Heather Handwork served Waubonsie Valley a stern warning. The Warriors responded in kind.
In a battle of powerhouses, No. 9 Waubonsie Valley survived No. 6 Plainfield North's quick start to earn 2-1 victory in pool play of the Naperville Invitational Thursday at Naperville North.
The Tigers (11-2-1) dominated the opening 20 minutes, establishing a quick, high pressure tempo that left the Warriors (8-1-3) dazed. In a showdown of two of the state's top seniors, Tigers' midfielder Handwork cut through two defenders and launched a sidewinder that curled inside the far post in the 18th minute.
Waubonsie Valley forward Kristen Dodson took notice of the difference in the two teams' intensity.
"We didn't come out as hard as we needed and once Heather scored, we realized we had to pick it up and start to possess and once we did that, things started to click for us," Dodson said.
Waubonsie Valley elevated its game and began asserting its own possessive style to counter the Tigers' athleticism. The Warriors countered in the 29th minute as Dodson scored her ninth goal of the year, controlling a through ball from freshman Maggie Roe before turning and drilling the ball into the lower left hand corner.
"It was a great ball through, the goalie came out and it gave me a great opportunity," Dodson said.
The Tigers' early dominance receded.
"I think it gave us a lot of confidence when we scored first and we were really excited, but then Kristen scored and we've had this tendency this year after giving up one goal of letting the other team score again and we have to have the attitude of, that has to be us to get the next goal and not them," Handwork said.
By contrast the Warriors looked to put the game away.
"With our team we have been very good of once we score one goal of keeping up the pressure and working really hard to get that second goal and that's what happened," Dodson said.
Junior Sarah Laws scored her first goal of the season in the 34th minute by lofting a shot into the upper right corner. Roe also assisted the game-winner.
"I saw it unfolding on the other side of the field and then I saw Maggie, who flipped it over to me and I took the shot," Laws said. "I thought I could put it in that corner."
Handwork had the best chance in the second half, though her rifle shot from about 14 yards edged the lower post.
"I thought in the second half we matched their intensity level," Laws said.
The Warriors also effectively held the ball in the middle to prevent Handwork from operating in space in the second half.
The game carried significant state tournament implications as the winner is likely to earn a top sectional seed.
"I liked how we played," Plainfield North coach Jane Crowe said. "We might have had slightly more chances, but they had the better chances and they had two good finishes. I'd like to play them again, because if we do it would probably be a sectional final."