On Thursday night , Wheeling will return to the MSL Conference championship for the first time in 18 years to face Barrington. The Wildcats will look to earn a key road victory to claim their first Conference title since 1977.
The last time the Wildcats and Broncos faced off was on September 17, in which neither team was able to score resulting in a 0-0 tie. Thursday’s game will be the highly anticipated rematch from the regular season.
The Wildcats are coming off a big victory over rival Buffalo Grove. Along with spoiling the Bison’s homecoming, Wheeling was able to claim the highest seed in the MSL Conference with a 9-1-1 conference record and 28 points, two ahead of second seed Barrington.
Both Barrington and Wheeling have had nearly a week to prepare for this game. The Wildcats continue to stress intensity and effort during practice in order to remain confident and ready for Thursday’s game.
“We focus and go hard because we want this title. Everybody wants the title, but we make sure to practice harder because we want this title even more and we’re ready to get it,” Elias Cineros, sophomore, said.
“We want to do better for ourselves and the coaches, and we know this is a good year to go far in the playoffs and win for our school,” Alfredo Rocha, senior, added.
While the Conference match may be a new experience for everyone, the players are aware of the pressure to perform. With past experience in club championships, the players know what is at stake and what to expect.
“Everyone is excited, a lot of us have been in a final for our club teams and it is great to be in one for the school.” Rocha said.
The Wildcats will look to finish a remarkable conference season by claiming the conference title, but still know that this is not the last tournament to win.
Barrington will look to intimidate the Wildcats with home field advantage. However, the Wildcats will look to remain focused and rely on their fan support to continue to show up and support the team.
“Other schools have the idea that we are not good at sports, and the soccer team especially is beginning to change that. We want to come out and show our support because these guys are playing great and deserve it,” Julien Willoughby, senior and Superfan, said.
Even though Wheeling boasts the best conference record and most points, they are still viewed as the underdog. Neither players or coaches are worried about where they stand before the game, all that matters is what happens in those 80 minutes.
The Wildcats understand that obtaining the Conference championship will be a tough task and something hard to earn. Afterwards, Wheeling will look to continue their dominant play in the regional playoffs as they look towards a State Championship as well.
“The guys have so much talent and continue to work hard, and the fact that they’re such a close knit group only helps them even more. It is fun to be around these guys, but we still know that there is much left to prove. Whether we win or not, by no means will we be able to say we are done,” Kevin Lennon, coach, said.