Elk Grove was not going to be beaten by Lake Park midfielder Mike Catalano in their Class 3A boys’ soccer sectional semifinal game, and in fact the Wisconsin-bound senior didn’t beat the Grenadiers on Wednesday.
But Riker Tithof-Steere and Oliver Horgan did.
With the Grens man-marking Catalano, second-half goals from Horgan and Tithof-Steere effectively gave the second-seeded Lancers (19-2-3) the 2-0 win in Schaumburg, advancing them to a sectional title game Saturday against top-seeded St. Charles East.
East beat Lake Park 5-1 on Sept. 10, so the Lancers understand the challenge they’ll face in the rematch.
“We’re going to step it up hard, physically against them, and our midfield is going to have to connect in that game,” Lancers senior midfielder Kevin Coria said. “And they’re really quick, so our wingers will have to step it up with their speed. It should be a good game.”
Third-seeded Elk Grove (11-6-2) made Lake Park earn a berth in Saturday’s title game, weathering the Lancers’ early attacking storm and sending in a few dangerous balls of its own through a scoreless halftime.
The Grenadiers also played hard, physical soccer.
“That was without a doubt one of the most physical games for eighty minutes that we’ve been in,” Lancers coach Tony Passi said. “But these kids have a team chemistry like I’ve never coached before, and they wanted it.”
After a scoreless first half, Lake Park’s Joe Keane took a throw-in on the right side and Tithof-Steere flicked it inside the far post from six yards out at 43 minutes. Elk Grove’s Arnold Aguilar nearly knotted the game at 52 minutes with a shot from 40 yards out that rattled the frame, and Grens’ keeper Alberto Centeno made an acrobatic save at 55 minutes on a Horgan shot to keep his side within a goal.
With Elk Grove pushing numbers up in search of a tying goal, Horgan won a ball near the touchline on the right side, touched the ball around a second defender, and went in alone on Centeno at 73 minutes, poking it past him at the near post.
Steven Mack was in net to secure the No. 10 Lancers’ 13th shutout of the season, in a game that got increasingly physical to the final buzzer.
“It was physical and a little bit dirty but that’s going to happen,” Coria said. “Our key tonight was connecting more in the midfield. We knew they’d play long balls all game so we had to win every ball in the air, and we couldn’t let it land on the turf.”