HOFFMAN ESTATES – Friday’s IHSA Class 2A boys soccer state semifinal with St. Ignatius took on a familiar feel for Wheaton Academy. Unfortunately for the Warriors, it ended with a familiar result.
For the second straight year, Wheaton Academy lost a state semifinal in a penalty-kick shootout. Last year, the Warriors made just one of three penalty kicks in a 2-1 loss to Peoria Notre Dame. This time, Wheaton Academy (22-4-1) converted on six of eight attempts, but the Wolfpack (19-5-2) made seven to come away with a 2-1 win.
“We didn’t perform well in [last year’s] shootout. I guess we’re getting better,” Wheaton Academy coach Jeff Brooke quipped. “We’re just not quite there.”
For the first 59 minutes of the match, it looked like the Warriors were there. They played better in the first half, putting five shots on goal to three for St. Ignatius.
Wheaton Academy defenders Zeb Lewis, Marshall West, Parker Setran and Daniel Bergquist did an outstanding job in the opening 40 minutes limiting the Wolfpack to long shots that were relatively easy saves for goalkeeper Drew Sezonov. Meanwhile, the Warriors created several good scoring chances that severely tested keeper John Marks.
“I feel we were lucky to get out of that half without having been scored on,” St. Ignatius coach James Luzzi said.
That luck for the Wolfpack ran out less than 10 minutes into the second half when a corner kick by Wheaton Academy junior midfielder Lucas Hoepner found the right foot of West, who drilled the ball into the right corner of the goal.
“Lucas Hoepner played a great ball in,” Brooke said. “We’d been going to the near post and he swung it in a little deeper and Marshall with just a clinical finish – volley to the window.”
St. Ignatius scored the equalizer 10 minutes later when Bryan Long laid out to get a head on a crossing pass from Marco Sanchez, and put it past Sezonov.
Sezonov was then called upon to make several tough saves down the stretch to send the game to overtime.
“I thought after they scored, emotion started to overtake us,” Lewis said. “Also fatigue started to set in. The combination of that made us not play defensively as well as we were.”
Wheaton Academy regrouped, however, and again had the better run of play in the two 10-minute overtime periods. Marks alertly made a save in the first overtime on a shot by Casey Zimmerman off a quick restart, and came up big again in the second overtime, making a solid save on a good, low shot by Ty Seager.
St. Ignatius did not put a shot on goal in either overtime, and Lewis said the Warriors were confident heading into their second semifinal shootout in as many years.
“It was literally the exact same situation as last year,” he said. “We were thinking, ‘This is our shootout. We’re gonna get this.’ That’s one of the best shootouts I’ve ever seen.”
The first three St. Ignatius shooters converted their penalty kicks, while West and Sam Hardy scored for Wheaton Academy. Marks made a save on a low shot by Seager to give the Wolfpack an advantage, but Sanchez immediately gave it back by missing the left post.
Bergquist and Zimmerman made good on their shots to send the shootout into sudden death.
The first three St. Ignatius shooters again all scored, as did Lewis and Hoepner, but Marks punched away an attempt from Grant Rougas to send the Wolfpack into Saturday’s championship match against Chicago Washington.
The Warriors will try to improve on last year’s fourth-place state finish in the third-place match against Rochester.
“That’s a helluva way to lose the game,” Luzzi said. “I feel extremely bad for Wheaton. They played their hearts out.”