Larkin handles York
In Larkin's eyes, winning the Class 3A Schaumburg boys soccer regional semifinal sure has its perks. But you'd be surprised by how insignificant it is to the Royals' greater goal.
"Nothing," Royals coach Ken Hall said. "Regionals don't mean anything to our boys. We want more."
That confidence and assertiveness were on display in Larkin's quest for more as the Royals notched a 3-1 semifinal win over No. 16 seed York on Tuesday at Gary Scholz Stadium in Schaumburg.
Behind goals each from senior forwards Tony Hernandez and Erik Rodriguez, No. 3 seed Larkin (13-5-4) advanced to the regional final Saturday at 1 p.m. to face the winner of today's semifinal between No. 12 Schaumburg and No. 6 Proviso East.
And should the Royals be the winner of that game on Saturday, they could inch closer to a sectional final pairing with St. Charles East, presuming that Upstate Eight River champs advance, which is one of Larkin's goals.
"We lost conference to St. Charles East and they deserved it," Rodriguez said. "They're ranked No. 1 in the sectionals. We're hoping to play them in the final."
Hernandez agreed, saying: "That'll be nice. Get a little revenge. That'll be ideal."
Being their last season together, Hernandez and Rodriguez have learned to play with each other and their higher hopes reflect the team's as well. The tandem led by example as their scores were assisted by the other.
Hernandez gave Larkin the 1-0 lead in the 7th minute on a shot that sailed left over York goaltender David Quaglia, tucking just under the upper-left corner.
"I got a great pass from Erik," Hernandez said. "I was at an angle, I wasn't sure. I had less of a chance of scoring that way so I cut back and the defender felt for it, I was kind of free, I positioned the ball in the corner and it worked."
York (2-13-1) tied things up on a redirect from goalie Aldair Dominguez (4 saves) that Osmin Balderrama punched in in the 11th minute, but the Royals, who had some mental errors and a lot of square passes coaches were upset with, did control most of the game's possession and answered right back.
In the 16th minute, Michael Gomez headed one home that made it 2-1 Royals. Halftime seem to ease the Royals' 40 uncharacteristic minutes.
"The first half of the first playoff game is the most ragged half we'll play all year, it's just too much nervous energy, people going a lot faster," Hall said. "The usual halftime talk was 'calm down, and play your game.' It's just a lot of nerves and I think we settled in a lot better in the second half."
During the 58th minute Hernandez switched to midfield and found Rodriguez, who moving to his left from the right corner for the sweeping strike and exclamation point.
"You don't even have to scream out to him for the ball, you just make that eye contact and you just know he's going to make the run or he's going to make the run and the pass is going to be there," Rodriguez said. "We have confidence in each other."
It was an overwhelming task Dukes coach Roy Markus tried stopping but just couldn't.
"They did a number on us today, Markus said." Our guys played great and gave them very little room to play and they found that little room and still did a great job on us. Hats off to their team."
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