NORMAL — The only likely winners were soap salesmen and coin-operated laundromats.

On a soggy University High School field Monday afternoon, the Normal West and U High soccer teams splattered their way through muck and mire to a 1-1 tie in the latest edition of their Intercity Girls Soccer Tournament rivalry.

The feisty defensive draw left both teams muddied and exhausted and left U High with a 1-1-1 record while West is now 1-2-2.

U High coach Hayley Sefton believes it also left her team no worse for the wear and perhaps even better for it when it comes to the long haul.

"We need to be in a little bit better condition," she said, "but that's why I like this tournament so early. You get these good teams going at it in good hard games so you can gauge where you are and what you need to work on when we get into the meat of the season."

All in all, Sefton was pleased with the play of her Pioneers in Monday's tussle after losing 10 seniors from a year ago.

"There were so many positive things, our passing and just the ball movement in general was pretty exciting to see," she said.

One of the nifty passes was provided by sophomore midfielder Bree Cordray, who led teammate Julia Herman with a feed that resulted in the Pioneers' only score just past the midway point of the second period.

"I kind of threw myself at the ball and it worked out really well," Herman said. "I had to slide to get a touch on it and I was surprised to see it go in because I know that (West's) Bekah (Nielsen) is a really good keeper. I also couldn't see the ball very well because there was another defender there, so I was pretty suyprised that I scored."

The shot curled into the far corner of the goal and hit the back of the net on the fly to tie the game.

After a scoreless first half, West's Audrey Marsaglia beat U High goalie Sophie Dorgan to the ball and gave the Wildcats the lead with a goal just under 10 minutes into the second period. The score came with an assist from freshman Arya Gandhi.

"Arya had a really great run and gave me a great ball, kind of across the box," Marsaglia said. "We've been working on finishing a lot and I just took the touch on the keeper and shot it."

It's not unusual to find Marsaglia, a senior forward, streaking down the sideline in search of a scoring opportunity. The slippery conditions on Monday kept that to a minimum.

"It was a little rough to play on it," she said. "It made our legs tired, but we needed to push through. I was proud of my teammates throughout."

Marsaglia's coach, Val Walker, saw the game as an endurance builder.

"It was like playing in sand," he said. "You play a soccer game in sand for 80 minutes and you don't have any legs left, so this was a good exercise in fitness for the girls."

Walker was impressed with what he saw as a reconfigured U High defense.

"(U High) has changed formations," he said. "In previous years, we'd have plenty of space up the middle  and that wasn't there today. It was a very good, balanced tactical battle."

"I know that (West) has a couple of quick kids up top and I thought that, except for that one time, we did a really good job of trying to button it up a little bit and not panicking," Sefton said. "I was totally happy with that. I thought we did a really good job defensively."

Contact Bruce Yentes at (309) 820-3391. Follow him on Twitter: @pg_yentes


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