Boys soccer: Elgin Academy claims Class 1A regional title

In response to the question if Elgin Academy has ever won a regional championship in boys soccer, the Hilltoppers' Drew Wilmington quickly said, "Not in this decade."

Second-year coach Kevin Talbot wasn't certain and assumed such success came before Saturday's 3-0 victory over Class 1A regional host Genoa-Kingston.

If the IHSA website is accurate, the answer is "no."

Actually, that site's "Team Titles by school" indicates it's not just the first in boys soccer, but becomes Elgin Academy's third regional championship ever. The IHSA site is, as of Sept. 18, 2015, with the caveat "all schools that have submitted information."

Previous regional plaques for Elgin Academy were won for boys basketball in 1982-83 and girls basketball in 2009-10. Come Monday, school officials can clarify the extent of Saturday's historic win.

"This means so much, I've been attending EA since kindergarten and all through middle school to now, I'm not aware of (playoff) tournament wins," Wilmington added. "My freshman year, we were expecting to win a regional, but a key senior got hurt and it didn't happen. Since then, the program's been rebuilding."

Saturday's victory for Elgin Academy (8-6-1) was primarily built on defense and an opportunistic offense. Aside from the time Wilmington left the Cogs' crossbar vibrating from a missile blast 26:06 into the game, neither team came to close scoring.

Genoa-Kingston (11-8-2) was threatening when the Hilltoppers counterattacked and a foul on the Cogs led to a penalty kick opportunity with 17:40 left in regulation. Julian Romano converted for his team-high 18th goal of the year.

"I tried looking into the keeper's eyes and just made up mind where I was going to place it," Romano said.

The Hilltoppers immediately shifted to a defensive formation which left Romano alone past midfield for every kick toward the Cog goal.

"I don't mind being in that role because it means we're ahead and our chances get better whenever I can keep the ball at the opponent's end," Romano said.

There was 9:08 left when Genoa-Kingston's Tommy Hansen placed a textbook cross to Carson Riggs just 5 yards off the goal line, but Hilltopper keeper David Zuzevich would have earned Blackhawk announcer Pat Foley's emphatic "big save" credit. In total, the junior stopped all seven of the Cogs' shots on goal from among 14 overall attempts. Elgin Academy also had 14 tries with eight on target and three getting by Andrew Caldwell.

The second of those came with 8:19 to play as Armin Ward's sixth assist led to a Karl Rauschenberger strike from distance. Just under three minutes later, Rauschenberger added his 10th goal of the season thanks to Wilmington's 10th assist with 6:13 left.

"The first one I was trying for Romano on the far post but it bounced just right over their keeper and in," the senior tri-captain admitted. "The second I saw a small opening and when Drew got it to me, I tried to flick it with the outside of my right foot and it found the inside of the net.

"There's no feeling like that one knowing we were up three with six minutes," Rauschenberger said. "I had the biggest smile. Quite honestly I wasn't sure if we'd make it past the first round and sometimes we forget what we're capable of and give in to the idea that most other teams always overlook us."

"Perhaps being the underdog does help us," Zuzevich said after Elgin Academy's third shutout. "A shutout is just extra, I was only worried about getting the win and for us to finally get a regional title."

Elgin Academy advances to Tuesday's Aurora Central Catholic sectional at 4:30 p.m. against the winner of the Byron regional.

"I thought we outplayed them for the most part but they capitalized on the few mistakes we made. Six of our eight losses came from three schools, so I thought we had a successful season because we don't define success by just one game or one loss," said Genoa-Kingston coach Randy Tate, whose team lost a regional title game for the second straight year after a fourth-place showing in the 2013 state finals.

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