Boys soccer: Wheeling's hot start sinks Stevenson
Wheeling's boys soccer team delivered a blistering first-half attack, then survived a nervous second 40 minutes to defeat No. 13 seed Stevenson 4-1 on Tuesday night before a packed house in Lincolnshire.
The victory advances the fourth-seeded Wildcats (13-5-1) into a Class 3A regional final at 10 a.m. Saturday against the winner of Wednesday's Buffalo Grove-Warren matchup.
"We had a lot to play for tonight," said Wheeling senior Vicente Castro, who along with teammates Jared Urueta and Jose Mariscal administered the knock-out punches for the 'Cats. They had a hand in all four goals on the night, including the opener in the 18th minute.
"Stevenson came out and played hard -- they pressured us a lot and had most of the play until we scored our first goal off of a corner," said Castro, who hopes he and his teammates get another chance against Mid-Suburban East rival BG in the regional final.
"Yes, I thought we played real well in that first 20 minutes," said Stevenson coach Mark Schartner. "But Wheeling really has some great athletes who don't have to apologize for the way they attack, because it's very good."
Stevenson concludes it season with a 6-11-1 record under Schartner, who finished up his 31st season with 409 career victories.
Castro was on the end of a Mariscal corner to put the visitors on the scoreboard before Urueta scored the first of his 2 goals, with the assist coming from his midfield teammate Castro.
With the hosts' confidence dwindling, it took only five minutes for Wheeling to come up with a a third in the half. This one came from Mariscal, who made it 3-0 in the 27th minute.
"Three goals in the first half, with two of them dead-ball goals -- that's big, especially in the playoffs," said Wheeling coach Kevin Lennon.
Pats keeper Ethan Kalis, who'd been replaced in the 29th minute by Kyle Swanson to have an injured ankle treated, came back on for Schartner after the intermission. Immediately, Kalis made a statement with a magnificent point-blank save on a Phil Bucko attempt, and later another against Urueta.
Stevenson adapted by using a more expansive formation in the second period with the hope of pulling a goal back. But it took nearly 30 minutes to do so, when Steven O'Reilly thumped in his header at the back post in the 68th minute.
Early on, Kalis' counterpart Brian Arambula made an acrobatic save to deny a shot from Alem Duratovic.
The O'Reilly goal awakened the home crowd, and for the next half-dozen minutes the home side threw everything forward. Led by Matt Brickman, O'Reilly and Duratovic, Stevenson brought plenty of pressure. But Wheeling defended with all its might, and Urueta finished the Pats off with a brilliant goal in the 78th minute.
"Stevenson came at us hard at the start but we absorbed their pressure and then did a very good job of countering and attacking, while doing what we needed to do on the defensive end, led by Miguel (Rodriguez) one of our unsung heroes all season long," said Lennon.
Schnartner appreciated the energy, work rate and 80 minutes of emotion put forth by his team. He regretted only that better health was not in the cards for this year's team.
"Matt (Brinkman) played just 2½ games because of a stress fracture in his back, while Matt Randall went through the same injury, to go along with a handful of others who missed time," Schartner said. "So it became a patchwork roster and lineup for us all year. But in the end, the guys left it all out there tonight, and that's about all you can ask."