AURORA – Forcing the issue as it has for much of the stretch run this season, the Batavia boys soccer team played aggressively to start Saturday's 3A Waubonsie Valley Regional final against the host Warriors.
Waubonsie Valley grabbed a quick two-goal lead, yet Batavia still had hopes of helping the Warriors surrender that advantage for the second time this week.
"Even at that point, we still had better opportunities," Bulldogs coach Mark Gianfrancesco said. "We just didn't finish our chances and had a hard time even generating some chances in the second half. I mean, we were up there, we were there, but just not rolling our way today and didn't put those balls away."
Batavia left for home with a season-ending 4-0 loss as a result.
Waubonsie Valley converted its early pressure into a pair of goals about three minutes apart, striking first when defender John Chapman flicked a ball high into the box and forward Casey Bucz fought through traffic and finished with 27:50 to go in the first half.
"I told myself I was going to go after every single ball today, so I just made an effort to go to it, no matter what," Bucz said. "Follow every ball. And luckily, some of them came up short of the goalie and I got to be there."
Waubonsie Valley (9-7-2) tallied again with 24:17 before halftime, once more getting the best of congestion in front of the goal as Michael Miller deflected a header off a Bucz corner kick.
Another Bucz-Miller collaboration all but sealed the match. With Batavia (16-4-2) fighting to clear, Miller snuck a low liner past Bulldogs goalkeeper Nick Foster from about 25 yards out on a Bucz assist.
Batavia entered play on a five-match winning streak since losing to Waubonsie Valley, 1-0, in the Warrior Invitational opener on Oct. 8.
"We knew we had a chance to win," said Bucz, who added his second goal of the match with just over five minutes to play. "We knew we could beat them because we beat them once, but we really wanted to come out here and play a complete game, so that's what we did today. When we do that, we're a good team like this, and we can win, 4-0, against good teams."
The Bulldogs lamented their share of squandered chances, including three successive corner kicks midway through the first half.
Some 10 minutes earlier, Ian Larson weaved just inside the 18-yard box and uncorked a piercing left-footer. The ball banged off traffic, and the Warriors cleared the zone.
Batavia otherwise struggled with its touch on the back ends of potential scoring chances. Forwards Joe Jorgenson (first half) and Kevin Collins (second) narrowly missed squaring up shots as they darted deep through the left side of the box.
"I could go through a ton," Gianfrancesco said. "It just wasn't our day today. It was their day, and they capitalized on their opportunities. And hence the score. That's what it is."
Batavia improved resoundingly on last season's 3-14-3 record while winning tournaments at Waubonsie Valley and Morton.
The Bulldogs defeated Plainfield South in penalty kicks Tuesday to advance to the program's first regional final since 2011.
"I think overall, we had a really good team. Executed in a lot of games, in a lot of tight situations," Gianfrancesco said. "It's always unfortunate to lose, but I think we've had a pretty good season to get here. So pretty pleased with that."