by Alex Gleyzer, staff reporter
For the third time this year, Wheeling and Barrington would face off but this time the stakes would be even higher. Wheeling would attempt to enter the final four for the first time in school history, barrington remained hopeful on continuing their dominance.
Both teams entered the game looking to gain an upper hand on each other. Luis Herrera, senior, found his game early on testing the Barrington goalie multiple times in the first half. However, Barrington goalkeeper Pat Deroche remained strong in the first half stopping all Wildcat shots he was faced with.
Both Jose Garcia, senior, and Francisco Arellano, junior, looked to be in sync with Garcia finding making a nice cross to Arellano in the 27th minute. Unfortunately, arellano’s header was just wide to the right creating a missed opportunity.
The Cats and Broncos entered the second half each attempting to find the upper hand. Herrera would do just that scoring off a rebound created from Garcia’s shot, and put the Cats up 1-0. Herrera recorded his fourth goal in the past four games and looked to be the spark the Cats needed.
“I can’t take all the credit for the team. It’s a team sport and if the team doesn’t work hard too, then we don’t win,” Herrera said.
Garcia as well would not look to stop as his 20th minute shot was blocked by a Broncos defender at the goal line, alluding Garcia of his fifth goal this postseason.
Barrington’s offensive attack was highly contained in the second half thanks to big efforts by Alfredo Rocha, senior, Nate Laude, senior, and Fabian Acosta Jr., junior with constant challenges on the ball and attempts to claim second ball opportunities.
“We were concentrated during the game and tried to beat them on every ball we could. We have a fast team in the back and that allows us to get to the balls quicker than their forwards, “ Acosta Jr. said.
The Broncos offense though would find some luck in the second half with a lucky clear hitting a Wildcat defense and landing in the Wheeling net for an own goal. However, that would be all the Broncos would get as the defense, along with goalie Gary Mendoza, senior, would bounce back quick.
“It was all about listening to each other and keep playing. We wanted to win so bad, but we needed our players to be ok and move on quick to get ourselves back in it,” Garcia said
After a regroup from the team, the Wildcats kept their focus strong attacking the Broncos once again. With just 13 minutes left in the game, Ivan Mancilla, senior, would take the corner kick that hit Marino Lopez, senior, in the face and end in the back of the Barrington net for a 2-1 lead.
“Mistakes are part of the game and our guys handled the mistake very well and bounced back. Marino (Lopez) got up there, he hit it handled it was a straight line ot the net,” Kevin Lennon, coach, said.
Lopez’s second half goal would provide the much needed score to help the Cats win the game. After the final buzzer, the Wildcats ended the Broncos season and finished play against Barrington with a 2-0-1 record, an MSL title, and a ticket to the final four.
Along with a victory, the Wildcats suffered a few injuries due to Barrington’s physical play. The biggest injuries coming to Arellano after a challenge with the Broncos defense landed a no call from the ref, and Menzoa looking to have pain in his shoulder after a collision with a Broncos forward. Despite the physical play from the Broncos, the only card given was to Ed Uhrik, coach for with appeared to be irritating the refs with his comments concerning his players safety.
“It was stupid that were making calls us against us because they didn’t know what they were calling,” Arellano said
‘We were getting frustrated with the refs calling fouls on us so much, but we had to get through it,” Rocha commented.
“The all did not change anything for us. I don’t care what the refs call, we just have to fight through it and keep fighting hard to win,” Lennon added.
The Wildcats enter Friday with a 22-1-2 record facing off against Lake Park who boasts a 22-2-3 record. Edwardsville and Naperville Central also join the Cats with Naperville looking to continue their stretch of appearing in the finals for the third consecutive year. wheeling and Lake Park will play on friday at 5 p.m. with both teams entering the final four for the first time in the history of both schools.
“We have confidence in all our guys. Everyone will be good at this point of the season, but we don’t care who we play we will be ready for anybody in our way,” Lennon said.
“We just have to stay concentrated throughout the game, and keep concentrated for the next. I said we were going to win last night and we did, and i still believe that i can stop every shot anybody shoots against me. We have all the faith in ourselves to win and bring home another trophy,” Mendoza added.