CAROL STREAM – Like the lightning that would end the match five minutes early, Chloe Valentino struck in an instant.
With her team bogged down and frustrated by a stubborn Glenbard North defense, the Batavia midfielder gave her team a jolt not long after the second-half kickoff.
Valentino alertly pounced on a misplayed ball by a defender, stole it and scored only 16 seconds after intermission, thereby doubling the Bulldogs’ lead in a game they would win 4-0.
It was the third goal of the season for Valentino, a junior whom the Bulldogs have come to expect good things from.
“She’s always there for us when we need her,” Batavia star Anna Holcombe said. “[That goal] meant a lot because it was 1-0 for a long time and we had a lot of chances.
“Her scoring really got our momentum going.”
The visiting Bulldogs (8-1-2, 2-0 DuKane Conference) took the lead just 2:28 into the game when junior Grace Salyers scored a scrappy goal on a flick in front of the net.
Yet that did not open the floodgates for Batavia, which was shut out for the rest of the half despite owning nearly all of the possession. Glenbard North goalkeeper Karissa Chalus made 15 saves, including eight on the Indiana State-bound Holcombe, who came up empty on all 12 of her attempts.
“It was a little bit difficult because we kept getting shots,” Valentino said. “But we couldn’t really get anything in at the beginning.”
That changed with Valentino’s heads-up play just moments after the second-half kickoff. She stole the ball from a defender and then beat a charging Chalus to make it 2-0.
“One of their outside defenders was playing it back to their center back and she had a bad touch on it,” Valentino said. “So I saw that and went in and got past her.
“The goalie came out and tried to get me, but I passed it past her into the goal.
Holcombe was held without a goal but she played a big role in the win, teaming with Valentino, Salyers and Abby Zipse to keep the pressure on the Panthers (2-4-2, 0-1), who were outshot 26-0.
“I think I helped the team out a lot finding gaps and through balls, and on corner kicks, too,” Holcombe. “I practiced them a lot, getting them in the box, and that’s one of the ways we scored.”
Indeed, Holcombe took 11 corner kicks and nearly bent one in late in the first half, only to see Chalus leap and tip the ball over the crossbar. The Bulldogs finally converted a corner kick at the 22:46 mark of the second half when Kennedy Rud volleyed home Holcombe’s service to make it 3-0.
Zipse tallied the fourth goal, squirting a short shot past Chalus off a feed from Morgan Toronyi with 10:52 left. Lightning stopped play six minutes later.
“We moved the ball around well,” Batavia coach Mark Gianfrancesco said. “We’ve just got to finish some of those chances.
“We needed to keep it wide and get more services in. [Glenbard North] did a nice job of kind of packing that center.”
Gianfrancescohas no complaints about Batavia’s strong start, especially in the new DuKane Conference. His players also are pleased.
“It’s pretty big because we’ve been playing some pretty tough teams,” Holcombe said. “We’ve been sticking with them so far.”