WEST CHICAGO – The players could sense it. So could the coaches on both sides.
Wheaton Academy, playing for the outright Suburban Christian Conference boys soccer title against Marmion, thoroughly dominated the game, especially in the second half.
Shot after shot and push after push went for naught, until with 2:16 left, Ty Seager scored the game-winner to give Wheaton Academy the 1-0 win.
Seager and company were frustrated for much of the match by Cadets goalkeeper Matt Fletcher. Marmion (13-7-2, 6-2 SCC) hadn’t registered a shot the entire second half and were deep in the Warriors’ end when a deflection found Sam Hardy, who pushed the ball ahead to Seager. The sophomore forward turned on the jets, steering clear of a pair of Marmion defenders before juking past Fletcher, putting a right-footed shot into the back of the net.
“The game was down to the wire; Sam saw me and I was making a run on the outside, and there was only one guy between me and the goal,” Seager said. “I took one touch wide, hustled around and beat him around it, slowed down my touches and hit it far post.”
The score was back-breaking for Marmion, which came in looking for a share of the SCC title. A win over Wheaton Academy (17-3-1, 8-0) would have meant a three-way tie between the Warriors, Marmion and Marian Central.
Marmion can look squarely at Fletcher for being in the match. The sophomore made life incredibly difficult for Wheaton Academy, especially late in the second half with a trio of saves that came with less than 20 minutes to go, including a diving stop of a Casey Zimmerman shot with 15 minute to go.
“We had to withstand the pressure and we knew it was coming,” Marmion coach Ricky Del Toro said. “A good goalie has to show up when there is pressure and he made a lot of great saves which is what a goalie is supposed to do. Obviously with that much pressure at the end, we cracked.”
Wheaton Academy made several adjustments at halftime, stretching the field and banking on its own defense to stop any Marmion counter-attacks. The strategy worked to perfection as the Cadets didn’t register a shot in the second half while the Warriors peppered Fletcher, finally getting the go-ahead goal late.
“It thought like it was about to break but [Fletcher] was playing brilliantly; in the air, he got low a couple of times,” Wheaton Academy coach Jeff Brooke said. “Hardy just kept fighting and Ty kept working for us up top and Ty was obviously the one who slipped through.”
Wheaton Academy will enjoy the SCC title outright and look to return to the IHSA 2A state semifinals. The Warriors play the winner of the St. Francis-IMSA matchup Tuesday at the Glenbard South Regional.
Meanwhile, Marmion will take on Metea Valley at the IHSA 3A Metea Valley Regional on Tuesday.