The snowflakes started to fall in the final seconds of the Class 3A Streamwood boys soccer regional semifinal between No. 1 Streamwood and No. 5 South Elgin.
As the final horn sounded Streamwood did, too.
An emotional and physical South Elgin pulled off one of the most surprising stunners in recent Fox Valley history Wednesday when it knocked off Streamwood 2-1 at Millennium Field to advance to Saturday's regional title game against Larkin Saturday at 3 p.m. Larkin upset previously unbeaten Dundee-Crown 1-0 in penalty kicks in Wednesday's second semifinal.
The Storm (9-9-2), who lost to the Sabres in the teams' first game the season 4-2, jumped out to a 2-goal cushion in the first half behind Kristoph Mikhail and Juan Carlos Lujan's goals. South Elgin, which celebrated with a student section near the north goal, staved off a late rally by Streamwood (15-3-3), which had attempts on the Storm's end in the final minute but ultimately was left in disbelief. Coming in, the Sabres had 7 consecutive shutouts in their final 8 games and 13 overall for the season.
Richard Groenewegen had 9 saves for the Storm and was instrumental in keeping Streamwood from tying the game as the Sabres put 13 shots on goal (13-6 advantage) but couldn't outduel a Storm team determined from the start to pull off the upset.
"We were definitely the underdogs and that's how we were last season, we weren't supposed to beat Addison Trail but we came up on top in that game but we proved ourselves," Mikhail said. "We just knew this game was ours all game, even though they scored that one goal, we knew this game was ours."
Mikhail's goal in the 14th minute realistically got the Storm's blood going when goalie Sergio Blanco came out to clear a ball that eventually went off Mikhail's chest. With Blanco out of position, Mikhail had a free goal in front of him and tapped it in for a 1-0 lead. Lujan one-timed a pass sent to the bottom right of the box from Gerardo Ramirez in the right corner with 6 minutes to go in the first half.
"We knew if it came down to the end (about scoring early) it'd be tough," South Elgin coach Nate Bowman said. "The fact that we scored two goals in the first half gave our guys that confidence saying 'hey, we're a different team we were the first game of the season' when we lost to them 4-2. This is a total different team and they started to believe that."
Streamwood, a defending regional champ, gave a valiant effort in the second half whereas South Elgin was noticeably unfocused and rattled trying to hold onto the lead. The Storm had two attempts to extend the lead but one shot hit the top of the crossbar and went over and one hit squarely on the bottom of the right post. South Elgin couldn't control possession as it did in the first half and Brian Benitez capitalized on a header from Christian Vences with 22:09 left in the match to make it 2-1.
"As a unit in the back we fell asleep a couple times and that was our crutch so to speak tonight. Our defense has been solid all season, that's what won us a lot of games," Sabres coach Matt Polovin said. "Two times, that's all it takes out of the season to fall asleep and it cost us."
"Sometimes with soccer it's not going to be your day and there's nothing you can do about it. It just wasn't meant to go our way. It's heartbreaking," Streamwood senior midfielder Nestor Ascencio said. "Sometimes things aren't going to go the way you want them to no matter how bad you try and the only thing you can do is leave your heart out on the field and even then, sometimes things aren't going to go the way you want them to."