St. Ignatius scored in the 21st minute and that tally held up throughout a spectacular goalkeeping duel as the Wolfpack edged Antioch 1-0 Tuesday in the Class 2A Stevenson Supersectional.
The Wolfpack advance to the state semifinals and will play Wheaton Academy on Friday.
Antioch calls it a season at 18-5-3 and the pride with advancing further in the state playoffs than any soccer team in school history.
Bryan Long took a pass from Zak Soeen, worked into the middle of the box and beat diving keeper Tommy Tritschler just inside the post for the game’s tally.
The rest of the game was a goalie clinic, with Tritschler making a brilliant save on a PK at one end and St. Ignatius goalie John Marks stoning Evan Hernandez on a free kick at the other.
“We got lucky last week, a lot, and our luck ran out. We didn’t play very well,” Antioch coach Marni Polakow said. “We didn’t win second balls. We were not offensively threatening unless Danny Brito was throwing the ball. Heck, he had like 25 throws today and we still didn’t score.”
The coach had kind words for her seniors, who have gotten this program back on the prep soccer map.
“We didn’t have this kind of senior leadership last year. We were good last year, but we should have been way better than we were. It was our seniors that brought us this far,” Polakow said. “They’re the reason we’re here. They really held it together for us. I think our juniors, who we rely on on the field, have learned from them and will be able to put it together next year.”
On the other side of the field, the biggest smile belonged to St. Ignatius coach James Luzzi. This is his 44th season as head coach and he’s the only soccer coach the school’s ver had.
This will be his second trip to the state tournament, having made it in 1998 when it lost in the quarterfinals.
“This one is special because it’s was so unexpected. These guys really worked hard all season long to get to this point. They were so focused,” Luzzi aid. “They listened to the coaches. They trusted each other. We had a group that went to the final 8 in 1998 and lost in the first game 1-0. That’s when they sent eight teams down. That was Class A. A lot of those guys were here tonight. It means so much to the school, and for me personally it’s just the cap.”
Marks was heroic in goal, especially early on when the game was still scoreless.
“He’s been coming up big all season long. He’s a good goalie,” Luzzi said. “We missed him last year. He missed the last half of last season because he hurt his hip and shoulder. He’s a ‘game’ goalie. He directs his defense, and he sees the whole field. What he tells us at halftime, the kids go out and execute in the second half.”
Long’s goal was his 12th of the season. He’s the team’s leading scorer.
“I saw my winger Zak Soenan make a hustle play to get to the ball, so I figured, why not make a run? I got onto the ball and I was able to get in,” Long said. “There were two people on me strong, so I decided to cut in. One of the defender’s gave me space so I decided to hit it with my left and was able to put it in.
“This is the first time we’ve made it this far,” he said. “The last team from our school that made it here was 1998. It feels great to make history for our school. Last year we had a really good team, but we felt our season got cut short. We lost in the regional final. We wanted to make a point. Our motto this year was ‘Take care of unfinished business.’ We had a bad taste in our mouth, so we wanted to show people what we could do.”