SOCCER: Grant Park remains undefeated with win over Iroquois West
GRANT PARK — Mason Schweizer
GRANT PARK — Coming into Thursday’s home match, Grant Park knew it would have its hands full with a high-powered Iroquois West squad.
But thanks to a pair of Logan Weissgerber goals, an aggressive defensive effort and a shutout performance in net by Troy Reynolds, the Dragons poured it on for a 3-0 victory against the Raiders.
The Dragons continued their undefeated start and improved to 11-0-1 and 5-0 in the River Valley Conference. The Raiders fell to 7-3 and 4-2 in the conference.
“We can always continue to get better,” Weissgerber said. “But this is a great team, probably top three in the conference, so we just had to show out and win for the conference [title chances].”
With just less than 10 minutes to play in the first half, it was Weissgerber who started the Dragons’ scoring party. Jon Goldenstern’s corner kick found Weissgerber’s left boot, which poked the ball past Raiders goalkeeper Ulises Aguilera to put the Dragons on top.
Weissgerber said that back post has been a spot where he’s had plenty of chances lately but hadn’t been able to put one home until Thursday.
“The last few games, I’ve missed a bunch of goals from that back post,” Weissgerber said. “I finally learned from my mistakes and took advantage of it.”
Weissgerber scored again early in the second half before Hayden Lehnert’s goal put the nail in the Raiders’ coffin, with Goldenstern assisting all three goals. Grant Park assistant coach Mark Boccia said the Dragons finally played as they’ve been practicing lately, spreading the ball out wide.
“I’m really proud. We’ve been working on easy touches throughout practice, trying to work the width of the field more and not just running toward the goal,” said Boccia, who temporarily filled in for head coach Jacqlyn West. “It’s probably the first time all year we actually accomplished that.”
And as good as the Dragons were with the ball, they were just as good without it. A defensive strategy that focused on pressuring the ball and stopping Raiders forward Diego Camarena worked to near perfection as Reynolds held up his end of the bargain in goal, recording a shutout on 11 saves, including a pair of highlight-reel diving stops.
“Troy saves us more than once. We could have tightened a little more on [Camarena],” Boccia said. “Every sub I put in, I told them to tighten up on him, but we made it work.”
The Raiders are back on the pitch Monday, when they travel to Fisher for a 4:30 p.m. contest. The Dragons are participating in next week’s Rivals Cup, a tournament that features a who’s who of local teams.
The Dragons will face plenty of stiff competition when they take their undefeated record into the tournament next week, but Weissgerber said in order for his team to be the best, they have to first think that they’re the best.
“I think we’re the best team to ever play; that’s my confidence,” Weissgerber said. “We’ve got that communication, and we’ve known each other for so long.”
A version of this story appeared in the Friday digital edition of the Daily Journal.