Waterloo came out with its guns blazing Tuesday and earned a trip to soccer’s promised land.
Junior Philip Most and senior Kane Osterhage scored in the first half and junior Ben Huels maintained the momentum with a second-half goal as the Bulldogs stifled Springfield 3-0 in the Class 2A Jacksonville Super-Sectional at Illinois College.
It was the ninth victory in 10 games for the Bulldogs (23-3-1), who will tackle Mundelein Carmel (18-7-1) in the semifinals at 1 p.m. Friday at Hoffman Estates High School. Carmel defeated Elmwood Park 4-1 on Tuesday to win the Maine South Super-Sectional.
“We knew we could do something special,” Huels said. “Now we’ve got two more games.”
It will be Waterloo’s first trip to the state tournament since 2010 when it placed third in Class 2A. Springfield, which placed third in Class 2A last season, finished 21-5.
“We knew it would be a good battle coming into the super-sectional,” Waterloo coach Chad Holden said. “We knew they had a very good team. Scoring those two goals as quick as we did, that definitely changed it around a little bit. Those were awesome.
“You want to be the first team to score, because then they (opponents) have to start pushing out a little bit and we can start finding some seams in their defense. In the postseason, that really becomes important because there are a lot of one-goal games.”
Striking early, often
Waterloo enjoyed the better of the play from the opening minute, save a handful of counterattacks by Springfield that kept things interesting.
The Bulldogs’ pressure finally took its toll when Most curled in a corner kick from the right side, twisting it around the defense and inside the far post to make it 1-0 at 23 minutes, 27 seconds. Most, who is right-footed, delivered with his left foot for his ninth goal of the year.
“I’m not left-footed at all,” Most said. “It was unexpected, but it was great. In practice, you always try to see how far you can hook it in. As soon as I kicked it, the ref said, ‘Nice shot.’”
A Springfield foul created Osterhage’s 30th goal of the season goal at 24:49. Osterhage, from 35 yards away, hammered a free kick from the middle of the field that fooled Senators junior goalkeeper Evan Wright, who broke to his left as the ball crossed over the goal line to his right.
Wright appeared to have his vision obscured by the Springfield wall.
“I think they were still setting their wall up and (Osterhage) saw the opening and went ahead and took it,” Holden said. “He was smart enough to take it as quick as he could.”
Springfield coach Pat Phillips said it was the most important goal of the game, particularly in light of what had happened in the moments before Osterhage took the kick.
“I thought the second goal was the biggest killer,” Phillips said. “I thought we should have had a foul going out. Instead, they get the ball and we foul them going in. Our keeper’s not ready, dead ball in and it’s 2-0 instead of our kick going the other way. I thought that was huge.
“We made three big mistakes. Their three goals were three big mistakes. ... They ‘outphysicaled’ us, they outworked us, they took advantage of our mistakes. They’re solid. Where do you find a weakness on that team? I don’t see one. I hope we lost to the state champs.”
Huels culminated the scoring with a diving header in front of the right post at 41:03, all but erasing any optimism the Senators had about staging a comeback. The goal came on a well-struck cross from the left side by senior Ethan Lewis.
“I’ve got to give credit to Ethan,” Huels said of his 27th goal. “He made a great slide tackle, got in behind and I knew he was going to cross it. That’s my bread and butter right there.
“If you’re up 2-0 at half, you’ve always got to get the third one. If they get a goal, it’s 2-1 and it’s a good game. If you get the third one, it puts their heads down and seals the game.”
Defense rules again
Once again, the Bulldogs shined on defense as they gained their 15th shutout of the season.
Seniors Cole Kaiping and Chase Rubemeyer and juniors Drew Marshall and Griffin Lenhardt showed the way, as they were able to bottle up Springfield’s dynamic one-two punch of juniors Logan Willard (36 goals) and Nate Cheung (34 goals).
The Senators caused occasional problems early in the first half and again late in the second half, but Waterloo always had a remedy to escape. Junior goalie Trevor Coplin, showing quick feet, made two sensational saves in the second half to preserve the shutout.
“At the beginning, we were adjusting because they were doing a lot of one-two balls,” Rubemeyer said. “No. 10 (Willard) was trying to sneak up behind our defense, but we got him under control. I just felt like as long as we were playing our hardest, we would do well.”
Holden has been touting his defense all season.
“Awesome,” Holden said of his back line’s showing against the Senators. “They were just unbelievable. They don’t allow a bunch of shots. When they do, we’ve got a great keeper back there, also. That’s what wins games is defense. If you don’t give up a goal, you’re going to win. We didn’t give up a goal, and here we are.”
Class 2A State Tournament
At Hoffman Estates High School
Friday, Nov. 6
Game 1: Mundelein Carmel vs. Waterloo, 1 p.m.
Game 2: Peoria Notre Dame vs. Chicago Washington, 3 p.m.
Saturday, Nov. 7
Loser Game 1 vs. Loser Game 2, 11 a.m.
Winner Game 1 vs. Winner Game 2, 1 p.m.