The Larkin boys soccer team may have been wetter than a surfer riding a Tsunami Wednesday night due to the heavy rains falling in Huntley, but the benefit for the Royals scoring early this time around was that they didn't have to stay out any longer than regulation, contrary to last week.
Finally getting things done in 80 minutes instead of going to penalty kicks for the third-straight game, the rain-soaked Royals received a goal each from Hector Mendoza and Pancho Garcia in the first half to move past Hononegah 2-0 in a Class 3A Huntley sectional semifinal.
Last season Larkin lost to Upstate Eight rival St. Charles East in the York sectional final 8-1 but this year the Royals (11-10-4) advance to the sectional final on the Huntley turf to face McHenry, a 2-1 PK winner over DeKalb in Wednesday's second semifinal, at 5 p.m. Saturday.
Playing in the eighth sectional tournament in program history, the Royals will be seeking their first sectional championship.
Scoring early put the Royals in good position as Larkin outshot the Indians 6-5 in the first half while Aldair Dominguez earned a shutout on 4 saves, giving Hononegah (16-4-2) its first goose egg of the year.
"We had a good jump in the first half," Royals coach Ken Hall said. "We were moving the ball well, we were moving ourselves well getting to open spots.
"We have a tendency to dribble too much and I've been yelling all year to shoot, shoot, shoot and Hector did and got the keeper off a little bit there. We were real happy, and Diego make a nice move to get the second goal."
Mendoza scored in the 5th minute on a free kick from 35 yards over goalie Henry Reynolds that sailed into the back of the net near the upper-right post.
Garcia's was set up in the 20th minute by midfielder Diego Ramirez, who was able to poke it free in the midfield 40 yards out. Garcia, who broke through a few Hononegah defenders, was able to catch up and put a shot on goal 15 feet away.
"Every time I get the ball they always step, there were two guys stepping and I knew having the ball, I made a run off it and it happened to be there," said Garcia, who was happy to see his team score early this time around. "It's really important because then in the second half you can just lay back more and still pressure."
It took a load off Dominguez, who had been saving the Royals in extra time of late. But with Larkin playing a little more relaxed in the second half up 2-0, the Royals just cleared the ball out to preserve the lead, whole Hononegah put on some pressure. The Indians outshot the Royals 5-3, including two that went wide of the left post in a 5-minute span in the final 30 minutes and a shot Dominguez had to dive to his right to stop in the 63rd minute.
"As time went we realized they were going to put pressure on us and the only way to alleviate that would be to get it out so it just turned that way," Hall said.
"I feel we played too much back and we stopped pressuring, since we were up two we were overconfident," Garcia said.
Hononegah coach Vee Jevremovic was impressed by Larkin's pressure.
"They were up so they wanted to preserve the lead so we changed our formation up to a 3-5-2 and wanted to put more pressure on them. We felt they were controlling the midfield a little bit more and wanted to take that back," he said. "They made some great saves, phenomenal saves, defenders played tough and made two mistakes early and never could come back. They attacked in numbers, attacked as a unit which was key, and we didn't do that."