Jackson Owens sealed a Mid-State Soccer Tournament championsip for St. Viator with a dramatic 80th-minute goal Saturday night against West Chicago on the turf at Celtic Park in Palatine.
With overtime staring both clubs straight in the eye, the senior made space for his shot on an angled run down the right side before crashing a low blast past keeper Paolino Mansera, who was fully extended to his left, just moments before the match was whistled over.
"It was just a great game to end some great soccer played here during the past two days," said St. Viator coach Mike Taylor. "West Chicago might be the most skilled, technical team you're going to see this year. For us, we found that we can play at their speed and win an important game when we have to."
The tourney hosts advanced into the final following victories over Wheaton North on Friday, then Wheaton Academy (3-2) earlier Saturday. The Wildcats (12-4-3) edged Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin in PKs before dispatching Evanston 2-1 on Friday. The Wildkits stunned Mid-Suburban League leader Palatine in PK's on Saturday.
"We won't hang our heads after this loss," said West Chicago coach Jose Villa. "St. Viator is a great 2A team, and this tournament is filled with some great teams which play a variety of styles. After playing three tough opponents in two days, we might be a little tired, but I really feel that everyone on this team feels we can compete with just about anyone."
The Lions (12-1-3) found themselves having to do all of the defending in the early exchanges. West Chicago senior midfielder and captain Diego Munoz and teammates Steven Porcayo, Jerry Medina, Jenaro Terrazas and Edgardo Alcantar each passed with ease, using speed and the full playing surface to help keep the Lions in their own end.
"They were so dangerous with the speed of play in their possession, but we finally settled in and began to mark them a little closer, and took away a lot of space that we were giving away early on," said senior Michael Duszynski, one of three new St. Viator starting defenders who have joined veteran Troy Wheeler.
Wheeler got inside to head a close-range shot off the frame following a Spencer Moore serve in the 25th minute. Minutes earlier, Mansera, who produced a handful of brilliant saves, stopped Moore twice within seconds. The first save came on a redirected smash; the second came as Moore attempted to score at the near post.
"Paolino had a terrific game for us and saved us a couple of times with big stops," said Villa.
The Lions seemed like a different team after the half-hour, and continued to push the attack through Moore and the midfield duo of Kevin Klingenberg and Ross Randon. The East Suburban Catholic Conference leaders came out flying after the break, and in the first quarter-hour of the second period, the Lions created several nervous moments for West Chicago.
"We went through a little period in the second half when maybe we were tired from 160 minutes of soccer for the day, and we struggled during that time before coming alive in the final 15 minutes to really put the pressure on them," said Munoz.
Munoz rattled the bar with a shot of his own, then watched Terrazas and Alcantar get close before Wheeler's header went off the bar in the 78th minute.
Owens, with a burst of speed, broke free of his marker before hitting the game-winner to avert OT.
"I was thinking about playing the ball to Spencer, but I saw a small opening and just let my shot go," said Owens.