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updated: 8/31/2013 5:20 PM

A first for Wheeling: Glenbrook South title

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By Mike Garofola
Daily Herald Correspondent

Wheeling denied defending state champion Warren the chance at winning the 28th annual Glenbrook South Titans Invite early Saturday.

As a result, the Wildcats eventually got to hoist some hardware themselves.

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After using a 1-1 draw with the Blue Devils (2-1-0) in their final pool play match to earn a spot in the final, the Wildcats (4-0-0) used goals from Luis Herrera and Elias Cisneros and stout defending from Nathan Laude, Alfredo Rocha and Fabian Acosta to shut out Stevenson 2-0 and capture the first Glenbrook South title in the program's history.

"I am very proud of these guys," said Wheeling coach Ed Uhrik, whose team improved to 4-0. "We had several of our guys begin to cramp up in that second half, but our bench came through when we needed them to, and even though winning the tournament is good stuff for us, the fact that we've allowed just 1 goal thus far is the best news of all to me."

The Wildcats' biggest early season test came at 8 a.m., and although the Blue Devils lost several standouts from last year's championship team, including Daniel Szczepanek (Marquette), Warren still features skilled returing players, many having played important minutes last season for coach Jason Ahonen and assistant Doogie Clark.

"I know in some preseason polls we've been picked (No. 1)," said Ahonen, "and although we like a lot of what we have, you have to remember we lost some terrific players and 60-plus goals from that group. That's just not easy to replace."

Most of the early action went through Wheeling senior midfielder Jose Garcia, or his counterpart, Jin Kwon, who put on a nice battle for fans, especially in the first period.

Neither side manufactured quality chances in the final third in the first half, but it didn't take long for the Wildcats to do so after intermission.

Garcia rattled the post after a nice build-up two minutes into the second half. Moments later, the Cats captain put Herrera through, but his attempt to chip Blue Devils keeper RJ Hill went over the bar.

Garcia sent a low drive past Hill five minutes later after Frank Estrada exposed the Blue Devils on the left side. But the lead lasted only a short while as Michael Robinson buried a short-range drive.

Wheeling enjoyed the run of play the rest of the way, but was unable to put another into the back of the net, instead holding on to the draw. That was good enough to ensure a spot in the final.

"This was a very good test for us, and a great chance to see where we stand with one of the best, and I feel the team did very well overall," said Garcia.

"Wheeling is a good club, with some very good attacking ability and players," said Ahonen. "They're fit, and have a good work rate and should do well. For us, it wasn't one of our better efforts, but we've got a lot of time to get things sorted out."

The Blue Devils later defeated the host Titans 2-0 in the third-place match.

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