A Mitchell Lotko-inspired Rockford Boylan stormed into the 24th annual Barrington Classic finals after its impressive 3-0 win over Wheaton Warrenville South on Thursday afternoon at Barrington Community Park.
The Titans (3-2-1) will face the host Broncos (3-1-1), who late Thursday edged St. Charles North 1-0 in its final pool-play match of the week. Guy Callipari's club meets Crystal Lake South at 4 p.m. Saturday in its final tournament match of the week.
"I thought we had a very good opening 15-20 minutes, but after allowing that first goal, I feel like our confidence took a hit and we started to get away from playing the way (we) had (before) and struggled to find any consistency for long stretches," Callipari said.
"We played very well to open up today, maybe the best 20 minutes of our season thus far, but this is almost a brand-new team -- with seven sophomores -- several who are in our starting lineup, and it's going to take us a little time to sort things out while our younger guys get up to speed on the varsity level," said Tigers captain Thomas Kerby.
The match opened with the Tigers' Max Carey, Patrick Nielsen, Javier Rojas and Yusuf Yusuf all over the Titans, and it was the senior Carey who watched a golden chance to strike in the early stages turned away by Boylan goalkeeper David Rehak Suma, whose kick save turned away a sure goal at three minutes.
It continued to be one-way traffic for WW South after the Carey strike, but it was not sharp enough in the Titans' final third to put anything of quality on frame until Javier Rojas' right-footed blast forced Rehak Suma to save in the 12th minute.
After a nervous quarter hour of play, the Titans finally began to find its pace, and at 24 minutes, Lotko scored the first of his 3 goals when he redirected a header just under the woodwork following a long free kick sent in by teammate Tristan Davenport.
"This was our sixth game of a young season, and I thought we came out a little flat at the start, while Wheaton was so much quicker and sharper than us, and we really were very fortunate not to have them score on us just minutes into the game," said Boylan coach Chris Mera. "But we got ourselves back into the game (slowly), and after Mitchell's first goal, I could sense the team was feeding off of (him) and our confidence began to grow as the match went on."
Lotko struck twice within six minutes just after the hour mark, the first coming when he went under goalkeeper Timothy Reinders after working a nice 1-2 combination with Mauro Castro, with his third, an equally impressive strike -- yet another header -- this time with Alexis Galvez providing the helper.
"When we got down a goal, our whole attitude changed," Callipari said. "We all knew a draw would put us through and into the final, but we played so tight, and we rushed with everything we did, instead of just playing simple and easy, much like we did at the start of the game.
"But credit Boylan for a lot of that also. They targeted their big guy (Lotko) on those dead-ball opportunities and made them work for them on two of their goals."
Kerby got through and unleashed a point-blank drive on Rehak Suma, but the senior was up to the challenge and preserved his shutout.