Boys Soccer

Joliet Catholic bows out of postseason with loss to Beecher

The term “unlucky” is used often in soccer.

On a full moon night, the Joliet Catholic Academy boys soccer team truly was.

The Hilltoppers ran into a series of misfortune and saw their season end in a 4-1 loss to Beecher on Wednesday evening in the Class 1A Manteno Sectional semifinal.

“Luck was against us,” JCA coach Tom Cranmer said. “It was like Friday the 13th came late. We couldn’t get many bounces to go our way. We knew it would be a tough and even match and (Beecher) got the breaks.”

Playing in a sectional for the third straight season in which they were held, the Hilltoppers (9-13) fell short of winning a sectional championship for the second consecutive time.

“We were just unlucky,” JCA junior forward Aldo Estrada said.

It certainly seemed that way. Junior Johnny Budz, who started in goal for JCA, had to leave the game only 89 seconds in. He was kicked in the head going for a loose ball. That drew blood, so he had to leave. He later was diagnosed with a concussion and couldn’t return.

So, freshman Aidan Medina was pressed into duty. He had played in a number of matches this season but most of those were in the second half and none were of this magnitude. Medina, however, immediately made a couple of stops in the fourth minute.

But a couple of minutes later, Mother Nature intervened as lightning entered the area. There wasn’t much rain, but the lightning strikes delayed the match for an hour and four minutes.

When it resumed, at 5:44 PM, the Bobcats kept the pressure on with four straight corner kicks. They didn’t score off of those but did soon after as freshman striker Logan Williams buried a ball in the left corner with 30:01 to play in the first half.

Only 50 seconds later JCA committed a hard foul. But rather than call it a foul and issue a yellow card, the officials ruled it was a red card. That left the Hilltoppers down a man for the rest of the match.

That was the score at intermission, but not before the Hilltoppers had their best first-half opportunity when Estrada crossed a pass to junior midfielder Ramon Rios, who had his straight-on shot saved by senior keeper Cam Paulmeier.

JCA couldn’t do much to stop the Bobcats. They made it 2-0 when senior midfielder Steven Adam took a feed from Wilkins and tapped it in right in front with just under 22 minutes left in the first half. A little over five minutes later senior midfielder Austin Hauser hammered a penalty shot into the right corner and it was 3-0 with 16:30 to play in the half.

That was the score at intermission but not before the Hilltoppers had their best first-half opportunity when Estrada crossed a nice pass to junior midfielder Ramon Rios, who had his straight-on blast saved by senior keeper Cam Paulmeier.

Just over five minutes into the second half, Estrada nearly scored on a shot from about 30 yards out. It would have gone in but Paulmeier got a finger on it and the ball bounced off the right post.

“Their goalie tipped it, and it hit off the post,” Estrada said. “I gave him a thumbs up on the save. It was a nice shot but an even better save.”

Beecher made it 4-0 when senior midfielder Bryce Beck banged home a shot after a nice pass from freshman midfielder Tyler Kramer midway through the second half.

Estrada, Rios, and defender David Connors, who is one of only four seniors on the team, had opportunities in the second half. Estrada finally connected on one off a pass from Rios and put it into the right corner with 8:28 to play.

“I thought (senior) Luke Selinger and (junior) Robbie Funk did a great job holding down the backline in the second half,” Cranmer said. “We played a much better second half. On the season, I thought these guys rose to the occasion and exceeded expectations.”

Midfielders Nathan Connelly and Alec Galyon were the other two Hilltopper seniors.

“I remember the seniors taking me in and being leaders when I was a freshman,” Estrada said of the fall of 2019 season, which resulted in a sectional championship. “I’m going to do my part to dedicate myself to my senior year and help the team go far again.”