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posted: 10/10/2012 10:18 PM

St. Edward crosses up Elgin Academy

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  • St. Edward's Alex Semler leaps into the arms of teammate Efrain Franco after scoring a goal on Elgin Academy in the first half of a Class 1A Westminster Christian regional semifinal on Wednesday.

       St. Edward's Alex Semler leaps into the arms of teammate Efrain Franco after scoring a goal on Elgin Academy in the first half of a Class 1A Westminster Christian regional semifinal on Wednesday.
    Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer

  • St. Edward's Johnny Shepherd tumbles as he and Elgin Academy's Billy Gracik battle for the ball in the first half on Wednesday.

       St. Edward's Johnny Shepherd tumbles as he and Elgin Academy's Billy Gracik battle for the ball in the first half on Wednesday.
    Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer

  • St. Edward's Johnny Shepherd and Elgin Academy's Tano Xayasarn fight for the ball in the first half on Wednesday, October 10.

       St. Edward's Johnny Shepherd and Elgin Academy's Tano Xayasarn fight for the ball in the first half on Wednesday, October 10.
    Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer

  • St. Edward's Austin Pfeiffer collides with Elgin Academy's Tano Xayasarn in the first half on Wednesday, October 10.

       St. Edward's Austin Pfeiffer collides with Elgin Academy's Tano Xayasarn in the first half on Wednesday, October 10.
    Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer

  • St. Edward's Johnny Shepherd tumbles as he and Elgin Academy's Billy Gracik battle for the ball in the first half on Wednesday, October 10.

       St. Edward's Johnny Shepherd tumbles as he and Elgin Academy's Billy Gracik battle for the ball in the first half on Wednesday, October 10.
    Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer

  • St. Edward's Johnny Shepherd collides with Elgin Academy's Billy Gracik in the first half on Wednesday, October 10.

       St. Edward's Johnny Shepherd collides with Elgin Academy's Billy Gracik in the first half on Wednesday, October 10.
    Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer

  • St. Edward's Johnny Shepherd celebrates his goal over Elgin Academy in the first half on Wednesday, October 10.

       St. Edward's Johnny Shepherd celebrates his goal over Elgin Academy in the first half on Wednesday, October 10.
    Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer

  • Elgin Academy's Billy Gracik, right, is congratulated by teammate Nate Johnson after scoring a goal over St. Edward in the first half on Wednesday, October 10.

       Elgin Academy's Billy Gracik, right, is congratulated by teammate Nate Johnson after scoring a goal over St. Edward in the first half on Wednesday, October 10.
    Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer

 

The Elgin Academy keeper simply had no chance.

St. Edward sophomore Joe French and senior Johnny Shepherd collaborated on a perfect cross moments before halftime for the Green Wave. Shepherd easily guided the flawless feed into the Elgin Academy net with two-plus minutes remaining before halftime of the schools' Class 1A Westminster Christian boys soccer regional semifinal on Wednesday.

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Coming only a few minutes after freshman Alex Semler scored off an Elgin Academy misplay, the 2-goal run in 2 minutes, 10 seconds was the difference as the Green Wave advanced to the Friday's championship game with a 4-2 win.

The third-seeded Green Wave (9-12), seeking their first regional title since 2004, will play host and No. 1 seed Westminster Christian at 4 p.m. Friday for a berth in the Keith Country Day sectional next Tuesday.

Elgin Academy, which dropped its second decision to St. Edward in less than a week, closed out its season at 6-4-4.

"(French) played that ball gorgeously," Shepherd said of the 20-yard cross that hit him perfectly in stride only feet from the Hilltoppers' goal. "All I had to do was touch it past the keeper. I didn't have to do anything on it."

"I saw Johnny working his way from the outside in," French said of his viewpoint of the goal.

St. Edward, which amassed 27 shots on the blustery afternoon in Elgin, was the undeniable aggressor for the first 20 minutes.

French engineered a key stretch in which the Green Wave peppered the Hilltoppers' keeper with four outstanding scoring chances. But the Green Wave could not solve the scoreless draw until French, off a feed from Shepherd, scored on a low runner to the right side of the Hilltoppers' goal 13-plus minutes into the contest.

French had at least three other quality chances to score in the ensuing minutes, only to have his opportunities slide by or be saved.

"That's been the story of my year," French said. "I need to finish my chances better."

With St. Edward seemingly in command, however, the caprices of the sport came to the forefront.

Elgin Academy senior Billy Gracik scored midway through the first half after intercepting a poor Green Wave clearing attempt close to the St. Edward goalmouth. The Hilltoppers' equalizer proved to be worth no blood, though, when Semler scored in virtually identical fashion with 4:30 to play before halftime for St. Edward.

"The mistakes (late) in the first half were killers," Elgin Academy coach Juan Silva said. "It was hard to come back from that."

But the Hilltoppers were not about to lay over in the second half.

The team, as St. Edward showed in the opening half, operating toward the south goal had a distinct advantage.

Due to a combination of reserve Elgin Academy keeper Nate Johnson making several quality saves and the Hilltoppers' downwind advantage, Elgin Academy pressed for a closer match.

Matt Hesch, the Green Wave keeper, had ideas of his own, four times saving goals with punch saves only inches from the crossbar.

St. Edward coach Tim Brieger was impressed with the Hilltoppers' play in the second half.

"They never quit," he said.

In the 69th minute, the Hilltoppers' resolve produced a new-look contest when Jonathon Shen scored on a rebound miss off the Green Wave left post.

Suddenly, the host of squandered Green Wave scoring chances to put the match out of reach became a central focus.

"We kind of packed it in," Brieger said.

Seventy-nine seconds after Shen halved the Hilltoppers' deficit, Eduardo Carachure was in point-blank range after Shepherd had his shot squirm through two EA defenders. The junior nearly fanned the ball with his off-foot, only to have the resulting shot die into the corner.

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