Vernon Hills’ Ilya Kravtsev makes second chance count

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GRAYSLAKE — Vernon Hills junior forward Ilya Kravtsev was denied once, but he wasn’t about to let it happen a second time during Wednesday’s Class 2A Grayslake North Sectional boys soccer semifinal.   His turnaround, left-footed beauty of a goal at the 31-minute mark of the first half — over the outstretched hand of Marian Central goalkeeper Jake Higgins — was the lone tally in the Cougars’ 1-0 shutout over the Hurricanes.   Less than a minute earlier, Higgins had robbed Kravtsev with a gorgeous, leaping two-handed save that drew loud gasps and cheers from fans in the stands. But when Kravtsev found a loose ball about 15 feet from the net moments later, he didn’t miss, aiming high just under the center of the crossbar.   “I’m just happy I could help my team win,” said Kravtsev, adding he only briefly saw the net before shooting and scoring. “I hope we keep playing this way and keep winning. It’s lots of fun.”   If not for the heroic effort in goal by Higgins, who is a sophomore, the game easily could’ve ended with a 4-0 or 5-0 score. He made 12 saves, as the Cougars (12-6-2 overall) outshot the Hurricanes (12-6-1) by a 13-1 margin, thanks to aggressive play from their forwards from start-to-finish.   It was indicative of just how dominant the Cougars were.   “Our transition game is always a focal point for us,” Vernon Hills coach Mike McCaulou said. “I thought we did a good job of that tonight, pushing things as a team at both ends of the field. We knew coming in Marian Central was a very good team, and they really made it tough for us out there the entire time.   “It’s been a year for these boys and we just want it to keep going. We’re proud of them and we’re proud of the staff. When you work together and communicate and do the things that are simple, you have success more times than not.”   The Cougars, whose win Wednesday came in a steady second-half downpour, will face either Antioch or Grayslake Central at 11 a.m. Saturday in the Grayslake North Sectional final. Vernon Hills tied Antioch 1-1 when the two teams met earlier this season, according to McCaulou. They also bested Grayslake Central 2-1 this year. 

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