A slow start to the season didn't detract from what Grayslake North's boys soccer team accomplished over the long run.
The Knights regained their collective health at the end of the season, which helped spur them to the program's first-ever boys soccer regional championship Saturday.
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The postseason run came to an end Wednesday, though.
Grayslake North gave its best effort but was stopped by Harvard 1-0 (3-2 in penalty kicks) in a Class 2A Grayslake Central sectional semifinal.
"Our expectations were right where we wanted them," Grayslake North coach Adam DeCaluwe said. "We just had some injuries early, and a couple players missed some time. We played a lot more sophomores, and it was a big learning curve.
"We were right there, but at the end we started to get everybody healthy. We found the right mix, got comfortable and our players started to believe in themselves."
The Knights (10-15) were in a scoreless tie with Harvard (17-5-2) before Grayslake North lost a player to a soft-red card (two yellow cards) in the 62nd minute and had to play the rest of the game with 10 players.
"Even down a man, we set out what we wanted to do," DeCaluwe said. "It's like, don't quit or shy off a man, because we're down a man. Keep fighting and play our game.
"I thought we created more chances than (Harvard) in the overtimes. We were right there. But in the end their keeper made some key saves. You can't be down on yourselves for missing PKs. The keeper saved those PKs. We had our chance."
Hornets keeper Gabriel Juarez made 3 outstanding diving stops in the shootout. Juarez, a senior, played defense during the game but moved into the goal for the PKs.
"Both teams played hard and you can't ask for much more than that," Harvard coach David Abel said. "When you get to this level, both teams play a quality game. We've been in those penalty kick situations in tournaments before. Hopefully, we were ready for it -- we were able to come out on top."