Boys soccer: Benet moves one win from a state title
Michael Rocco hasn't scored many goals this season, but the junior midfielder scored the only one Benet needed on Friday to earn a berth in Saturday's Class 2A championship game.
Rocco scored midway through the opening half and Nick Augustyn added an insurance goal as the Redwings rolled to their 19th shutout of the season, a 2-0 victory over St. Laurence in a state semifinal.
Benet (19-1-2) advanced to Saturday's championship game against defending state champion Crystal Lake South (20-4-4) at 1 p.m.
"We all kind of came together and we worked as 11," Benet junior Hans Haenicke said. "We didn't work as four in back or three in the middle or three up top, but we worked as 11. That's why we've gone so far because we've just got such great chemistry as a team and we want to go all the way. We've said that since the beginning of the season so we'll see what happens."
While McVey's bid for his 19th goal of the season was denied, Rocco was there to finish it for the 1-0 advantage.
"I was just working hard and doing what coach (Sean Wesley) told me to do," Rocco said, "and that was to follow back post after a shot and it happened to come right to me and I scored."
The Redwings had been pushing hard, creating opportunities early on, but St. Laurence was stingy, hanging tough in denying them before Rocco broke through.
"We kept pressing," McVey said. "Good things are going to happen when you do that. We just kept getting chances so we knew we'd eventually get one."
St. Laurence (19-5-1) was the latest team to be blanked by a Benet team that simply doesn't give up goals often and hasn't allowed one in the postseason.
"They play really good team defense," Vikings coach Kyle Boekeloo said. "We told the boys that they're going to be on your first touch so we need to get open even faster and when they press, get rid of the ball. They did a really good job of doing what they do and made us force some things."
The Redwings have won seven games by 1-0 and 2-0 scores, so they know if they can get a single goal, they have a great chance of winning.
"We've been good in the back all year and it just added pressure and anxiety to the other team," Wesley said. "I thought against Peoria Notre Dame (a 2-0 supersectional victory) when we went up early, they started pressing and trying to find a goal knowing we're good in back and I think the same thing happened today where they're pressing and maybe making choices they wouldn't normally make."
With just under seven minutes left in the first half. Augustyn struck with his eighth goal of the season to extend Benet's lead to 2-0.
"We talk about making chances out of nothing and that was one where you just got to anticipate," he said. "Sometimes it drops and sometimes it doesn't, but you've got to take your chances."
Nick Renfro was a starter on the 2016 Benet team that took third place in the state and Tom Miskin was on the roster. Regardless, playing for a state championship will be a new experience for the Redwings. The Gators will look to win their second straight behind the incredible play of Alex Canfield.
"He's amazing and we'll need a collective effort to stop him," Wesley said. "I think if we can play great team defense and make wise choices with the ball in the back we can hopefully limit his chances. If we do that, we have a chance."