Boys soccer: Naperville North steps up, shows it's Best
If there were any doubts that Naperville North wasn't still the boys soccer team to beat in the area this fall, the Huskies put the naysayers to rest on a busy Saturday.
After edging Benet in the morning to earn a spot in the Best of the West championship game, the Huskies proceeded to defeat Naperville Central 2-1 to win the title.
Both the Redwings and Redhawks had been undefeated. Not any longer.
"I think we knew we've got a good group and this morning and this afternoon they showed it," Huskies coach Jim Konrad said. "The guys that I needed to be great, who I've been disappointed with the first few games, really stepped up today."
Naperville North (3-2-2) broke the scoreless battle between the cross-town rivals with 33:31 remaining in the game when senior Ali Khorfan scored for the first time since his sophomore year.
"I've hit some in games before but hadn't had any luck like I did this one," he said. "I hit it; it hits a defender and goes in."
Khorfan, who also started last season, stole a failed clear attempt and hit in just inside the left post for a 1-0 advantage.
"People look at statistics and that's not all that matters," he said. "You've got to watch the game and see what player did what. I don't really care about the credit I receive. I do it for the team. I work hard for them. All I care about is winning and making my coaches and the fans happy."
The fans rooting on the Redhawks weren't just happy but probably downright ecstatic when sophomore Benjamin Tietjen scored on a 27-yard missile with 14:19 left tie things up at 1-1.
"He composed himself and you can hit those if you have enough composure," Redhawks coach Troy Adams said. "I don't think he tried to absolutely crush it. I think it's kind of like golf, those guys who hit the ball a mile aren't always 6-foot-3, 210. It's the form and the follow through and I think in that case, he had great form, great follow through, and put his foot through he ball and his body motion carried it through."
The game appeared destined for overtime, only to have that ending rewritten by a handball in the box with just 1:25 left.
"It's one of those things where the ball played the hand, and it wasn't even the hand," Adams said. "It was the elbow and against the body."
And while it proved to be a key play that resulted in the game-winning goal, the Huskies truly earned the win.
"North played better than we did tonight," Adams said. "I'm not going to take anything from that. They played better then we did. They played harder, they played stronger and they managed to get the ball in behind us, which causes us a lot of issues."
Konrad particularly praised the efforts of Nata Rojas, Cesar Recendez, Ty Konrad and Zach Smith, who converted the penalty kick from the handball to lift the Huskies to victory.
"Well, I mean, the first thought is well this is a storybook, this is what it comes down to," he said. "A huge moment, but the back of the net is all I really care about."
It was the fifth consecutive championship for the Huskies in the prestigious annual tournament.
"Definitely don't count us out," Smith said. "It's a process. We obviously struggled earlier this season. To come out this morning and beat Benet, who is a phenomenal team, and carry through to tonight, I definitely think we're getting back to what we're good at and the momentum is definitely going."