Boys Soccer: Wheaton Academy edged by Peoria Notre Dame

Updated: November 2, 2012 5:56PM

Wheaton Academy’s Spencer Graf was outstanding on Friday, but Peoria Notre Dame’s Justin Buck was even better.

The two put on a goalkeeping clinic at the Class 2A state semifinals at Lincoln-Way North. Both came up with big saves during regulation and two overtimes before combining to stop five of the nine penalty kicks in the ensuing shootout.

Graf saved two penalties but Buck stopped three of four attempts to lift state power Notre Dame to a 2-1 victory. The Irish (21-2-2), who were appearing in the state semifinals for the fifth consecutive season, will attempt to win their fourth state championship since 2004 when they face Urbana, a 2-1 winner over St. Viator, in Saturday’s title match.

Buck, a junior, made four saves during the run of play, including a leaping effort to deflect a 28-yard shot from Wheaton Academy star Grant Stoneman over the crossbar with 45 seconds left in the second overtime.

Buck and Graf, who finished with 10 saves, combined to save the first four shots in the shootout before Nick Finerty, Tommy Frampton and Drew Whalen converted as the Irish won the shootout 3-1.

The Warriors (21-7) made only one attempt, that coming when Andrew Luetkehans scored to make it 1-1. But Buck stopped Zeb Lewis in the fourth round and Whalen followed with the clincher.

“I haven’t been in too many shootouts,” Buck said. “I’ve saved a few during games but I haven’t saved three in a shootout. I was impressed too.”

Buck was nervous but ready for the shootout.

“I knew I just had to make a few saves and our team would do the rest,” Buck said. “The first one I knew was going right. That one was definite. You can look and tell which way they’re going.”

Graf, a senior, said he was told by assistant coach Joseph Selvaggio which direction Notre Dame’s first two shooters were going and dove accordingly. But he guessed wrong on the next two attempts.

“[Selvaggio] has been in my ear about how in PKs you have a 50-50 chance,” Graf said. “It really comes down to a split-second decision.

“[Buck] came up huge for them. It’s just tough to see us come this far and play so hard and so good and then we can’t get the ball in the net.”

The underdog Warriors outplayed the Irish for the first 20 minutes and even though they didn’t score they were encouraged by reaching halftime tied 0-0. But the Irish broke through with 29:29 left in the second half when Whalen scored his 35th goal on a short header.

Wheaton, which was attempting to reach its first state title game, got the equalizer with 7:53 to go. Sam Hardy sent a high bouncing ball into the box from midfield and junior Casey Zimmerman outjumped Buck and three defenders to head the ball in from a yard out.

“Our mindset was to keep playing until the last shot,” said Zimmerman, who was stopped by Buck in the shootout. “Their goalie definitely came through in the clutch for them.”

Graf and Luetkehans are two of eight seniors who will play their last match for Wheaton when the Warriors, who had won their last 10 games and 15 of their last 16, face St. Viator in Saturday’s third-place match.

“Spencer did a great job and I’m really proud of the guys, especially him for doing such a great job today,” Zimmerman said. “He really came through for us. We played our best.”

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