SOCCER: Momence wins TVC Championship, downs Grant Park
MOMENCE — When a team is first established in sports, it usually takes some time before championships are won.
Not for Momence though.
The second-year soccer program made a huge mark on the Twin Valley Conference with a 1-0 victory against Grant Park on Monday.
The win not only ups Momence’s winning streak to 10 straight games, it also meant the Redskins are TVC champions.
“Goosebumps,” Momence coach Alex Habeeb said of the victory. “Soccer never existed here in Momence, and to be conference champs is unbelievable. That shows you how much this community supports this team and the kids. We’re just scratching the surface though, and I couldn’t be more proud of these boys.”
How it happened
Both teams were evenly matched throughout the first 18 minutes. They each had two shot attempts, spent an equal amount of time on the opposite side of the field and kept the same pace.
It came down to which team was going to get the first solid strike, and it was Momence.
With 21:23 left in the first half, Junior Ramirez took the free kick from outside the top right of the box and found Francisco Melgar, who connected on the header in the top left corner for the goal.
“That goal took a lot of pressure off and gave us a sense of belief,” Habeeb said. “Goals don’t come easily, and especially in a game like this one. It elevated our spirits and gave us that extra shot of energy.”
After the goal, Momence’s defense, while staying physical, also went into a different gear.
As the intensity got higher down the stretch, so did its level of play, especially in the back row.
As Grant Park continued to drive in the middle third and closer to goal, defenders swarmed to the ball like bees to flowers. Momence’s defense gave up eight shots, but only two were from inside 10 yards.
“They were lockdown, organized and intense,” Habeeb said. “They didn’t commit any silly fouls. We played hard and physical, yet clean and fair as well.”
Not in here
Although Momence was victorious, Alan Ortiz and Grant Park goalkeeper Troy Reynolds were outstanding.
Outside of Melgar’s header, Reynolds played like a Gold Glove catcher blocking everything in front and taking a few chances away from the goal that paid off. He finished the night with 15 saves.
Ortiz was just as good as Reynolds. Although he didn’t have as many saves (seven), it was the timing of his saves that had the impact.
However, none were bigger than his save with just five minutes left in the game. The ball ended up on the foot of Hayden Lehnert, who wound up and blasted a rocket from 15 yards out only for Ortiz to make a jumping save and bat it over the goal.
“Alan has been solid for us all year,” Habeeb said. “The saves he made were outstanding and the type that you saw professional players make. He was alert, focused and ready for any shot. He also did a great job organizing the back row.”
Momence is back in action on Wednesday against Central in the Raider tournament at Iroquois West. Grant Park returns to action on Thursday at home against Beecher.