St. Viator’s victorious soccer team plays with ‘class’

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It wouldn’t be fair to say you could see this — St. Viator’s 3-0 win over Antioch in the Class 2A Grayslake Central Sectional semifinals — coming a mile away.

Fairer would be to say that you could see this coming five months ago.

Back in June, the IHSA announced which boys soccer teams would be playing in each of the three classes for the state playoffs this fall — divisions based on school enrollment.

In that announcement was included the fact that soccer powerhouse St. Viator of Arlington Heights was dropping down for this year’s playoffs from Class 3A (big schools) to 2A (small schools).

Followers of the sport in Lake County knew then that this would a playoff game-changer in this corner of the state. And sure enough, it was … it is.

After winning the challenging East Suburban Catholic Conference title during the regular season, the Lions (19-5-1) now have a regional title and a sectional semifinal in their possession. They’ll go for the sectional title and a spot in the state’s Elite Eight on Saturday at 11 a.m. against Marian Central of Woodstock (15-3-1), which beat Grayslake North 2-0 in Wednesday’s late game.

If past history is a predictor of future performance, expect the Lions to roar on Saturday.

Since boys soccer became a three-class sport in 2008, St. Viator has been a 2A school three times and a 3A school four times.

The four times it played 3A, it did not qualify for the Final Four state tourney. The first time it played 2A, it won state in 2009. The second time it played 2A, it finished third in state in 2012.

This year is the third time.

Wednesday’s game was a matter of one teach capitalizing on its opportunities while the other team did not.

St. Viator did not have a half-dozen shots on frame in the game, but scored three times.

In the second minute, Aidan Williams headed home a long throw-in by Chris Beiersdorf.

In the 36th minute, Williams struck again, this time converting a headed pass from Javier Romero.

And in the 38th minute, Zach Gynicza banged home a rebound when a shot went off the post.

That was it … 3-0 at halftime and 3-0 after 80 minutes of play.

Antioch’s surge actually came between Williams’ two goals. As Sequoit coach Mardi Polakow noted, her players had many long throw-ins that were well-placed into the box, and several free-kick opportunities in good position, and also had some corner kicks that created chances.

But on this day, the goal needed to be three feet higher and three feet wider to make a difference on the scoreboard.

“We didn’t capitalize,” said Polakow, whose team won this sectional last October, then lost in the Round of 8 to St. Ignatius of Chicago. That St. Iggy team had been playing in Class 3A, and dropped down to 2A for the 2013 season.

That’s exactly what happened to sink Antioch again this year.

Meanwhile, longtime St. Viator coach Mike Taylor has his team playing its best at the right time, noting that it’s all about success in the playoffs.

“That’s why we played a strong schedule,” he said.

His Lions did a nice job of neutralizing Antioch scoring star Iven Hernandez, who finished his prep career with 102 total goals, including 35 this year. If he’d scored on every great chance he had Wednesday, Antioch still would have lost.

“He’s a nice player, but we’ve played against a lot of nice players this year,” said Taylor, noting that his team has been building toward this moment.

“I’ve got a good group of kids.”

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