Boys soccer: St. Edward advances to sectional final
St. Edward's boys soccer team has a tough act to follow -- in more ways than one.
For starters, the Green Wave are taking the field this fall after last year's team finished third in the Class 1A state tournament, setting a school record with 27 wins.
They are doing a pretty good job of it, playing Stillman Valley on Wednesday in the Class 1A Genoa-Kingston sectional semifinals.
Which brings us to another tough act to follow, the two goals St. Edward scored in the first minute of its previous game in the regional championship.
St. Edward didn't strike that quickly again. Stillman Valley kept it a scoreless game for 30 minutes.
But the Green Wave eventually broke through, and once they did they didn't stop.
Zach Olenek put the first goal in with 6:13 left in the first half, Josh Johansen struck three minutes later and St. Edward added two more goals in the second half for a 4-0 victory.
"We had tons of shots, we had the majority of possession. We just couldn't really finish," Olenek said of the first 30 minutes. "We were coming off easier teams. Playing a more challenging team that's why it took a little bit but once we got that first goal it kind of rolled from there. It just kept rolling and rolling and rolling."
St. Edward improved to 21-1-1. Wheaton Academy is the only team to beat the Green Wave who also tied Decatur St. Teresa.
That came after a 27-2 season a year ago when the Green Wave lost 2-0 to Monmouth-Roseville in the state semifinals.
"We might have lost A.J. (Franklin, who scored 70 goals) our big-time player but I think last year to this year we have grown a lot more as a team," Olenek said. "Working together more on passes. We're not so much of a one-player type of team. We're like every single person, multiple people on our team have multiple goals."
Johansen is the team scoring leader this year. His two goals Wednesday give him 31 on the season.
"We came out a little bit slow, we didn't come out with the same intensity we did the previous game," Johansen said. "In the future we just have to come out with that kind of intensity early. This game we had to work a little more."
Stillman Valley (14-6-1) made St. Edward keeper Evan Sajtar (6 saves) make a couple stops in the early going though none were particularly high-percentage shots.
St. Edward used its speed and foot skills to gradually take more and more control of possession.
"Most of their stuff was long range early on," St. Edward coach Tim Brieger said. "I said, 'Let's just keep them on their heels and not let them get on their game.' We talked about keep the ball moving and not let them one-on-one muscle us. They are very disciplined. We couldn't find a lane. Once we got our feet under us I thought we were OK."
Olenek scored his goal -- his seventh of the season -- when a ball ricocheted to him in the box and he toe-tapped it in.
"I just settled it down and poked it right in," Olenek said.
Johansen made it 2-0 at halftime when Jackson Godfrey's shot was deflected and came right to him, and he blasted the ball in.
Johansen also scored the first goal of the second half on an assist by Chase Brieger before Carlos Ibarra capped the scoring with 18 minutes remaining.
"They are a very talented team, and they are a well trained team too," Stillman Valley coach Brian Frank said. "They have more talent per position than we do there's no question about that. We did the best we possibly could, we gave everything we had. They kept fighting all the way to the end."
St. Edward will play Rockford Christian at 3 p.m. Saturday for the sectional championship. The teams played earlier this season with the Green Wave winning 2-0.
"It's going to be a heck of a matchup,' Brieger said. "It's going to be anybody's game."