WHEATON – At this point of his career, IMSA senior forward Mason Rinkel has scored goals of all variety.
But Rinkel added a new wrinkle in Wednesday’s Class 2A St. Francis Regional boys soccer semifinal.
Rinkel scored the winning goal in the first half in pedestrian fashion, taking advantage of defender error to lightly tap in a shot in the 36th minute to lead IMSA to a 1-0 win over St. Francis.
After earning a program-defining playoff win, the Titans (14-2-4) move forward to play Marmion on Saturday at 6 p.m. in the regional championship game. The Cadets defeated Plano 10-1 in Tuesday’s regional semifinal.
Rinkel, who has scored 24 goals in 36 career varsity games, admitted his first playoff goal was special.
“This win means a lot because in our school we don’t often do to well in regionals and continue to compete and go on, so it’s amazing,” Rinkel said.
And regarding his winning goal?
“I think they dropped it back to their defender and he was going to pass it to his goalie, but he whiffed it and I ran by and scored,” Rinkel said. “I’ve had a lot of amazing goals off assists from my teammates. A lot of goals come from them, but on that (goal) I didn’t hit that (ball) hard but just had (good) placement.”
Playing the first playoff game on their home turf, the Spartans nearly provided a memorable opening by just missing a goal on a quality shot attempt in the opening minutes. From that moment, the Spartans (9-8-1) struggled finding good looks against IMSA’s back line. The Spartans showed some rust in the final third on their finishing chances, not playing a game in 15 days.
“We created good opportunities,” St. Francis coach Jim Winslow said. “I was happy with how we played. We played with great energy, knocked the ball around and got in behind them, but we just didn’t put the ball in the end.”
IMSA senior goalie Quinn Verdeyen, who recorded eight saves, earned a clean sheet with several outstanding stops. Early in the second half, Verdeyen notched two key saves to frustrate the Spartans. In the 43rd minute, St. Francis senior forward Guy DeFeo drilled a shot from 16 yards, but Verdeyen made a leaping save to knock the ball out of bounds.
Two minutes later, St. Francis senior Cameron Crawford relied on some nifty footwork to find some open space from 22 yards. His hard-shot shot, though, was saved by Verdeyen. Two years ago, IMSA suffered a 6-0 loss to Wheaton Academy in its playoff opener. Verdeyen called the semifinal win a big step for the Titans’ program.
“I’ve been working with my coaches for the last week on staying wide and staying big to be a big goal keeper,” Verdeyen said. “Those were good saves in the second half that set the tone for the half. This win is big for IMSA. We made that one step closer to the finals.”