JOLIET – While there were several good scoring opportunities for Lincoln-Way West’s boys soccer team Thursday against host Plainfield South, when the two met in a first-round consolation match in Reavis’ Windy City Classic, the Warriors struggled to put the ball in the net.
After falling, 2-0, to Providence Catholic in Tuesday’s opener in the competition, coach Matt Laude’s Warriors looked like they might go through 70 more minutes of scoreless frustration against the Cougars, who were determined not to suffer a second straight loss after falling, 2-1, on penalty kicks to two-time defending champion Bremen in their initial match.
But shortly after the clock entered the final minute, West finally connected for the first time this season, and that proved to be the difference. Senior Justin Darlage made a nice pass from the side to Miles Hagen, who fired in a shot from about
20 yards out with only 54 seconds remaining to lift the Warriors to a 1-0 victory over South.
“That was a beautiful ball,” Hagen said of the goal. “We pride ourselves on our very hard work rate, and we’re a super aggressive team that likes to move the ball technically, and we work to the end, and we don’t give up. I like that we’re a close-knit group and we work well together and we don’t stop. Our legs are tired, but we keep going.”
With a strong wind blowing across the field, advancing the ball was difficult, but the Warriors had some good scoring chances from Andre Doyle, Brady Forsythe, Drew Murphy and Darlage, all of which were frustrated by goalkeeper Robin Coetzee. Fabian Alvarado and Josue Jimenez provided some of South’s best attempts, but they were denied by goalkeeper Chris Zavala.
“I thought that we battled hard and the team as a whole played well together and we fought for each other,” Darlage said. “It came down to the end, and everyone gave all that they had. Chris was huge in goal, and the backline was solid all around. I think we have a lot of potential going forward. We move the ball well, fight hard and everybody is focused.”
Picking up a dramatic victory on the road over a team that had finished in third place in the Windy City Classic in the past two seasons was a big deal for the Warriors.
“We knew this was going to be a battle since Plainfield South always puts together a really tough team to beat that works hard,” Laude said. “So I told the boys that we had to outwork them since they’re good and lost to a Bremen team that’s also good. We knew we’d have to battle since it would be a physical game. They took it to us, and we got lucky at the end.
“Our center and outside backs worked their tails off. Ethan Sall and Tyler Vedder both did a phenomenal job in the central backfield. And Drew Murphy and Ryan Towner also did a phenomenal job in front of them. They were making sure that every dangerous ball in the air they were winning and clearing it so that we didn’t put goalie Chris Zavala under pressure.”