ST. CHARLES – After the Jacobs boys soccer team huddled up for the final time, coach AJ Cappello walked up to every player on the team, shook his hand and thanked him for his hard work.
“[I’m] thankful and appreciative for having the opportunity to work with these boys, some of them since they were in sixth, seventh grade,” Cappello said.
For the second year in a row, the Golden Eagles’ playoff run fell one step short of the state semifinals. St. Charles North beat Jacobs, 2-0, on Tuesday in the Class 3A St. Charles North Supersectional.
Despite sectional titles in 2016 and 2017, Jacobs still is searching for its first trip to state in boys soccer.
Jacobs players shared long hugs and shed tears in the aftermath of the loss.
“They’re proud of us,” senior Noah Melick said of the Jacobs coaches. “That we set this program to where it is now. They just congratulated us. It’s been a ride. It’s been a lot of fun.
“Everybody was doubting us coming into the playoffs. We got here; we did what we had to do. Unfortunately, we came up short again.”
In the last high school game for Melick – who will play in college at Wisconsin – and the rest of the seniors, the Eagles just couldn’t find the back of the net. St. Charles North (16-2-4) reaches the state semifinals for the first time in program history.
The match was scoreless for almost all of the first half. St. Charles North’s Jake Persenico corralled a pass, spun and rocketed the ball into the back of the net to break the tie in the 36th minute.
“[Persenico] was having a hard time at the beginning of that game trying to find space and trying to find his rhythm,” North Stars coach Eric Willson said. “For a kid like that, it just takes a moment. He got a little bit of space, turned and you see what he does when he has that kind of space. To get a lead in that game was obviously really, really big for us.”
St. Charles North added a second goal in the 66th minute from Bernard Elegbede.
Jacobs (16-7-2) had two good looks in the first eight minutes, but couldn’t connect. Late in the match, the Eagles had a goal wiped off the scoreboard for offsides.
It was a frustrating night for the Eagles, who were awarded a handful of yellow cards in the match. Senior Gabe Swarthout was ejected in the final minutes with his second yellow card.
“You know [St. Charles North was] going to play some good soccer,” Cappello said. “I thought we created some chances; they created some chances. We just didn’t get to the back of the net; they did.”
Cappello felt for his seniors afterward, especially considering it was their second consecutive trip to the supersectional in which they came up short.
“They wear it on their sleeve every day,” Cappello said. “Not just in games, in training and in the offseason. We’re not here without them and their dedication to the program, to the sport, to each other.”