The best athletes are able to get the game to slow down.
Sometimes it even slows down right in front of them.
Waubonsie Valley's Noah Griffith could not believe what he saw when he was presented with the opportunity to pounce on a loose ball right in front of the goal during Tuesday's Class 3A Metea Valley sectional semifinal against Naperville North.
He certainly wasn't going to waste the chance.
Griffith's goal with 26:51 on the clock in the first half was the difference in a 1-0 Waubonsie Valley victory. It was the first sectional for the Warriors in eight years.
Back on Sept. 14 the Huskies beat the Warriors 1-0 on a Chris Ensign goal. They turned things around on Tuesday night.
"If you look at both games I would say they were about the same," Warriors coach Angelo DiBernardo said. "I guess out of the two, we won the right one."
It certainly was the right time for Griffith to deliver the night's biggest play.
"I just got a good touch on it," Griffith said. "I just saw the chance and tried to keep my composure and knock it in."
Waubonsie Valley (10-7-2) has picked the best time of the season to play its best soccer. The Warriors dropped two of their last three regular-season games to Metea Valley and Streamwood but have won three straight in the state series and will play Thursday for their first sectional title since 2001.
"I think they're buying into what we've been trying to convey with our system and are now finally seeing the rewards," DiBernardo said. "We always want them to bring the intensity level for the full 80 minutes, regardless if they're the better team or not and I think we had that urgency."
Jordan Ward recorded his second straight shutout.
"I just know that I have to do my best to keep the ball out of the net," he said. "I feel like I'm playing really well and my defense is helping me out a lot. I just got to continue to make sure the other team doesn't score we give ourselves opportunities."
Naperville North (12-7-2) won't have a chance to play for a sectional title and its seniors won't don the Huskies jersey again.
"It's always a hard feeling when your season ends," Huskies coach Steve Goletz said. "With so many seniors not getting to put on the North jersey again, you can only hope that the underclassmen see that feeling and get motivated for next year."