As Neuqua Valley’s best player, Katie Ciesiulka is being relied on to score as many goals as possible.
The senior midfielder is rising to the challenge. Ciesiulka leads the Wildcats in scoring with five goals, four of which have come in the last four games.
The Marquette recruit tallied twice on Thursday to lift Neuqua Valley to a 3-1 victory over WW South at Memorial Stadium on the opening night of the Naperville Invitational.
The Wildcats (6-4-2) have won six straight games and can advance to the tournament quarterfinals by beating Conant on Friday night.
“I think we had a lot of great role models last year and we definitely as seniors, and everyone in general, have to step up and play to our potential and give 100 percent effort every single game,” Ciesiulka said. “But I’m in more of an attacking position this year as opposed to last year so I definitely need to get up into the attack more.”
Ciesiulka did that from the get-go in this match, sending a corner kick through the crease just one minute in.
The Wildcats didn’t convert on that but generated plenty of chances in a wide-open first half and opened the scoring when freshman Allie Fullreide met a sharp cross from Kiley Czerwinski and blasted home a six-yard shot at the 29:18 mark.
Ciesiulka made it 2-0 when she ran onto a pass from Lauren Ciesla at the top right corner of the box and fired a wicked 18-yard shot into the upper left corner of the net with 18:17 to go in the first half.
She struck again with 34:25 remaining in the second half on another great shot. This time Czerwinski made the feed up the right wing and Ciesiulka blew a 17-yard shot past Tigers keeper Abbey Fuster for a 3-0 cushion.
“That was definitely all my teammates,” Ciesiulka said. “Kiley’s ball was incredible and it was just an easy finish.”
Neuqua Valley coach Joe Moreau isn’t surprised that Ciesiulka is raising her game.
“She had a great goal against South Elgin and we’ve been working on her shot a little bit in terms of technique and not leaving her weight back so much, but moving forward,” Moreau said. “She’s our best player but what’s also nice is she’s taking a major leadership role.”
That is helping young players like Fullreide and fellow rookie Ryan Gareis, who are becoming more dangerous as the season progresses.
“I just wasn’t used to the physicality of [the game] and I was getting pushed around,” Fullreide said. “So I just have to learn to use my body and check my shoulder. I just have to work on that a little bit more but I think I’m getting there.”
The Wildcats have switched to a diamond formation in the midfield and are trying to spread defenses out. It was a strategy that worked against WW South (5-5).
“We really took advantage of the space on the outside,” Fullreide said. “We were playing quick passes and then getting crosses off. At halftime we had 15 crosses so our outside backs and outside mids were doing a great job of getting crosses off and we got two goals off them.”
Neuqua Valley goalkeeper Hannah Parrish made all seven of her saves in the first half. She lost the shutout when Marina Tolczyk scored for the Tigers with 2:04 left in the game.