NORMAL — With the intensity level burning as brightly as the sunshine that bathed the field, the Normal Community High School soccer team held off crosstown rival Normal West for a 2-0 win in the Intercity Boys Soccer Tournament on Saturday morning at NCHS.
"It was heated for sure," said NCHS senior Nick Leming. "It's fun to play West. There's always some talk and I'm sure we backed it up on the field today and I'm proud of our guys."
Leming combined with sophomore teammate Michael Reibling for both Ironmen goals to keep NCHS in contention for a share of the Intercity tourney crown.
Meanwhile, University High remains in the driver's seat in its quest for the outright title after a 4-0 win over archrival Central Catholic in Bloomington.
Leming and Reibling teamed up to take advantage of what West coach Val Walker called "a defensive breakdown" to give the Ironmen a 1-0 lead with 17:40 remaining in the first half.
Leming got his foot on a nifty crossing pass from Reibling and poked it into the left corner of the net for his first goal of the season.
They would swap roles with 1:12 remaining in the game with Reibling scoring on a helper from Leming to give NCHS its insurance goal.
A stout defensive battle was waged between the two scores with the NCHS back line of Brady Fletcher, Josue Nsukami, Kamoy Creary and Ethan Holland doing much of the heavy lifting in holding West at bay.
"They were fantastic back there," said NCHS coach Matt Chapman. "West is super-dangerous offensively. Between Jordan (Walker) and Parker (Theobald), those guys are fantastic and their midfield is really tough. So, for us to be able to earn the shutout today, I'm really proud of the effort they put in."
NCHS goalkeeper Austin Woodside was credited with three of the four Ironmen saves. The other was snared by sub Grant Tetzloff when Woodside was temporarily sidelined after a three-person collision in the box near the midway point of the second half.
Tetzloff turned away a West free kick in Woodside's absence to preserve the shutout.
West had numerous chances, despite not playing up to par in the early going, according to their coach.
"We didn't have a good first half," Coach Walker said. "We were tentative. We were scared and didn't play our game. We're a possession team and we had too many unforced errors. We turned it around and had some legitimate chances. It just wasn't to be, today."
NCHS improved to 3-1-1 overall and 2-1 in the tournament. The Ironmen conclude the round-robin Monday against Bloomington while West (4-1, 2-1) will face the Pioneers.
"We have extra incentive on Monday to throw this thing into a three-way tie," Val Walker said. "All is not lost yet. I think the boys will be ready to play on Monday."
U High coach Jeremy Stanton knows the Wildcats will be coming full throttle with a share of the title up for grabs.
"West is really good and I think we're pretty evenly matched. It should be a great game," Stanton said after U High's win over the Saints.
The Pioneers (4-1, 3-0) received a pair of goals from Nathan Clay, as well as scores from Cayden Redd and J.D. Kelley. All of the scoring came in the first half, with Clay and Kelley also credited with assists.
"We didn't pass well in the first half and U High took advantage of their opportunities," said Central coach Reza Ghasemi, who saw his Saints end tourney play at 1-3 while falling to 3-3 overall.
"Central played tough in the first 20 minutes," said Stanton, whose Pioneers outshot the Saints 18-13. "We started moving the ball better and were able to finish a few."