When it comes to creating soccer excitement, a team needs someone like Michael Reibling.
"He's a finisher. You can't teach that," declared Normal Community High School coach Matt Chapman after Reibling's hat trick powered the Ironmen to a 4-0 victory over Central Catholic on day three of the Intercity Tournament at Sale Barn Field.
"When you have finishers, it really helps. He just has a knack for the goal. Under pressure situations, he doesn't flub the ball. He finds a way to touch around somebody and put it into the net."
In other action, Normal West blanked Bloomington, 6-0, at Community Fields as junior Jordan Walker scored four goals to push his career total to a school record 56.
The 21st annual tournament continues at 10 a.m. Saturday when West (4-0 overall, 2-0 in the tourney) travels to NCHS (2-1-1, 1-1-0) while U High (3-1, 2-0) battles Central (3-2, 1-2) at Sale Barn Field. BHS (1-4, 0-3) is off until 4:30 p.m. Monday at NCHS.
After a 4-3 loss to University High on Wednesday, Chapman wanted to see the Ironmen put together an all-around performance, especially "sticking together and making sure we had each other's backs, being there for teammates and being great teammates in general."
"We're starting to see that," he said. "I'm really pleased with that."
The Ironmen opened the scoring 4:59 into the game when Kyle Byrd's shot rebounded off goalie J.C. Micklich and all-stater Josef Halcomb put it back in the net.
"The keeper made a nice save, but then it bounced right to Josef and he put it in," Chapman said.
Fifteen minutes later, Halcomb assisted on Reibling's first goal. Reibling's second came on a penalty kick he tucked into the lower left corner of the net in the 21st minute.
"I saw the keeper leaning one way," he said. "I picked the corner I usually go to and just placed it."
Reibling ended the scoring 33 seconds into the second half when a perfect crossing pass from Carson Oltman left Reibling with an open-net tap in. Goalies Austin Woodside and Grant Tetzloff combined for the shutout.
Chapman, who used his entire 26-man roster, has no doubt Central is superior to the two-win squad it had a year ago.
"That's a decent team that's going to win some games, especially at the 1A level," he said. "When they get in the post-season, they are going to have some chances."
Despite being outshot 19-6, Saints coach Reza Ghasemi said, "I was very pleased the way we performed. We created the opportunities we wanted to, but unfortunately we weren't there to finish. I think if we put the finishing together, we should compete very well with any team."
Walker's four-goal day eclipsed Nate Gottsacker's school record of 54 career goals. Walker's father and coach, Val Walker, remembers his son saying several years ago he wanted to play for the national team.
"He was a three-sport athlete then," the coach said. "I told him to achieve that type of goal, you have to drop (baseball and basketball) ... and really focus on training. He's done just that. I'm glad to see this paying off.
"He's still a work in progress. He knows that."
Also scoring for West, which led 5-0 at halftime, was Luis Isidro. The remaining tally was an own goal.
Providing assists were Clayton Davis, Delphy Sabu, Parker Theobald and Alec McGinnis. West goalies McCade Brown, Ethan Stroyan and Justin Ridinger combined for six saves.
With big games coming up against NCHS and U High, Coach Walker wanted to use Thursday's contest as a stepping stone toward sharp play, solid communication and winning chemistry.
"It was fine tuning the little things," he said. "We like to possess. We like to defend with numbers. Both things we did fairly well."