Piccione’s last-minute goal lifts LockportRobert Zieba (10) Lockport High School and Dylen Thompson (4) Lincoln-Way West High School go for a loose ball during varsity action Wednesday night August 24, 2011 in New Lenox, Illinois. | Art Vassy~Sun-Times Media
Updated: August 24, 2011 9:43PM
For 79 minutes Wednesday night, Lockport and Lincoln-Way West worked their way up and down the field, positioning, colliding, but unable to find the back of the net.
With time running out, Lockport midfielder Louis Piccione worked free from the left side before striking a solid shot that went in with 25 seconds to play to give Lockport a 1-0 victory in its season opener at Lincoln-Way West.
“It felt amazing,’’ Piccione said. “I stopped the ball and then I turned it in between two guys, and then hit it at the net.’’
Piccione had almost scored three minutes earlier, but West goalie Chris Maj made a diving save to keep the game scoreless. Kristian Cockburn and Robert Zieba had good scoring chances earlier in the second half for Lockport.
“It was fantastic,’’ Lockport coach Chris Beal said of winning the season opener. “It’s all about confidence. You build the confidence with a win. You come off the first game with a loss, your heads are down. You start to doubt yourself. Soccer is a big psychological game. You’ve got to believe in yourself.’’
Beal said the Porters didn’t penetrate on offense as much as he wanted, but he praised the contributions of Nick Bergamini, Zieba and Piccione.
“We’ve got the Lemont Tournament coming up, three games in that,’’ Beal said. “We’ll see how we do. I’m looking forward to that.’’
With 16 seniors on the roster, Piccione expects the Porters to improve on their 4-16 record from last year.
“Yes, definitely,’’ Piccione said. “We’re hoping to win conference and we want to get far in the playoffs also.’’
West’s Ryan Curry, Shane Varner and Conor McGrath had good scoring chances in the first half, and Ian McGrath had a solid shot on goal in the second half.
“The first half, we were under a lot of pressure,’’ Beal said. “We had to step up and take control.’’
“We battled, battled, battled,’’ West coach Ryan McAllister said. “We had our opportunities. If we finished a couple earlier, or we finish a couple late, it’s a different game.’’
Ten players graduated from West’s team that won a regional title last year in its second varsity season. The Warriors tied Illiana Christian 1-1 Monday in their season opener.
“We’re still early in the season,’’ McAllister said. “Hopefully we keep that effort and the goals are going to come.’’