Boys soccer: No. 1 Naperville North ousts Batavia
Playing against the state's No. 1-ranked high school boys soccer team is a daunting task.
Batavia coach Mark Gianfrancesco knows the drill all too well.
"This is the third year in a row we've been knocked out by Naperville North," Gianfrancesco said after the Bulldogs' 3-0 loss to the 2-time defending Class 3A state champion Huskies in Tuesday's sectional semifinals at Geneva's Burgess Field.
"It's the fourth time in five years," added Gianfrancesco. "It doesn't matter if we get a high seed, low or middle, we end up seeing Naperville North. I need to see somebody else."
The top-seeded Huskies (22-0), winners of 31 straight matches, jumped on top early.
A long throw-in from Christian Romano caromed off the head of Colin Iverson and teammate Zach Smith headed the ball past Batavia keeper Jacob Mefford (14 saves) in the game's 12th minute.
"Getting the first goal kind of calms everyone down and allows us to manage the game," said Huskies coach Jim Konrad, whose team recorded its 19th shutout in 22 matches.
"We've been good all year defending so when we have a goal in the bank, then we know if we just do what we're supposed to do -- we're going to make it real hard for teams."
About 12 minutes later, the Huskies padded their lead on junior forward Ty Konrad's 14th foal of the season.
Konrad got the ball on the Huskies' side of the field and raced past the defense before depositing the ball into the back of the net.
"I saw some space and just dribbled down the field," said Ty.
"Ty made a special play going 65 yards to break it down," said the coach. "He's got world class speed and he's a special, special player."
Senior midfielder Jacob Vrankin capped the scoring when he converted off a centering pass from Patrick Koenig, making it 3-0 with 10 minutes remaining in the opening half.
"Who else is better right now?" Gianfrancesco asked of the nation's No. 1-ranked Huskies. Batavia's best offensive opportunity came moments after the Huskies' third goal when senior Joe Grendzinski's blast was punched over the crossbar by 6-foot-6 keeper Thomas Welch (10 saves).
"I thought the boys fought hard," said Gianfrancesco. "We had a couple possible chances. That was good."
With the win, the Huskies advance to Friday's 6 p.m. sectional championship clash against second-seeded West Aurora (18-3-1), which blanked Oswego 1-0 in the other sectional semifinal match.
"I wouldn't say pressure but there's definitely a target on our backs," said Ty Konrad. "It makes it fun though."
A total of 16 seniors played their final match for the 16th-seeded Bulldogs, who upset 15-win Oswego East and Lockport while claiming their first regional title in 3 years.
"Nobody expected anything out of them in the postseason," said Gianfrancesco. "It was a good run."