With the chance for its first team state title in more than 15 years on the line, students and teachers at Wheeling High School are wishing the boys soccer team good luck in the championship game Saturday.
Shirts reading "Vamos Gatos" -- or "Go Cats!" -- could be seen around the school Friday, and a festive drum line at 2:30 p.m. sent the team off in style.
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"The school is so excited, this is amazing for them. You can just feel it in the halls," said Principal Angela Sisi.
"This team is just a group of the nicest kids you could meet," she said. "They are so humble, they don't like to talk about the attention they re getting, but they are just happy to have the fans support around them."
All their support paid off as Wheeling defeated Lake Park High School 3-0 Friday in the Class 3A semifinals at Hoffman Estates High School.
They will play for the state championship at 7 p.m. Saturday.
Many students at Wheeling work after-school jobs or have family obligations that get in the way of practice, but this year the soccer team was determined to find a way, Sisis said.
"The players realized they had something special so they all worked to make sure their jobs could be scheduled around practice," she said.
The last athletic state championship for Wheeling High School was the boy's cross country team in 1998.
Before that, the powerful girl's cross country program won titles in 1979, 1983, 1984 and 1986.
Win or lose today, Wheeling High School will celebrate the soccer team's trip to the state finals with a pep rally Tuesday.
"Wheeling is family and the support these students are giving each other has been great," Sisi said.