VERNON HILLS – Crystal Lake South forward Mikey Dejworek settled the ball on the left side, maneuvered between a pair of Carmel defenders and sent the ball in front of the goal.
“I was able to put a nice ball into the box,” Dejworek said. “I picked up my head and saw two runners on the back post.”
Nico Velasco tried but could not reach the ball. But Nolan Getzinger charged hard to boot the ball in and followed it into the back of the net.
That goal was all South needed as the Gators defeated Carmel, 1-0, Tuesday night in a Class 2A Vernon Hills Sectional semifinal at Rust-Oleum Field.
The top-seeded Gators will face No. 3 Grayslake Central (12-6-2) at noon Saturday in the title match. The winner of that advances to the Grayslake Central Supersectional at 7 p.m. Nov. 2.
Grayslake Central beat Vernon Hills, 2-0, in Tuesday’s second semifinal.
Getzinger’s goal came with 15:20 remaining in the second half and sends South (18-3-2) to its third consecutive sectional championship. South won the Class 2A state title in 2018 and was runner-up in 2019. There was no state series last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Mikey and Nolan made a great play to give us the lead, and the defense has been solid and locked it down,” Gators coach Brian Allen said. “It’s a credit to these guys. I told them after the regional that these don’t come around very often, you can’t take anything for granted. You never know when these moments will be there.”
South dominated the first half with quality chances and four shots on goal but had nothing to show for it. Carmel goalkeeper Nick Magnone was tough in back, and the Corsairs (11-8-1) came out stronger after halftime, generating more opportunities.
Carmel coach Ray Krawzak said his team made no big tactical changes.
“They have a very talented No. 10 (Tommy Coughlin), and we had a player in the midfield on him, and that was keeping us from connecting through our midfield because he was man-marking that guy. I encouraged us to push the field as a whole faster.
“I was proud of the way we defended. We had a lot of momentum in the second half, it felt like it was anybody’s game.”
Carmel’s best chance came early in the second half on Josh Kieltyka’s shot from the right side. Gators keeper Logan Vargas had a good angle and leaped to grab it.
South midfielder Brendan Lewis served a long pass to Dejworek on the winning play. Dejworek then worked his way between two defenders. Getzinger knew where he needed to be.
“Mikey made a great run, got past the defender and played a nice, hard ball across the box, and I was just there to clean it up,” Getzinger said. “I thought Nico was going to get to it, and he missed it, and I got seconds.”
Dejworek and Coughlin were freshmen on the state championship team and will be playing in their third sectional championship match.
“It definitely feels amazing,” Dejworek said. “We hope to do our best Saturday and take it further.”
Carmel defender Ben LaMora, one of the Corsairs’ captains, was proud of the way his team fought.
“The boys played an awesome game,” LaMora said. “We competed hard. We competed strong. We did everything we could, it just didn’t fall our way. We had emotion, grit, it was great to see.
“At the half, we were like, ‘All right, boys, it’s now or never.’ Saying that, it became never. We researched a lot on [South]. We got in our heads a little bit, kind of worked that out and came out in the second half and found our rhythm and connected passes a bit. I thought maybe a ball falls a different way, we might have taken them.”
Crystal Lake South 1, Carmel 0
Carmel 0 0 – 0
CL South 0 1 – 1
CLS–Nolan Getzinger (Mikey Dejworek), 15:20.
Goalkeeper saves: Nick Magnone (C) 5, Logan Vargas (CLS) 3.