Boys Soccer: St Edward captures regional title

Updated: October 12, 2012 8:32PM

St. Edward gained a two-goal lead with 25 minutes left and then cleared ball after ball to hang on for a 2-1 victory over IHSA Class 1A Regional host Westminster Christian.

For the second straight year, the lower-seeded Green Wave “upset” Westminster Christian on its home field and ended the Warriors’ season on a sour note. In 2011, St. Edward was the No. 3 seed and claimed its fourth win in 19 matches for a 5-2 semifinal defeat of then No. 2 Westminster.

As the No. 3 seed again, the 2012 Green Wave (10-12) beat No. 2 Elgin Academy before slipping past the top-seeded Warriors (11-4-1) for the regional plaque. The latest triumph avenged an early-season 2-1 loss to Westminster and gives St. Ed a season-high four-match win streak heading into Tuesday’s 4:30 p.m. semifinal of the Keith Country Day sectional against the victor of a Saturday regional final between Genoa-Kingston and Hiawatha.

“Holy wow,” St. Edward coach Tim Brieger said. “Every year it seams like we have close matches in the regular season and again in the post-season. Today, possibly the only place we won this contest was on the scoreboard.”

That’s because the 13-9 Westminster edge in overall attempts and seven-apiece shot-on-goal stats didn’t reflect how many times the St. Ed defense cleared dangerous attacks by the Warriors, who also had a 5-0 edge in second-half corner kicks.

Green Wave sophomore Joe French had a huge impact on the outcome, starting just 3:08 into the contest when he stole a ball at midfield and worked his way into the middle for a one-on-one with Warrior goalie Sam Carani. French tucked a nine-yard shot inside the right post.

“Once I was able to take the long ball away from their defender and got the 1-v-1 with the keeper, I just wanted to go far post and as soon as I struck it, I knew it was going in,” French said.

Even though there was just under 77 minutes still to go, Westminster coach Erik Schwartz deemed the play pivotal.

“What killed us was that early goal. We had a poor clearance and didn’t defend well enough, and that meant French was able to go back on defense and help them defend,” Schwartz said. “We had good opportunities, even trying to and getting more corners in the second half; but if you don’t convert opportunities into goals, you don’t win.”

St. Ed got another stellar chance when Carlos Moreno’s pass found Alex Semler in the clear for a 13-yarder from left of center for what became the match-winner.

“I knew my teammates were counting on me to score and when I saw an opening, I took it and it felt like the kind of solid kick that would get to the back of the net,” Semler added.

There was 17:25 left when St. Ed keeper Matt Hesch rushed out for a save only to have the ball spin from underneath him toward the goal. However, that’s when French raced in for one of the Green Wave’s many clearances.

“My only thought was kick it hard and away from our goal,” French said with a grin.

One of several well-served corner kicks by Nick Gnan came with 13:54 still to be played and Warrior scoring leader Tim Rodgers wasn’t to be denied leaping high enough for a strong three-yard header into the right corner.

“Even giving up that goal, I still felt pretty confident because I knew I could trust our defenders,” explained Hesch, whose preparation for the Warriors’ relentless attack came from the rugged Suburban Christian Conference slate of powerhouse programs like Wheaton Academy, Marmion and St. Francis. “It feels good to beat a rival like Westminster and even better to get a regional title.”

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