CREVE COEUR • Ranked No. 1 among STLhighschoolsports.com large schools, the Chaminade soccer team has already shown it can come from behind.
“It's not a habit we want to fall into, but I think it definitely says something about our experience and our composure,'' Red Devils coach Mike Gauvain said following his club's 2-1 comeback win over visiting Peoria Notre Dame in a non-league clash of Midwest powerhouse programs on Monday. “This was a good test for us -- Notre Dame always plays us tough -- and it was a very good game. We're fortunate they were willing to come down and play us on the holiday.''
The game, originally scheduled for Friday afternoon, was played Monday afternoon on the artificial turf at Chaminade.
“We're disappointed with the loss because, like Chaminade, we're a program that expects to win every time we take the field,'' acting Notre Dame coach Danny Burk said. “At the same time, though, we realize that the experience of getting a chance to play a top team like Chaminade, win or lose, is something that can benefit our team come November, and that's what really matters.
“The thing we like about playing a team like Chaminade is the fact that they push into uncomfortable situations on the field. They have a tendency to find the opponent's weak spots and hopefully we can take what we learned to today and improve because of it.''
The Irish (2-1) placed third in Class 2A in Illinois a year ago and won championships in 2004, 2008 and 2010. They grabbed the lead midway through the opening half Monday when Drew Whalen played a ball from the right side across the box to fellow senior Alex Garcia for the shot and a 1-0 lead.
Notre Dame ran much of its first-half attack through Whalen on the right side.
But after making some adjustments at the half, the Red Devils (4-0) took over.
“We knew what we had to do; it was just a matter of going out and playing our game,'' Chaminade senior captain Jason Pesek said. “They scored a good goal, but I felt like we were trying to force things a little bit in that first half. At halftime, we regrouped a bit and then came out strong.''
The Red Devils tied it about four minutes after the break. After running down a cross from Brendan Kissel on the right side, the Red Devils' Matt Kilwin laid the ball off to Curt Shillingsford, who drove the ball toward Kissel at the far post. Kissel, in turn, played the ball to Pesek, who scored after his initial shot was blocked.
“I've scored prettier goals, but when you're down 1-0, you take any goal you can get,'' the versatile Pesek said.
About 10 minutes later, an outside shot form Pesek went off the goal post. The Red Devils' Jordan Bay knocked the rebound wide.
“I tried to slot a pass to (Tom Barlow),'' Pesek explained. “When they blocked the pass, I took the shot.''
The Red Devils grabbed the lead with 17 minutes to play. After some nice pass work in tight quarters on the right side, Bay chipped the ball into the box for Barlow, who scored with a header back to the near corner.
“We played much better in the second half,'' Gauvain said. “We did a better job of possessing the ball and I think that possession eventually helped wear (Peoria Notre Dame) down, especially in the last 15 to 20 minutes of the game.''
Added Pesek: “This is a talented and experienced team and that's something we're going to try to take advantage of this season. We're not a team that's going to panic because most of us have been through tough games before. Hopefully, like today, we can keep our composure, stick to the game plan and eventually get the job done.''
The Red Devils host Kirkwood at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday and will travel to Indianapolis for the Great Midwest Classic next weekend.