DOWNERS GROVE – Ryann Wendt required time to get her feet on the ground playing a full high school soccer season for the first time in three years.
The Downers Grove North senior, like everyone else in Illinois, had her sophomore season wiped out because of the pandemic. A back injury cost her all but a few games last spring. She also didn’t play travel for the first time this year.
“It was a little harder at the beginning of the season coming off all that time not playing. I’m getting it back little by little,” said Wendt, who will play basketball in college at Carroll University. “It’s definitely getting my touch right. Ball out of the air or a hard pass, it’s like I have brick feet sometimes. The ball bounces off me.”
Wendt’s feet were simply golden Saturday.
She scored two second-half goals, rallying the Trojans from a one-goal halftime deficit against Downers Grove South. The two teams settled for a draw. Emily Petring’s beautiful pass into the box found Priscilla Plascencia for a score with three minutes left in the 2-2 tie.
“It’s awesome to be back, really nice being on the field,” Wendt said. “It was an exciting game the whole time. We really wanted it. It kind of stinks to have the ball go in the last three minutes, but I’m proud of how we played.”
Downers Grove South (7-8-1) had a number of chances in the final 10 minutes go by the wayside and the frustration appeared to mount.
Petring changed all that, drilling a well-struck cross from the left sideline into the box, where it found Plascencia for the tying goal with 2:47 left.
“I was just trying to get a goal there. She followed it through,” Petring said. “I saw it go over, she ran through the ball and it was great. We came out flat in the second half. We stepped it up at the end and we finally were able to get a goal.”
Petring and the Mustangs controlled much of the play in the first half with twice as many shot attempts as the Trojans. Mallory Qualizza’s shot on a Petring cross was knocked away by a spectacular deflection from Downers Grove North defender Rachel Wilson.
But Petring scored on the ensuing corner kick from Grace Rappel for a 1-0 Mustangs lead in the game’s 34th minute.
“It was a great feeling. Definitely got a good header on it,” Petring said. “Proud of my corner kick from Grace. That really boosted our ego.”
Wendt gave the Trojans (8-8-2) a much-needed boost out of halftime, taking a through ball ahead from Kendall Hennelly and beating her defender for the tying goal with 36:54 left.
The two connected again minutes later. Wendt’s second goal and seventh of the season gave the Trojans a 2-1 lead with 32:39 left.
“We knew what we needed to do as far as going long because we have the speed up top and so my team found me with two great through balls that I was able to get to,” Wendt said. “We knew we needed to take more shots. We weren’t getting enough shots on goal.”
Wendt had a couple other near misses in the second half, but her return this season has been a welcome addition for a Trojans’ team that’s struggled to score at times. Downers Grove North had come into Saturday’s game with just 26 goals in 17 games and had been shut out six times.
“Ryann has been a stalwart on the front line and today was a really good game for her,” Trojans coach Brian Papa said. “She’s a handful. We don’t get the ball up to her enough. Right now Ryann and Kendall are our offense.
“Our problem is we give the ball away. When we lose the ball in our defensive third, we are always playing defense so they kept pounding us. The last 10 minutes they had a lot of opportunities but we kept escaping. The last one did get in the box.”
Mustangs coach Chris Hernandez said his team had to fight back and create opportunities and was fortunate to convert at the end.
“We added an attacking player and that player was at the right place at the right time,” Hernandez said. “We came out flat in the second half. Those two goals took the wind out of our sails. When we had the opportunity, we put the ball into a dangerous place and that’s half the battle some time. We had opportunities in the first half but didn’t finish. In the end it happened to go in the back of the net.”
I am the Sports Editor for Kendall County Newspapers, the Kane County Chronicle and Suburban Life Media, covering primarily sports in Kendall, Kane, DuPage and western Cook counties. I've been covering high school sports for 24 years. I also assist with our news coverage.