SYCAMORE – The Sycamore soccer team kept pressing, and Hunter Leman kept turning the Spartans away.
The senior DeKalb goalkeeper shined in the box as the Spartans and Barbs fought to a 1-1 tie Wednesday.
“Their keeper played lights out,” Sycamore coach Dave Bachta said. “Sometimes you tell a keeper they need to make the saves that aren’t expected, and he did that.”
Leman had a couple of big saves in the second half. He elevated to punch away a shot by Jules Breidenbach that seemed to be going in up top.
In the final 30 minutes, he ran up to grab a loose ball then backed up as Evan Radisic headed the ball. Leman lunged backward while backpedaling and prevented a sure goal.
“Hunter has been outstanding for us all year,” coach PJ Hamilton said. “It’s great that an outstanding crowd gets to come and see the quality that he’s put forth all year. He’s one of our captains for a reason. He’s a great kid on the field, and he’s a great kid off the field.”
Sycamore started the scoring with 6:21 left in the first half when Caden Carl connected in front of the net.
But early in the second half, Carlos Lopez connected on a direct kick from the right-center part of the field just beyond the box. It kept drifting left and was the only shot to get past Sycamore keeper Kevin Munoz.
“I think we moved the ball around well,” Bachta said. “Our kids won balls in the back. And I really can’t say enough about our defense. It’s unfortunate that one ball went in on Kevin, but it’s a goalkeeper’s nightmare getting those balls that land maybe 10, 15 yards back.”
Hamilton said his team doesn’t panic when it falls behind, having come from behind multiple times this year.
“We’ve done that quite a few times this year,” Hamilton said. “We know we have the ability to do so, playing the strength of schedule we play allows us to understand we can play with a lot of schools in this area.”
In the final three minutes, Carlos Lopez found the back of the next, but the goal was disallowed because of an offside penalty.
“The kids stepped up like they were supposed to,” Bachta said. “Even though he tucks it in, it’s not really a shot for them. I look at it as us doing the right thing, and they stepped when they needed to step, and the goal didn’t count.”
The Barbs are off until the postseason starts, which for them is Tuesday in the Class 3A DeKalb Regional against Rockford East.
“I think we had some long stretches where we played some quality soccer,” Hamilton said. “Our goal and aspiration is to be peaking six days from now, but we walk away feeling like we put a good shift in and were growing each and every day.”
The Spartans play Thursday against Sterling then open the 2A Belvidere Regional against Belvidere North.
“With last year’s group it was so unfortunate because you go 16-1 and you don’t have a playoff and you beat some really good teams,” Bachta said. “I think these guys learned from their work ethic.”