PLAINFIELD – Plainfield North has essentially a new soccer team this season after graduating 10 starters last year. The one place the Tigers do have a bit of experience is on the back line, where Aidan Smith – the lone returning starter – and Nolan Weber are senior captains.
Smith knows it’s on the defense to set the tone for the Tigers.
“We’ve been working a lot during the past couple games on staying 100% organized in the back and making sure we’re on the exact same page as our teammates,” Smith said. “At the start of the season, we were a little shaky in the back. But we’re starting to lock down.”
The host Tigers locked down a high-powered Romeoville attack Tuesday as junior goalkeeper Ben Feldman made five saves for the shutout, and the Southwest Prairie Conference rivals ended in a 0-0 tie.
Alex Duda made six saves for the Spartans (11-4-3, 3-1-2 SPC), getting help from a defense led by Manny Casillas, Isaiah Pina, Danny Espinoza and Gavin Carrasco.
Smith, Weber, Luke Radcliff and Sam Zito led the defense for Plainfield North (8-5-1, 2-2-1).
“Aidan has been a three-year varsity starter, so that’s huge,” Plainfield North coach Lukasz Majewski said. “Luke and Sam are doing a fantastic job, and Nolan is a righty who’s playing a left back position, and he hates it, but at the same time he knows that’s what we need right now, so he’s going and doing it.”
Romeoville created a ton of dangerous opportunities in the second half, including five free kicks from striking distance and three corner kicks, but the Tigers were able to keep them off the scoreboard.
Feldman’s biggest play came in the first half when he made a sliding kick save to deny a shot from Juan Jimenez.
Smith made sure the Tigers were ready to defend all of Romeoville’s set pieces.
“In those moments, you just have to stay calm,” Smith said. “A free kick or penalty is all people are looking for in those last 15 to 20 minutes. We just have to stay organized and keep doing what we’re doing.”
While Romeoville delivered the consistent pressure, Plainfield North had the best scoring chances of the night.
Duda came up with some spectacular saves for the Spartans, leaping to tip Owen MacPhail’s first-half shot over the crossbar and then robbing MacPhail again with just over two minutes left in the match, punching out his shot on a good look from 10 yards.
“I still can’t believe the kid made three of those saves,” Majewski said. “That’s unreal. Kudos to him.”
Duda was benched for the second half after allowing three goals in a 6-3 win over West Aurora on Sept. 19, but he has come back strong, allowing only one goal over three games since.
“I had a little bit of a down moment a couple games ago,” Duda said. “I just made a couple mistakes, and that’s going to happen, especially at my position. It’s all about keeping your head up and just going again, and when you have games like this, it boosts your confidence a lot.”
Romeoville coach Nick Cirrincione is proud of the way Duda has responded.
“We took him out for the second half against West Aurora, but I told him, ‘Be ready, you’re still our guy,’” Cirrincione said. “We gave him a little break. He was hungry and ready to go. He’s had big saves in so many games. We’ve only given up one goal in the last three games and that’s due to him being an athlete and making plays for us.
“This game was pretty evenly matched. Both ways, both teams had chances and both goalies had some big stops. We couldn’t score and they couldn’t score.”