Naperville North cruised to a 4-0 win over Plainfield North, while Wheaton Warrenville South squeaked by Marmion 1-0 Tuesday in the Naperville North Regional semifinals of the Class 3A playoffs.
The Huskies and Tigers victories set up a rematch of DuPage Valley Conference foes in Saturday’s championship match at noon. Naperville North claimed a 4-1 win at WW South as the last victory in the Huskies’ previous six-match win streak. Naperville North, the No. 2 seed of the West Chicago Sectional, picked up its sixth straight win and improved to 15-3 on the year by blanking No. 15 Plainfield North (8-10-2).
The second semifinal was a much tighter battle as No. 6 seed WW South (12-8-2) kept compiling opportunities en route to finally getting the match-winner with 10:46 left in regulation to defeat the No. 10-seeded Cadets.
“They were playing a high trap and Javier (Rojas) made a great run to use the feed,” explained WW South co-captain Max Carey, whose through ball turned into a 12-yarder tucked inside the left post.
“It was a great pass and I saw the opening and was able to get one-on-one with the keeper,” Rojas said in regard to his sixth goal of the season. “He was a little more right so I just tried to go inside the left post.”
That strike capped a second-half surge in which the Tigers either shot wide or high on several occasions in compiling a 13-7 advantage in overall attempts and a 7-3 edge in shots on frame.
“We knew they were well-coached and that we’d have to work hard to break them down and our timing would have to be near perfect,” WW South coach Guy Callipari said. “Their keeper was pretty aggressive and sure-handed, so we reminded the guys at half not to play against the clock, just stay organized and know that we had a good game plan.”
WW South also had the benefit of playing in several tight contests having finished 4-2-1 over its last seven contests, all shutouts including the draw.
“In the second half, WW South proved to be more experienced and a little more skillful; it came down to a nice ball over the top and a good finish,” Marmion coach Ricky Del Toro said. “I thought the first half was a bit more even and both teams had their chances. Missing Jake (Hutchinson) was huge, especially for this type of game.”
The Marmion defender was sitting out as a result of red card from the Cadets’ season-ending 2-1 loss to Wheaton Academy, which decided the Suburban Christian Conference champion. That 2-1 loss snapped a 14-match unbeaten streak (12-0-2) for the Cadets, who ended the year 13-7-2. It also marked a first-round postseason exit in Marmion’s debut at Class 3A after having taken fourth place in the 2011 Class 2A finals.
“I’m very proud of this season since we had such a young team in contrast to last year,” Marmion senior Matt Switzer said. “The expectations weren’t very high and yet we were conference title contenders. And I think contenders even in this contest.”
With the opening semifinal just 39 seconds old, Naperville North had a Joe Sullivan header carom off the right post and out, but that set the offensive tone for the Huskies who got on the scoreboard just 11:37 in when Zach Peterson (third goal on season) tapped home a four-yarder near the left post off a cross by Grant Lesak.
“Every day in practice we work on scoring scenarios and it was just a far post run,” Peterson said. “It’s always a team effort collectively, I was just the one to be lucky enough to finish it.”
Two minutes later the hosts doubled their lead when Sullivan caught the defense unprepared as Neil Wiaranowski streaked into the middle for a goal from seven yards out.
“Sometimes getting such a good chance so early results in your guys taking the foot off the gas,” Naperville North coach Jay Konrad admitted. “Thankfully Zach broke the ice and then we got the second off the restart to give us a little cushion. We still needed that third goal because they had the wind with them and in the first half I saw them take some long blasts against the wind. Once we got the third, I felt a lot more comfortable because I figured it would take a lot to put three on the board against us.”
The Huskies added insurance in via two second-half goals to end Plainfield North’s three-match win streak. Sullivan slipped by a defender for a 12-yard strike from the left side which sailed inside the right post with 20:43 still to be played. While Naperville North fans hollered for a penalty kick, the Huskies’ Lesak gathered a loose ball and lasered a 19-yarder just inside the right post to make it 4-0.
It was the ninth shutout of the year for Naperville North, but the fourth consecutive for sophomore Christian Roberts, who came up from the JV unit midway through the season. It was also the Huskies’ 12th victory over their last 13 matches.