Boys Soccer: Marmion falls in third-place match
Updated: November 5, 2011 6:35PM
Marmion wanted to send coach Kevin O’Connor into retirement with a victory.
The Cadets weren’t able to do that, but it wasn’t for lack of trying.
O’Connor’s 20-year head coaching career came to an end Saturday when the Cadets were beaten 1-0 on penalty kicks by 2010 state champion Peoria Notre Dame in the Class 2A third-place match at Lincoln-Way North.
It wasn’t exactly what Marmion (19-8-3) had in mind in making its first state finals appearance, though the Cadets took some solace in the fact they outplayed the Irish (20-7) and displayed better form than in Friday’s 2-1 semifinal loss to Chatham Glenwood.
“I was happy with the effort we put out,” Marmion senior Mike Frasca said. “I thought we should have won the game in the first half hour. We had numerous chances and didn’t finish them. My fault on those two.”
Frasca, a Division-I prospect who tallied 42 goals this fall, came the closest of anyone to scoring. The first opportunity came at the 17:25 mark of the first half when senior goalie Brad White boomed a 58-yard free kick from midfield into the Notre Dame penalty area. Frasca rose up and headed the ball off the crossbar.
Frasca had another chance three minutes later but volleyed a high cross from Northwestern recruit Mick Maley over the bar.
Marmion’s final scoring threat was thwarted with 1:45 remaining in regulation when Notre Dame goalie Mitchell Auer dove to deflect a 12-yard shot from Frasca out of trouble.
Notre Dame won the ensuing shootout 4-2. White, who made eight saves in regulation, saved the Irish’s first attempt, but Auer returned the favor by stopping senior defender Alex Ruble.
Notre Dame converted their next four penalties. Frasca and Rodrigo Fernandez made their kicks, but Marmion’s third try sailed high.
“Everyone went 110 percent,” Frasca said. “Everyone is hurting. It shows our maturity and how far we’ve come that we were able to play two back-to-back 80 minutes of hard work.
“I’m just happy that we went out in a good way. We showed our coach that we love him and we’re honored to play for him and that’s the only way to honor him is to play with heart.”
O’Connor ends his career with a record of 302-128-39. That includes a 242-99-35 mark in 15 seasons at Marmion. While Frasca and O’Connor agree that this was not the school’s most talented team, it clearly won a special spot in O’Connor’s heart.
“I’m just proud to be called their coach, because they made me proud, not just today but for everything they did for Marmion,” O’Connor said. “I’ll walk off the field as the proudest man in the state of Illinois.”
O’Connor believes he may have walked off as no worse than a state runner-up had the Cadets had the services of junior midfielder Matt Switzer, who led the team in assists with 18 before tearing a knee ligament in the regional final.
“If we didn’t lose Switzer we’d be playing [for the title],” O’Connor said. “If we had this effort yesterday, we’re warming up right now. It is emotional. It is very melancholy.
“But I’m excited for the future. My wife and I are retiring from teaching and I’m excited to have more time for the two of us to spend together. She’s sacrificed a lot over the years.”
If the dozens of phone calls and emails from former players, some from as far away as Paris, that O’Connor has received in recent days are any indication, those sacrifices were worth it.
“I’ve been very blessed to be part of this program, so my thankfulness far outweighs any sadness,” O’Connor said. “The rewards all the players have given me over the years cannot be measured in any way, shape or form except for the respect they have for you after they graduate.
“My mission in this world has always been to impact young lives that God has put in my path. If I’ve done that in some way, shape or form, then I’ll call it a success.”