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updated: 11/4/2017 11:36 PM

Boys soccer: In Class 3A finale, Libertyville falls just short

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  • Naperville North's Colin Iverson heads the ball into the goal with Libertyville's Evan Rasmussen defending for the only score in Saturday's Class 3A state championship game at Hoffman Estates.

      Naperville North's Colin Iverson heads the ball into the goal with Libertyville's Evan Rasmussen defending for the only score in Saturday's Class 3A state championship game at Hoffman Estates.
    Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Naperville North's Jack Barry consoles Libertyville's Ryan Wittenbrink after the Wildcats' 1-0 loss in the Class 3A boys soccer state championship game at Hoffman Estates.

      Naperville North's Jack Barry consoles Libertyville's Ryan Wittenbrink after the Wildcats' 1-0 loss in the Class 3A boys soccer state championship game at Hoffman Estates.
    Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

 
By Rusty Silber
Daily Herald Correspondent

Expectations were running high for Libertyville's boys soccer team heading into the Class 3A state championship game Saturday night.

A dense fog which lasted a little more than a half didn't clear things up much, as after the first half against Naperville North at Hoffman Estates High School, it was still scoreless.

The Wildcats seemed to have had the better of the play, after knocking the ball around and creating scoring chances, including a couple of shots off the post and another off the crossbar.

When the fog lifted a bit later in the second half, the Huskies got the clarity they were seeking.

Libertyville suffered its only loss of the season as Naperville North prevailed 1-0 to repeat as state champs. The Huskies finished 27-1-1.

The Wildcats (20-1-2) ended a great season in a tough way under first-year coach Kevin Thunholm.

"The post wasn't our friend, that's for sure," Thunholm said. "We hit it three times."

Thunhom also thought Naperville North goalie Tommy Welch was a key to the outcome. He stopped 11 shots.

"I thought their goalie was great, and credit to them for to that," said Thunholm. "We just didn't finish again. (Naperville North) had a goofy throw-in that went back post. Not sure who hit it in, but it went in and found the back of the net. It's the game of soccer. You dominate the whole game -- they get one goal and win. Credit to them. They played a great game."

The goal came in the 66th minute off a throw-in from Jack Barry that Colin Iverson finished with a head-flick.

The Wildcats fought hard the rest of the way, trying to push forward for a tying goal that proved elusive.

"We didn't quit," Thunholm said. "We're heartbroken right now, but we will realize that we left everything out there. I'm so proud, the community is so proud. It was our game. It's crazy that you can dominate 80 minutes, and someone bangs one in and they win. My juniors and sophomores here will learn something from it -- they watched this. It will get us a little more hungry for next year."

Indiana-bound Ryan Wittenbrink ended his storied Libertyville soccer career with an outstanding final year of 39 goals and 17 assists. He is clearly one of the best players in Lake County history, and perhaps in the state.

"It's tough, really tough, I'm kind of shocked right now," Wittenbrink said. "I thought we played pretty well. I thought (Naperville North) played pretty well too. It's heartbreaking, but I've played with these guys my whole life. We had our chances, but things didn't go our way.

"I'm proud of my career. Right now it's tough, but still proud of it."

Greg Krikorian was one of the Wildcats to have a shot hit the post in the first half.

"Overall it was a great season for us," Krikorian said. "We're all brothers out here and it means so much to even get here. It was a battle the entire way."

Naperville North figured that this matchup was going to be a tough one and was concerned about finding a way to score against a very good Libertyville team.

"I knew going in that we were the underdogs," Naperville North coach Jim Konrad said. "Libertyville was fantastic. They've got the firepower up top -- (Wittenbrink) going to Indiana, he's an absolute incredible player. We knew that we would be on our heels all game. We knew coming in that we would have to battle for 80 minutes."

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