Rachel Suarez had the goal for Prospect (4-1-2, 2-1-1) with an assist from Alli McCabe.
Casey Weyhrich scored for Hersey with an assist from Haley Smetana.