NORMAL — Within 30 yards of a soccer net, Caelyn Steffens lives a life of danger.

That's where the wily senior puts opponents of Normal Community High School in peril. Paying the price for the Wisconsin-Platteville recruit's footwork on Saturday was visiting Normal West, which fell, 3-0, in the 21st annual Intercity Tournament.

Steffens scored twice, once on a penalty kick with 35:25 left and then on a free kick at the 27:17 mark from just outside the penalty area to boost her team's record to 4-0-0 overall and 1-0-0 in the tourney.

"She just has a nose for scoring goals," said NCHS coach Matt Chapman, whose star has four goals this season.

"Last year in the beginning, we had her playing in goal because we had some injured goalkeepers. She missed five or six games (at forward) and still was able to put 30 goals in."

Steffens' penalty kick was preceded by a Wildcats' inadvertent hand ball.

"She's very deceptive," Chapman said. "She changes pace well. Even in those set pieces, she knows what to do with it."

Steffens doesn't mind taking penalty kicks and free kicks.

"It's a little bit of pressure, but you've just got to be confident," she said. "For free kicks, I just look for the gap.

"I think we have a lot of potential. We've played well, but we also have a lot to work on." 

NCHS freshman Ryann Anderson worked her way through a 20 mph southwest headwind to score off an assist from Steffens with 12:53 left in the first half. It was Anderson's third goal of the year.

"She's physically strong, but at the same time very skilled and smart and very mature," Chapman said of Anderson. "She does a good job of figuring things out as she goes. She's super coachable, too." 

Chapman offered his most enthusiastic praise for his back line of Maggie Peters, Katy Quinn, Sabrina Kosharek, Carmen Cornejo and goalie Emma Spader, who combined for their fourth shutout.

"Our defense has just been terrific so far this season," said Chapman, whose team outshot its guest, 14-4. "They've really stepped it up. We knew with that veteran group returning, that would be a strength of ours."

The Iron also had luck on their side when a Wildcat shot ricocheted off the right post in the seventh minute.  

"That could have changed things," Chapman said. "That was a stroke of luck, for sure."

West coach Val Walker, whose team fell to 1-2-2 overall and 1-1-0 in the tourney, was counting on the Wildcats making their own luck.

"They need to be more confident in their ability," he said. "The first half (with an aiding wind), we didn't give ourselves a chance. You can't win against the wind. If you don't take advantage of your advantage with the wind, then the game is over.

"I think the second half, although we conceded two goals, we actually played better in terms of being more aggressive and going to the ball."

Regardless of the outcome, Walker won't be changing his expectations.

"We have a great team," he said. "You've got to give yourself a chance by being confident in your ability."

The Wildcats will look to regroup at 4:30 p.m. Monday at home against University High (3-1-0, 1-0-0), while NCHS hosts Bloomington (0-3-0, 0-1-0). 

Follow Randy Sharer on Twitter: @PG_sharer



Reporter for Lee Enterprises Central Illinois.

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