DeLuce stands tall, as Chargers collect big win over rivals

DeLuce stands tall, as Chargers collect big win over rivals

CHAMPAIGN — Not far into Tuesday's girls' soccer matchup between rivals Centennial and Champaign Central, Chargers goalkeeper Jordan DeLuce was slow to get to her feet.

The senior had a bit of trouble corralling a loose ball in her box, resulting in contact with Maroons midfielder Kate Storsved.

DeLuce said afterward she took a boot to the head.

Insult was added to injury later in the first half, when Storsved rolled a long, low shot past DeLuce.

"She was not scoring on me again," DeLuce said. "I was not letting it happen."

And it wasn't just Storsved whom DeLuce stoned the rest of the night.

DeLuce turned away 11 Central bids, including one final chance from Storsved with roughly a minute to play, helping Centennial to a 2-1 victory on Franklin Field.

"I told (coach) Jim (Meissen), 'This is the most important game of the season,'" DeLuce said. "Other games, yeah, they mean a lot, but this is our biggest rival. We beat them in basketball. This is senior year. We're going to beat them in soccer."

The Chargers (4-8-1, 3-1 Big 12 Conference) required scrappy efforts across the board to dispatch the persistent Maroons (6-6-1, 2-3-1).

"Just trying to get healthy and grind out games like that," Meissen said. "We did really well coming from behind."

Central's lone tally happened directly after a Centennial corner kick. The Maroons took off on a brisk attack in the 14th minute, pulling DeLuce far from the cage to cut off the attempt.

So when the ball found its way back to Storsved, not much trickery was required to work it around DeLuce.

"I was just like, OK, get out of my head. Short memory. Forget about it," DeLuce said. "Then we scored that first amazing goal, and I was like, this is our game."

That equalizer arrived in the 27th minute.

Olivia DeVriese cruised around a Central defender on the pitch's far side after accepting a clearance pass from the defensive zone. DeVriese then wired a shot high toward the inside post, beating a leaping Haley Hartleb.

"That first goal was just an unbelievable shot," Maroons boss Steve Whiteley said. "Good play on the outside from the outside mid getting them there and just hitting that shot."

What turned out to be the decisive blow occurred in the 31st minute.

Cassidy Strode, whom Meissen termed "a human dynamo," dribbled her way into heavy Central traffic before breaking stride and feeding Katie Bell a few feet to the left.

From well atop the box, Bell let loose a one-timer with the right foot that sailed over Hartleb's hands but under the crossbar for a nearly unstoppable outcome.

"Just trying to encourage the girls the whole season over: You don't have to be inside the box to shoot," Meissen said. "You know, take a chance. If it goes, it goes. It doesn't, it doesn't. But we don't score unless we shoot."

Whiteley's crew went on an offensive war path in the second half, piling up seven corners along the way. But DeLuce and her defenders didn't let anything cross the goal line.

"I don't know the final numbers on quality scoring opportunities," Whiteley said, "but we were way above where they were, and it just didn't go our way."

The Chargers were glad to see a result bend their direction amid a largely difficult campaign.

They'd produced more than one goal in a match three times entering Tuesday's tilt.

Having the fourth come against Central made it that much sweeter.

"The last couple games, we all had our heads down," DeLuce said. "We were like ... if we win this, I think it's going to push us the rest of the season."