Boys soccer: Timothy Christian tops Wheaton Academy on PKs to take 3rd at state
PEORIA -- Back-to-back state soccer championships wasn't in the cards for Wheaton Academy this weekend.
League rival Timothy Christian, meanwhile, had a hand in shuffling the deck.
Flipping last year's script in a couple of ways, the Trojans edged the defending champion Warriors 2-1 in a penalty kick shootout in the Class 1A state third place game Saturday afternoon at Eastside Centre.
"The only thing more difficult to win one (state) championship is to come back and do it again," admitted fourth-year Wheaton Academy coach Cody Snauffer just 24 hours after falling to Belleville Althoff in a reversal of the 2021 title game. "At the end of the day, things just didn't quite click."
Timothy Christian avenged not only a 2-1 Metro Suburban Conference Sept. 15 loss to Wheaton Academy, but last October's 6-1 setback to the Warriors in the state semifinals as well.
The Trojans also enjoyed being on the other side of a shootout after dropping one to Bloomington Central Catholic in last year's third place contest.
"We've been in shootouts. It's something we seriously work on since day one back in August, " fifth-year Timothy Christian head coach Joel Zielke said. "Our kids fought extremely hard and it's satisfying to see that hard work rewarded."
Tied 1-1 at the half, the teams battled through a scoreless second half in a back-and-forth pace that featured 16 total corner kicks.
Wheaton Academy got an initial stop and a goal by senior co-captain Caleb Mariotti to seemingly take early control of the best-of-5 shootout round.
However, Jake Firnsin, Cameron Baker and Marc Gamble, Jr., all strung together tallies for Timothy Christian while Wheaton Academy twice hit the crossbar ahead of Jakob Carlson's goal.
And when Connor Riddle's final shot sailed wide right, the Trojans were finally able to exhale.
"We know each other very well and we've always been back-and-forth with them," Zielke added. "We know they are a quality team and there's a lot of respect between the programs."
"It's a match we always look forward to," he said. "They're a great program with a quality coaching staff that plays the right way."
Senior co-captain Josh Mariotti gave Wheaton Academy a 1-0 lead at 23:23 in the first half when he poked in a rebound after Timothy Christian goalie Peter Buikema couldn't corral the loose ball after stopping the initial shot.
But Timothy Christian squared matters quickly when Caleb Hoekstra tallied from point blank range at 25:48 on an assist from Baker.
"I'm proud of our kids. They have played hard all season and just getting to state is a remarkable accomplishment," Snauffer said. "Having it end this way is both hard and frustrating."
It was the third time Wheaton Academy (15-6-3) has garnered a fourth place state trophy in program history, joining previous efforts in 2012 and 2013. The Warriors also have two third place showings (2005, 2017) in addition to championships in 2014 (2A) and last October.
Timothy Christian (17-10) added to its Final Four program resume that included titles in 2009 and 2015 as well as a pair of second place finishes (2008, 2014).