Ian Larson has had many game-winning goals for Batavia this fall.
During Tuesday's Class 3A Waubonsie Valley regional semifinal though, it was Larson's teammates that came through big-time during a shootout.
The Bulldogs converted five straight consecutive penalty kicks to lift the Bulldogs to a 2-1 victory over Plainfield South. They advance to Saturday's regional championship at 3 p.m. against Waubonsie Valley.
“The five shooters stepped up and finished theirs,” Bulldogs coach Mark Gianfrancesco said. “All Nick (Foster) had to save was one and he saved it. Plainfield South gave us a heck of game and we thought they would. It wasn't a surprise.”
Batavia (16-3-2) took a 1-0 lead in the first half on Larson's goal in the 20th minute. The Bulldogs created a handful of other solid opportunities to extend their lead, but were unable to deliver and allowed the Cougars to remain within striking distance.
“We had a couple opportunities in the first half to get up a couple goals and didn't finish those chances and that gave (Plainfield South) life,” Gianfrancesco said. “Unfortunately it was a bit of struggle then, but we've been preaching all year mental toughness, no matter the conditions or what the score is and the boys have come through every time.”
Conditions were far from pristine with the grass field wet from showers earlier the day and temperature in the low 40s.
Plainfield South (6-12-3) drew even at 1-1 in the 45th minute on a Michael Decker cross to Julian Tejada.
“Just a mental lapse, but we kept fighting hard,” Larson said. “Our back line though, you have to give a lot of credit. They just stayed in the game and didn't let up a bunch of mistakes. They battled hard.”
Neither team created much in the first overtime but the Bulldogs were able to get a couple of solid attempts on goal in the second overtime from Brendan Allen and John Barnes, but they were both denied.
Barnes, Allen, Nick Konopacki and Kevin Collins converted four consecutive penalty kicks in the shootout, while the Cougars missed one of their first four attempts to set the stage for Batavia senior David Curnock who delivered the game-winner.
It proved to be a huge finish for the Bulldogs who missed out on a chance to take the lead in regulation when Larson's penalty kick attempt in the final 15 minutes sailed over the goal.
“I'm happy and really proud of the give guys that stepped up,” Larson said. “I knew they'd do well. We practiced PKs in training, so yeah, a lot of us knew we would win this.”Copyright © 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.