Combining the view of both coaches, out of sync Neuqua Valley was beaten by the real Batavia.
In other words, Saturday’s Class 3A Metea Valley Regional Championship was a 3-1 victory for Batavia as opposed to the Neuqua Valley crew that was the winner 11 days ago when the two met on a cold, wet night to decide the Upstate Eight Championship between division winners.
Batavia (18-2-3), ranked No. 4, advances to the Class 3A Bolingbrook Sectional Wednesday to face a Benet squad, which defeated Geneva 2-1 to earn its berth.
Neuqua Valley (14-8), ranked No. 11, was denied an encore to that earlier 3-1 win and the hope for a 10th regional trophy. Instead Batavia earns an 11th regional plaque, gains a 13th shutout (12-0-1) and now boasts a 7-0-1 record on neutral fields.
“We were just not in sync and it’s one of those things on a given night you may never quite know why,” Neuqua coach Skip Begley said. “That 3-1 on a rainy night we saw 11 days ago means nothing. I’d say we saw the real Batavia tonight.”
Bulldog coach Mark Gianfrancesco certainly agreed.
“We wanted to show the real Batavia. We certainly didn’t feel we played well last time, it was a mixed up night, and they took advantage,” Gianfrancesco said. “We started to instill our will in the last 10 of the first half and kept our composure.”
The scoreless tie remained until 49:27 when Batavia’s Ian Larson drove home a 21-yard direct free kick.
“They put four or five into the wall, and I figured the keeper would be screened, so I just wanted to put it hard and low. Going low meant he couldn’t see it right away,” Larson explained. “Coming in we knew how strong they’d be, but neither team was able to settle in for quite some time. Once we got it going, we were confident. And we can’t stop now.”
While Neuqua Valley had a Ryan Ross header saved with over 13 minutes to play, it was mainly Batavia on the offense, and that led to a two-goal lead with 8:59 remaining as David DiBiase found Luke Laurich for his fourth goal of the year.
“Davis made a great run and the credit goes to him for putting the ball right into the gap where I could finish from,” Laurich said.
Any comeback hopes were doused with 6:25 left when Brandon Yunker’s cross led to a 17-yard Larson goal from the right wing. His goal total for the year rose to 25, including eight game winners.
“Their guy converted, and we couldn’t find Ryan (Ross),” Begley said. “The few chances we had they either blocked or stopped out front.”
”Nick (Konopacki) and Joe (Jorgenson) did a nice job 2-on-1, passing him off to limit his touches,” Gianfrancesco said. “Plus the guys in the middle, Adam (Heinz), Luke (Laurich), Kevin (Collins) and Erik (Faesller) did their jobs to keep them from serving it Ross.”