For more than 70 minutes Tuesday night in DeKalb, Wheaton Academy alternated between trying to protect a slim lead and trying to expand it.
By the time the Warriors found the second goal in their 2-0 victory against Peoria Notre Dame in a Class 2A supersectional, it almost didn't even matter.
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"With a 1-0 lead it got a little bit frustrating because we wanted to put them away and make sure that we had a safety blanket the rest of the way," Warriors senior Casey Zimmerman said. "But we followed through and the defense did what they needed to do."
"We were looking for No. 2, whether it be in the first half when we had the wind," Warriors coach Jeff Brooke added. "Against the wind we actually had some balls hanging up and we could run onto them. Ty (Seager) almost poked that one in that bounced off the post. I'm proud of Sam Hardy for how he attacked in the final third tonight. The combination of those two guys working hard with our wingers usually creates good chances."
With the wind at its back in the first half while it attacked the north goal, Wheaton Academy attacked vigorously. It paid off in the seventh minute when Sam Hardy was fouled just inside the penalty area, and Marshall West stepped up and buried the penalty kick for a 1-0 Warriors lead.
"We gave up the penalty-kick goal, which was kind of frustrating," Peoria Notre Dame coach Mike Bare said. "That was the goal we were chasing the whole game off of the penalty."
Wheaton Academy (22-3-1) outshot the Irish 9-3 in the first half, but the key to the game might have been one of those three Peoria Notre Dame shots. Both coaches remembered it well because of the save Warriors goalkeeper Drew Sezonov made.
"He had a huge save at the end of the first half," Warriors coach Jeff Brooke said. "They had some nice combination play off the left wing, slotted the ball, it was a good strike and Sez's reaction time was brilliant on it. In a game like this you're asking your GK to make every save he should, plus one. He got us one, and that's why we're moving on. I'm proud of him."
Sezonov made 7 saves in the game.
"We generated some great chances," Bare added. "The keeper made a great reaction save late in the half, otherwise I think we come in 1-1."
The Irish (17-6-4) increased their attack in the second half but still couldn't outshoot the Warriors, who had an 11-6 edge.
"We wanted to try and play our style," Brooke said. "I think both coaches would probably say the ball was up in the air a lot because of the win, so when you could get it on the ground it was that much more noticeable, and I was proud of our guys for remaining committed to it."
Seager finally found the comfort goal the Warriors had long sought with just 16.5 seconds to go, beating three defenders to send Wheaton Academy into Friday's 11 a.m. state semifinal at Hoffman Estates High School against St. Ignatius (18-5-2).
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