ATHLETE OF THE WEEK
Nora Ryan, Crystal Lake Central, so., GK
Ryan recorded a shutout against defending Fox Valley Conference champion Prairie Ridge on Tuesday. She made 11 saves in the game, including one with her back.
Central won both of its contests in the PepsiCo Showdown’s “charity pod” games last week, which are not part of their PepsiCo bracket. Ryan made three saves in a penalty kick shootout victory, 2-1 (3-2 PKs), over Elgin. She also had three saves in regulation during that victory.
Ryan made nine saves in a 2-1 win over Glenbard East. She almost had a shutout in that one, too. Glenbard East scored in the final minute.
NORTHWEST HERALD POWER RANKINGS
1. Cary-Grove (6-1-1, 2-0 FVC): Cary-Grove’s only loss this season came against a St. Charles North program that has won three Class 3A sectional titles in the past four seasons.
2. Crystal Lake Central (9-1, 2-0 FVC): The Tigers continue to rise in the rankings. They take on C-G on Tuesday in a battle of No. 1 and No. 2 in this week’s rankings.
3. Prairie Ridge (9-1-1, 1-1 FVC): Prairie Ridge dropped its first regular-season game since 2017, but the Wolves aren’t dropping far in the rankings.
4. Huntley (6-4-2, 2-1 FVC): The Red Raiders have won five of their past six games. They take on Crystal Lake South on Thursday.
5. Jacobs (7-6-1, 1-1 FVC): The Golden Eagles struggled early on, but they also played a challenging nonconference schedule. They’ve won four of their past five games.
Balanced attack: During its 9-1 start to the season, Central has thrived off a well-balanced offensive attack. In 10 games, 12 Tigers have scored goals, and nine have recorded assists. Megan Wozniak and Emma Bolanowski lead the way with five goals each. Grace Rokos has a team-high seven assists.
In Tuesday’s win over Prairie Ridge, Bolanowski scored 21 seconds into the second half to break a scoreless tie.
“She’s had a number of goals when we turn to her and say, ‘We need a goal in these first couple minutes, can you do it?’” Central coach Sarah Fack said. “She’s one of those kids that will go 100 percent, heart’s all the way into it. She’ll do anything for her teammates. She gets it done.”
Bolanowski’s goal Tuesday revived the Central bench. Bolanowski noted that no one on the Tigers' bench actually sits on the bench.
“Our team really has grown over the season,” Bolanowski said. “Our whole team is off the bench all the time. We’re always standing, encouraging each other. Even if you mess up, they’re so supportive.”
Fack felt Central struggled throughout the scoreless first half but that something “just clicked” as the game wore on.
“Once you get to this point in the season, you’re starting to fix all those little pieces,” Fack said. “[Tuesday] it all really came together against a really good team, which is exactly what you want to see.”
Trending the wrong way: Two local teams are looking to reverse course and return to their winning ways. Crystal Lake South (3-7-1, 1-1 FVC) has lost six consecutive games after a 3-1-1 start to the season.
The Gators are scoreless in those six games. Their last goal came in a 2-2 draw against Lakes on April 2. Their last win was March 21 against Hampshire.
Also struggling lately is Woodstock North. North (4-6-2, 3-0-2 KRC) has won one of its past eight matches, with two draws. A 3-0 win over Marengo on April 8 was the last Thunder victory.
WHAT TO WATCH
Hampshire, Harvard, Woodstock at Woodstock North Invitational, Saturday: Four local teams participate in Woodstock.
Crystal Lake Central at Cary-Grove, 4:30 p.m. Tuesday: The top two teams in the Northwest Herald power rankings square off in FVC play.