Boys Soccer: Gareth Flynn, Grant Stoneman spark Wheaton Academy to 2A state semifinals
Updated: October 30, 2012 8:06PM
Gareth Flynn always knows his first option, especially on corner kicks. “I always look for Stone [Grant Stoneman] because he’s so good in the air,” the senior Wheaton Academy forward said.
Stoneman smashed in Flynn’s perfectly calibrated corner with a header in the 34th minute that the No. 9 Warriors parlayed into an exciting 1-0 victory over No. 10 Public League standout Lake View in a Class 2A supersectional at Solorio on the Southwest side Tuesday afternoon.
Wheaton Academy (21-6) won for the 15th time in its last 16 games, and advances to the state semifinals Friday at Lincoln-Way North in Frankfort against the winner of the Washington and Peoria Notre Dame game.
The game was as much tactical as anything. With a persistent and ferocious southern wind turning every play into an adventure, Wheaton Academy broke through with the wind. “We knew we had to score with the wind, because going into the wind, it was basically impossible to play a ball over top,” Stoneman said.
The Stoneman and Flynn duo is one of the state’s most deadly combinations. Stoneman registered his 27th goal of the year, and it was Flynn’s 15th assist of the year. “We just have this connection out there, it’s almost hard to explain, but we’ve had it ever since the first game of the year,” Flynn said.
Lake View had no answer for the rangy and powerful 6-2 Stoneman. “They took advantage of the wind and their reach, which we couldn’t really do anything about, because we’re pretty small,” star senior Wildcats’ forward Eden Crespo said. “They were better than us in the air.”
Lake View was denied its second Downstate appearance in the last four years. The Wildcats (13-4-2) finished fourth in Class 2A in 2008. “I really wanted a zero-zero game at the half,” Lake View coach Fernando Rodriguez said. “Two things hurt us, the wind and the size of the field. Our strength is playing wide, but this is a narrow field and it really took away what we want to do offensively,” he said.
Playing with the wind in the second half, the Wildcats dominated possession time. Even though Crespo was hurt in the opening minute of the second half after getting entangled with a Wheaton Academy defender that forced him to sit out, Lake View controlled possession in the middle of the field.
With the one goal lead, Wheaton Academy shifted its tactics as well, adopting a more defensive-oriented approach. Stoneman dropped in the back, a fifth defender that effectively shut down the lanes and provided little if any room for the Wildcats to operate in the attacking third. “We just didn’t have time to get shots off,” Crespo said.
Lake View engineered scoring chances though their shots lacked accuracy. “We only got one shot on goal in the second half, the others were off-line,” Rodriguez said.
Senior Warriors’ keeper Spencer Graf recorded his 13th shutout of the year. “Lake View was a great team, they played hard and I was impressed,” Graf said, “but my four on the backline made sure that I didn’t really have to touch the ball.” Star Warriors’ defender Adam Hunt also made an alert play in the closing moments, punching out a ball Crespo was on the verge of blasting toward their net.
Wheaton Academy knew Crespo was the player they needed to neutralize. “He’s a very good player,” Wheaton Academy coach Jeff Brooke said. “He was very good, especially in the second half. They did some things against us, but fortunately we were able to deny them.”
Stoneman lived up to his nickname, solid and impenetrable. He transferred from Burlington Central after leading them to a fourth-place finish in Class 2A as a freshman two years ago. “It’s great to get back there,” he said.