Larkin finally got its sectional championship.
Appearing in a boys soccer sectional for the eighth time in school history, the Royals broke through Saturday with a 1-0 victory against McHenry.
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Alex Cruz scored in the 46th minute as Larkin won the Class 3A Huntley sectional. The Royals will play Lake Park in the Bartlett supersectional at Streamwood's Millennium Field at 6 p.m. on Tuesday. Lake Park upset St. Charles East 1-0 Saturday to win the Schaumburg sectional.
"I'm going to be honest, we've had better teams," said longtime Larkin coach Ken Hall. "But I don't know if we've had a team with bigger heart. They wanted it, and they definitely gave it everything they had."
The Royals' secret isn't that complicated.
"We're like a family," said Gonsalo Garcia. "Every day we go to practice and we always work hard and did what we had to do. It pays off, man."
After a first half that was largely an extended feeling-out period, the Royals (12-10-4) began to push the ball up after the break. About five minutes in, Hector Mendoza drove it deep up the right side. He fired a cross to Cruz, who was waiting at the far corner of the net, and Cruz knocked it home from about 10 yards out.
Cruz admitted to getting a little concerned that the Royals couldn't break through despite controlling much of the play.
"I was worried, yeah, but you can't be thinking about that," he said. "You've got to think positive, be positive, and positive things will happen, hopefully."
Larkin's defense, led by Tito Velazquez, Griffen Perez, and Josh Garcia, kept the Warriors (13-9-3) away from the net all night. Indeed, McHenry never got a clean shot on goal.
The Warriors' best chance came in the late going when James Mulhall got loose on a breakaway. He bore down on Larkin goalkeeper Aldair Dominguez, but Dominguez got the angle and Mulhall's shot rolled harmlessly past the net.
The Royals had a couple more chances. Garcia had back-to-back shots midway through the second half, but McHenry keeper Frankie Valle made the save both times. But the Royals didn't need anymore goals, as the defense made Cruz's goal stand up.
"When you get to this point you're not playing bad teams," Hall said. "They're all good."
Mendoza summed it up succinctly: "We made history at Larkin."