The No. 1 regional seed never wants to take its first opponent for granted. Playing your archrival helps.
"Anytime you have to play Wheaton Academy it's either absolute elation because you've won," said St. Francis coach Kristin Keigley, "or is complete heartbreak because you've lost. There is no middle ground when you play Wheaton Academy."
For St. Francis on Tuesday night, it was complete heartbreak, a 5-1 loss to Wheaton Academy in the Class 2A Glenbard South regional opener.
"St. Francis always brings a great bit of work and energy, just a great rival, so to draw them in the playoffs we knew it would be a tough game," Wheaton Academy coach Jeff Brooke said. "The guys got up for it. I thought we were able to move the ball well."
The Warriors (18-3-1) got the good start they wanted courtesy of a second-minute goal from defender Hunter Finnegan.
"We really wanted to start out strong in the playoffs, and we did that by putting the ball away tonight," Wheaton Academy senior Marshall West after a 5-1 victory against St. Francis. "A good night."
It was a good night for the Warriors' back line also in the Class 2A Glenbard South regional opener. In addition to Finnegan's goal, West scored a pair.
St. Francis kept the ballgame close through halftime, but forward Casey Zimmerman converted a long through ball from Sam Hardy in the 55th minute for a 2-0 Warriors lead.
"We were fighting for it," Brooke said. "We didn't want to become impatient. I thought we stayed patient, but obviously there comes a point where you want to get that second or third."
Before Wheaton Academy could get its third, St. Francis cut the lead in half. Nick Roehl's 20-yard free kick in the 55th minute forced a save from Wheaton Academy goalkeeper Drew Sezonov, but sophomore Keenan Corrigan was there to clean up the rebound.
"You could feel the rivalry there, you could feel the energy from them.," Brooke added.
"We were able to keep it close for a while," Keigley said. "Our team has a lot of sophomores, so we're young, we're small, we're inexperienced. They're all new to varsity, so it's something new to be able to play a regional."
West had the answer to the St. Francis goal. When Ty Seager was fouled in the St. Francis penalty area, West stepped up and buried the penalty kick in the 60th minute.
"No. 2 and No. 3 I thought were crucial," Brooke said of the goals that gave Wheaton Academy breathing room.
No. 4 came in the 64th minute when West turned and volleyed a shot from 18 yards out.
"He's been incredible this year," Brooke said. "He's got 8 goals because of little things like tonight on set pieces. He goes 9 and 10 tonight. Just proud of him."
Matthew Ruff made it 5-1 in the 76th minute with his goal.
"We were just starting to wear them down through 80 minutes because we knew that most teams can't hang with our speed up top," West said.
The Warriors will play either Glenbard South or Fenton at 4:30 p.m. Friday in the regional final.
Follow Orrin on Twitter @orrin_schwarz