Metea Valley's lone goal in a 1-0 victory Tuesday night over Wheaton Warrenville South in the second Class 3A West Chicago sectional semifinal should have been a picture, put in a frame and mounted on a wall it was that perfect.
And seniors Evan Cudone and Jake Goehring would be right in the center of that image.
With just less than 18 minutes left in the game, Metea Valley sprinted down the field, catching WW South in a 4-on-2 situation. The Tigers' defense cleared the ball away.
But about 45 seconds later, Cudone was on the near side of the field and kicked it to Goehring, who put a head on it from around 20 yards out and watched it travel to the back of the net to put the Mustangs ahead.
"We crossed it initially. It bounced back and went to Evan. He put a great ball in and I got my head on it," Goehring said. "We've busted our butts. We knew we were a great team. At the beginning of the season, we struggled a bit. We want to make a run at state."
The eighth-seeded Mustangs (11-6-4) now take on top-seeded Naperville Central for the sectional title at 6 p.m. Friday. The Redhawks defeated West Aurora 2-0 in the first semifinal.
While Metea Valley shined on offense, the defense is equally responsible for the Mustangs being just two wins from the state semifinals.
With 11:19 remaining in the contest, the Mustangs were called for a hand ball in the penalty area. But the Tigers' effort was stopped by Metea Valley goalkeeper Gabe Gongora-Falla, who finished with 6 saves. The Tigers quickly pounced on the rebound, but Gongora-Falla stopped that too.
"I had seen the Naperville North game (a 2-1 shootout win by the Tigers in a Saturday regional final) on NCTV and knew he was going that way," Gongora-Falla said of the penalty kick. "It went down the middle and I let my leg out. I kicked at the rebound with my foot. It was a reaction save and I got it out."
The Tigers (13-9-2) kept the pressure on until the very end. Mitchell Cin raced with the ball and Gongora-Falla met him with just over nine minutes to play. The two collided, but Gongora-Falla grabbed the ball.
And with just 38 seconds left, Max Carey belted a 30-yard shot that forced the Metea goakeeper to make a diving save.
It was a satisfying accomplishment for the Mustangs, but it was tempered by an event that had happened in the early hours of Tuesday morning. The school is mourning the death of sophomore football player Devin Meadows, who was killed in a car accident.
"The kids came out and did something very difficult. Some kids were playing for him, some for the school. I'm extremely proud of how hard the kids played despite dealing with something very difficult for them," said Metea Valley coach Josh Robinson.
Tim Reinders made 7 saves in net for WW South.
"Give credit where credit is due. They whipped the ball with pace and executed the play perfectly," said WW South coach Guy Callipari. "We had our opportunities."