Blatner fuels OPRF rout of Young
Oak Park-River Forest's Meredith Blatner (21) has the ball poked away by Young's Gabby Schwartz (38) on March 21, 2013, in Oak Park. | Rob Hart~Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 25, 2013 10:23PM
OAK PARK — Soccer is a game of flair and theatrics.
Four games into the season, Oak Park-River Forest has gone a different route, preferring a precise and fundamental attack to the high-wire aesthetics of playing the ball in the air.
The Huskies utilized excellent ball possession, superb passing and a perimeter-oriented attack to near-perfect effect as host Oak Park-River Forest routed Public League power Young 7-0 Thursday night in Oak Park.
The victory was the Huskies’ third straight after a season-opening 2-0 loss to state power Naperville Central.
“This is a different group and they have a different mentality, a better sense of playing together and not trying to play the ball in the air,” Oak Park-River Forest coach Ignacio Ponce said. “I’ve told the players to be creative with the ball, look for teammates, pass and just have fun out there.”
Junior midfielder Meredith Blatner scored two goals 11 minutes apart in the first half as Oak Park-River Forest (3-1) bolted to a commanding 3-0 lead at the break.
“We wanted to be the team that went out and got the lead and took the early momentum,” Ponce said.
Blatner’s first goal followed a free kick after a Young player received a red card for interfering with senior midfielder Alicia Gerin on a breakaway. The initial shot by junior defender Wren Osler deflected off a Young defender and Blatner alertly controlled the ball and redirected it to the back of the Dolphins’ net.
“I was just doing what the coaches teach us and fortunately I was able to make contact,” Blatner said.
Oak Park-River Forest has produced 12 goals and consecutive shutouts in its last two games. Blatner agreed with her coach’s assessment of the team’s style.
“It’s not that we’re a small team, but we’re generally not as tall as our opponents and we know we have to attack, using the middle of the field and keeping the ball on the ground and not try to play it in the air,” she said.
Junior midfielder Erin Schrobilgen started the scoring binge when she blasted a shot off a beautiful through ball in the 22nd minute. Blatner’s second score was also an alert play on a header.
Oak Park-River Forest exploded for four goals in the second half, beginning with scores by junior forward Lauren Wilkes, junior midfielder Teresa Trinka and junior defender Mystie Leweellyan. Junior forward Ruby Gonzalez punctuated the night by perfectly snaking in a corner into the far post.
Defending Public League champion Young (1-3) was playing without its two top offensive players. Senior midfielder Rhiannon Holzman was unavailable and the senior forward Mia Espino is recovering from injuries she sustained in an offseason car crash.
Coach Spero Mandakas’ team is also adjusting to the absence of graduated star Rachel Hobert, the Public League’s best keeper.
“We have a new keeper and last year with Rachel we could count on her giving us 12 or 15 saves a game,” Mandakas team.
“They killed us tonight us with their counterattacks. They sucked us into the middle of the field and then passed the ball to the wing and that created a lot of open shots and one-on-one plays for them. That, and playing a man down, did not help matters, either,” he said.