Timothy Christian eying 1A state title

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Five Timothy Christian seniors stood in the goal for a group portrait in the ecstatic aftermath of their 1-0 victory over Latin in a Class 1A Benedictine Supersectional on Tuesday.

‘‘From the beginning of the year, we’ve thought about this, and that’s why we’ve been successful, because we’ve been a family and played for each other,’’ senior forward Tyler Vlasak said.

The next step is the most grueling.

The Trojans are one of the four teams that will make up the Class 1A state semifinals on Friday at the Corn Crib in Normal. Timothy Christian (18-4-1) will play Harvard in the second semifinal.

The Trojans are on a roll, having posted shutouts in four of their five state tournament games. Junior Ben Lodewyk secured the victory against Latin with a superb block in penalty kicks. Vlasak was one of four players who converted a penalty kick.

Timothy is a mixture of veteran players, exemplified by Vlasak, who leads the team with 26 goals and 16 assists, and gifted young talent such as sophomore Josh Anderson (14 goals, 16 assists), freshmen Jimmy Allen (21 goals) and Michael Martens (seven goals, seven assists).

First-year coach Joe Grit inherited the esteemed program from Rudi Gesch, who directed the Trojans to a Class 1A state championship in 2009 and a state runner-up in 2008.

Both teams have faced elite competition and bigger schools. Timothy played No. 2 Wheaton Academy and No. 9 St. Joseph.

Harvard (22-4) has won 18 consecutive games since the Hornets lost four games in a row against Class 3A programs in two separate tournaments at the beginning of the season. A year after losing its first round tournament game, Harvard qualified for its first state finals in coach David Abel’s 14th year directing the program.

“We got smacked around a bit in those games, but it was a positive,” Abel said. “We learned we didn’t like the feeling of losing. “We stayed with what we do, and learned to make small adjustments.”

The Hornets showcase excellent depth and balance with five different players who recorded double-figure goals. Sophomore forward Mauricio Mercado has scored a team-leading 14 goals, while Pedro Guzman has registered 10 goals and 21 assists. Sophomore midfielder Ismael Albarran (11 goals, nine assists) has been an offensive catalyst during the state tournament run.

“We have 14 different goal scorers,” Abel said. “We’ve had great leadership and a desire of the team concept.”

Herscher (28-2), last year’s Class 1A runner-up, is the favorite in the first semifinal. Coach Alan High’s talented, athletic team faces Columbia (19-3-2) in the upper bracket. The Tigers extended their winning streak to 17 games after 1-0 victory over Blue Ridge on Tuesday.

Goalkeeper Leighton Howard has posted 17 shutouts and allowed just .57 goals per game.

Offensively, Brody Ryan is one of the state’s top players, regardless of class. The 6-3 midfielder is a matchup nightmare and has a team-best 22 goals. Ethan McGregor has added 18 goals and eight assists. Sam Hall is the team’s top playmaker and facilitator with 23 assists.

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