Boys soccer: Libertyville finds new level in shutout winner over Stevenson

 
By Rusty Silber
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 9/20/2016 10:53 PM
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  • Libertyville forward Ryan Wittenbrink, left, congratulates Evan Rasmussen on his goal along with Kenny Gallagher in the first half Tuesday against host Stevenson.

      Libertyville forward Ryan Wittenbrink, left, congratulates Evan Rasmussen on his goal along with Kenny Gallagher in the first half Tuesday against host Stevenson. Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

  • Stevenson goalie Ethan Kalis dives to block a shot attempt by Libertyville midfielder Evan Rasmussen on Tuesday at Stevenson.

      Stevenson goalie Ethan Kalis dives to block a shot attempt by Libertyville midfielder Evan Rasmussen on Tuesday at Stevenson. Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

  • Libertyville forward Ryan Wittenbrink, left, battles Stevenson defender Jack Allen for the ball on Tuesday at Stevenson. See story on Page 6.

      Libertyville forward Ryan Wittenbrink, left, battles Stevenson defender Jack Allen for the ball on Tuesday at Stevenson. See story on Page 6. Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

  • Libertyville midfielder Kenny Gallagher, left, battles Stevenson midfielder Jake Nunez for possession in the first half Tuesday at Stevenson.

      Libertyville midfielder Kenny Gallagher, left, battles Stevenson midfielder Jake Nunez for possession in the first half Tuesday at Stevenson. Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

Libertyville's boys soccer team has reached midseason form.

The Wildcats are working well together, and that's something they did last fall en route to winning the Class 3A state championship.

Libertyville shut out host Stevenson 4-0 in a North Suburban Conference battle in Lincolnshire on Tuesday night. Ryan Wittenbrink led the Wildcats (6-2, 3-0) with a goal and an assist. Evan Rasmussen, Kenny Gallagher and Austin Becker also scored.

Gallagher has switched from playing midfielder to striker.

"As the year has gone on, we've started to bond more and more," Gallagher said. "The chemistry is increasing. We always knew that we had it. It just took us some time to get into midseason form."

The Wildcats have won four straight games since opening the season by splitting four games in the Northside College Showcase tournament at New Trier. They also have won three straight in the NSC.

"We looked pretty good and looked composed the whole game," said Libertyville coach Andy Bitta, who recently returned to the sideline after an illness. "The game that I saw against Lake Forest, on film, we looked like we were out of position and didn't keep our form. This one, we started to play better as a team."

Rasmussen started the scoring in the 23rd minute after taking a pass from Wittenbrink, as he put the ball inside the far post.

Wittenbrink knocked in his seventh goal of the season on a penalty kick in the 38th minute after he was taken down in the penalty area.

The Wildcats added two more goals in the second half. Gallagher scored his first of the season in the 45th minute after taking a pass from Michael Quigley. Becker tallied in the 57th minute off a Riley Hoff assist.

"That's a really good (Libertyville) team," said Stevenson coach Mark Schartner, whose team dropped to 5-4-1 and 1-2 in the NSC. "Hats off to their athleticism. Even though they played so well last year, they are so much more organized. There were moments in that game where I was happy with our play, but you can't make a mistake. (Libertyville) made all good goals."

Vernon Hills 1, Maine East 0: The host Cougars moved to 8-5 overall and 2-1 in the Central Suburban League, as Stephen Auw scored the game-winner in the first half and Chris White picked up the assist.

Nick Burrows made 6 saves and recorded his second win in net in a row and first varsity shutout.

"I thought we came out very strong tonight and really had a ton of quality chances in front of goal, especially in the first half," Vernon Hills coach Mike McCaulou said. "I think if we convert some of those chances, we would have settled in much more in the second half.

"But Maine East continued to come at us and press us, which made for an interesting second half. It was a hard-fought game and it is always great to keep a clean sheet."

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