Westminster Christian and St. Edward have always known for playing competitive battles decided by close decisions.
Friday afternoon's Class 1A Westminster Christian boys soccer regional final was no different as St. Edward (10-12) edged out Westminster Christian 2-1. The Green Wave rushed the field in their first regional title plaque since 2004 and just the second in program history.
Green Wave sophomore Joe French and freshman Alex Semler netted the goals for St. Edward (10-12), which will play the winner of today's Genoa-Kingston regional final between G-K and Kirkland Hiawatha in Tuesday's 4:30 p.m. Keith Country Day sectional semifinal in Rockford.
"This is the fourth time this year we've played (Westminster Christian) and it's never a blowout for either side," said St. Edward coach Tim Brieger. "We always have close battles with (Westminster Christian). We won only on the scoreboard, because (Westminster Christian) had a heck of a game."
St. Edward wasted no time in the first half as the Green Wave pick-pocketed a Westminster Christian player. French received the loose ball down the field and proceeded to bob and weave through the Warrior defensive unit and rocketed his shot from 6 yards out at the 35:41 minute mark.
However, other than the French goal, both defenses were stingy with points as both teams tallied only 3 shots on goal apiece. At halftime, St. Edward led 1-0.
"We had a long ball play and I ran straight forward," French said in regards to his goal. "I got the ball on a bounce that went my way. I was able to create a one-on-one with the keeper and put it away. It was really huge because we were talking about winning regionals all year. I'm really excited about sectionals."
St. Edward refrained from allowing a shot on goal in the first half. Brieger made the decision of moving French to the defensive side after he scored his goal. According to Brieger, the coaching decision to move French was to have a focus on Westminster Christian midfielder Tim Rodgers.
The second half showed Westminster Christian change to a 4-3-3 format in order to have more of a downfield advantage. The new format initially didn't pay off as St. Edward connected on its second goal. A cross from Green Wave freshman Carlos Moreno was sent to Semler, who kicked in what was ultimately the game-winning goal with 17: 25 left to play.
"It was a perfect pass into the middle and I had to get something on it," Semler said of his goal. "Our approach coming in was that we beat them last year, and we could do it again. It was a really good game."
Westminster Christian had chances to climb back into the game. The Warriors forced 6 corner kicks in the second half, and were able to score at the 13:54 mark. Westminster Christian senior Nick Gnan flew a perfect corner kick by the goal where Rodgers got a head on it and cut the deficit to 2-1. However, the Warriors would run out of time.
"What killed us was the early goal," said Westminster Christian coach Erik Schwartz. "We knew French was their guy. French got in there and poked it free and changed the game. We had plenty of opportunities in the second half to be able to do something. We worked together all season long. The season is a success because they grew as players."