Boys Soccer: West Aurora upsets Neuqua ValleyNeuqua Valley's Jimmy Kotowski intercepts an West Aurora pass meant for Zak Flynn on Tuesday, October 16, 2012 at Neuqua Valley High School in Naperville IL. | Terence Guider-Shaw~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 16, 2012 9:10PM
West Aurora midfielder Juan Cerda had to run two miles Monday as punishment for missing a penalty kick during practice.
But the senior made sure he didn’t miss when it really counted Tuesday during the opening round of the state playoffs. Cerda drilled a penalty kick under the crossbar with 16:11 left in the second half and the Blackhawks made it stand up for a 1-0 upset of host Neuqua Valley in a Class 3A regional semifinal in Naperville.
West Aurora, the 13th seed at the West Chicago Sectional, will be shooting for just its second regional championship on Saturday when it faces the winner of Wednesday’s semifinal between No. 5 East Aurora and No. 12 Plainfield Central.
Cerda got his chance when teammate Nay Sirr was fouled in the penalty area while attacking against the wind. West Aurora coach Joe Sustersic never hesitated in letting Cerda take the penalty.
“He’s our best shooter, even though at times he has not done the right things,” Sustersic said. “He’s done what is necessary when we wanted him to make it.
“He stepped up (after yesterday’s practice) and said, ‘Coach, don’t lose trust in me, whenever we have another one I’m going to bury it.’ He immediately went to the PK spot and said, ‘It’s mine.’ I’m very proud of him.”
Cerda didn’t enjoy his long run but said that wasn’t on his mind when he stepped up to take the penalty.
“I was just trying to score,” Cerda said. “I was just trying to get it in the net because I knew we needed the goal. The coaches told us to step it up and just attack and not settle for less. And we attacked and we got a goal.”
But for much of the match, the Blackhawks (10-7-5) were on their heels defensively, especially while playing against a steady 30 mph wind in the second half. So Cerda knew the game was far from over after he scored.
“I felt relieved, but we had to defend, obviously, because they were attacking us and they had the wind,” Cerda said.
Though fourth-seeded Neuqua Valley (10-7-2) controlled the play, the hosts mustered just six shots. West Aurora goalie Alex Guillen had to make only two saves to record his fifth shutout, including a diving stop on Alex Liu in the 10th minute.
“We knew we were going to have to play against the wind,” said Sustersic, whose team is 7-1-4 in its last 12 games. “We were hoping to maybe score one in the first half. When that didn’t happen I just told the kids, ‘Guys, that goal that we’re sitting in has to be defended at all costs and we’ll eventually get a break or we’ll get a nice shot and get a goal and be victorious.’ They bought into it.”
Like the Blackhawks, Neuqua Valley had overcome a slow start and had lost only once in their previous 10 games. The Wildcats will graduate 17 seniors.
“You have to give (the Blackhawks) credit,” Neuqua Valley coach Skip Begley said. “They fought hard and they got the break in the game and finished it. It’s unfortunate for us, but that’s how the high school soccer season will end for several teams. It’s a sad ending for some good kids.”