Centennial owns crosstown bragging rights

Centennial owns crosstown bragging rights

CHAMPAIGN — Centennial boys' soccer coach Jim Meissen's main concern isn't necessarily his team's skill.

It's simply making his team believe that they are a good team and have the ability to beat the top teams in the area.

For a team used to losing to those programs, that's easier said than done. Senior center back Diarmuid Reilly and his classmates hadn't witnessed a Centennial victory over Champaign Central in his previous three years of high school soccer. Urbana has also beaten them regularly over the last few years, as has Uni High.

"It's just building our confidence," Meissen said. "They're a good team, and they need to know that. Results help building them up, and that's what they need. They need to start believing."

On Tuesday night, the Chargers beat the crosstown rival Maroons 1-0 on a 10th-minute goal from Portuguese exchange student Francisco Andrade, one of a few new additions to a team that has shown steady improvement.

"(It's a big deal) especially the past few years, when we had a really bad record and we lost some tough games to our buddies," Reilly said.

"Building belief is hard coming off of a season like that. With Francisco and Omar Sandoval coming in, that was a big boost, because those are guys that have the desire to win."

The game's lone goal came off of a situation that Meissen had drilled his players on in recent days. Hunter Fitzwater won the ball in midfield and quickly played a pass forward, which Andrade flicked to Shannon Borukhovich, who headed the ball back to Andrade. The senior calmly finished.

"Hunter played the ball early, and good things happen from that," Meissen said.

The Maroons (5-7) had plenty of chances, including a header from Santiago Rodriquez with the goalkeeper out in the closing minutes, but he wasn't able to put it on frame.

In the end, a Champaign Central team that returned just two starters this season suffered its fourth one-goal loss of the season.

"We're getting better," Central coach Nick Clegg said. "We've just got to finish one of those ... We're learning how to play together. Unfortunately since we're a younger team, we have to be stronger. We're not going to be bigger, faster, stronger right now. I think we're coming along."

For the Chargers (5-5), Tuesday's win was another step in the program's development. Meissen simply hopes his players use it as a building block for a team that has taken leaps forward already this year.

"It's just another badge," Meissen said. "It feels good, but you have to learn from it and keep getting better. You can't just rest on what you've done or what's occurred in the past. The last few years, we haven't been so great, but that doesn't matter. What matters is that you have to learn from that."