The Class 3A boys state soccer championship could turn into a dream rematch for the DuPage Valley Conference.
Not so fast, though. It'll take a pair of victories Friday evening to make that happen.
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Lake Park (21-2-3) faces Wheeling (22-1-2) at 5 p.m. in Class 3A semifinal at Hoffman Estates. It's the first state berth for both schools and will offer a clash between all-staters, Mike Catalano of the Lancers and Jose Garcia of the Wildcats.
"We'll find out more about (Garcia) at these next practices," Lake Park senior Joe Keane said. "We know he's very good and has 27 goals this year, so he's very dangerous."
Garcia likes to be in the center of the action, so the Lancers will try to turn him into a bystander, which won't be easy.
"They're the type of team that doesn't like to possess long but likes to find the kid up top," Lancers coach Tony Passi said. "We need to break that link, like we did against Elk Grove and St. Charles East, and control the midfield."
The nightcap features Naperville Central (17-2-2) against Edwardsville. The Tigers are making their first appearance since their three-year run from 2008-2010. The Redhawks equaled the Tigers' run with their third straight trip to state.
"The great thing is all 24 kids we have with us right now are buying into what we're trying to accomplish," Redhawks coach Troy Adams said. "As long as we play as a 'we' group we're good to go."
The Redhawks shut down a very good Morton team on Tuesday. On Friday they'll need to keep all-stater Brent Heinlen and all-sectional Landon Paul from being able to finish or feed opportunities to his teammates. Josh Kowalis leads a strong back line.
While the Redhawks relied on the one-man scoring machine of Pat Flynn last fall, this year they're getting goals from a collective group of guys. Jordi Heeneman leads the team with 13 scores, but Devon Amoo-Mensah, Ben Border, Sam Reskala and Jay Tegge have each scored at least 7.
Given little time to review film of their foe, the Redhawks are focusing on what they need to do, although they have working knowledge of Edwardsville's desire to play quick and the fact that they produce on restarts.
"Sometimes those little things make the difference and who doesn't execute doesn't move on," Adams said. "We met after practice (Wednesday) and reiterated what we still believe we need to do."
In Class 2A there's no doubt that the time is now for Wheaton Academy. The Warriors are on a mission. Last year they lost to Peoria Notre Dame in the title game on PKs. This year they ended Peoria Notre Dame's season with a 2-0 victory on Tuesday.
After placing fourth last year, the Warriors are now poised for their most successful season in program history. A win Friday means they'll establish a record for wins in the season as well as a second place or championship. They've never finished better than third place.
"We have a great group of guys who are playing to the best of their ability," Wheaton Academy's Casey Zimmerman said. "I could never ask any more of them."
St. Ignatius (18-5-2) is making its first true state appearance in program history and looking to wound the Warriors behind Bryan Long and Marco Sanchez.
"The kids are very excited and playing well," St. Ignatius coach Jim Luzzi said. "We are excited to see what we can do against a Wheaton Academy program that's consistently good."