HOFFMAN ESTATES – Oscar Estrada needed to make a save.
Never mind that he hadn’t played at all in Friday’s state semifinal game until the penalty kick shootout. Crystal Lake South trailed in the shootout with one kick to go, and Estrada needed to make the biggest save of his life.
He did. Twice.
Estrada saved Gibault Catholic’s fifth attempt, then made another save on Gibault’s sudden-death PK attempt. Those two saves, sandwiched by PK scores from teammates Andrew Edge and Alex Canfield, gave Crystal Lake South a 2-1 (5-4 PKs) victory in the Class 2A state semifinals.
Crystal Lake South (21-2-3) advances to Saturday’s state title game at 1 p.m. at Hoffman Estates against Peoria Notre Dame.
After making the final, sudden-death save on a dive to his left, Estrada picked up the ball under one arm and sprinted to the Gators student section, his other fist held high in the air.
“Words can’t even explain what I’m trying to say right now,” Estrada said. “Oh my God, the feeling. It’s amazing.”
Gibault (17-5-5) was trying to reach the Class 2A state championship game for the second consecutive season. South was playing in its first-ever state appearance.
Estrada has done this before. In the Gator’s regional championship win over Wauconda two weeks ago, Estrada entered the PK shootout in relief of starting goalkeeper Matt McCaleb and made two saves to help his team advance.
On Friday, McCaleb played a superb 100 minutes, through regulation and two overtime periods, making seven saves. McCaleb and Estrada shared time early this season, but McCaleb earned the majority of the playing time by the end of the year.
Still, South coach Brian Allen thinks Estrada gives his team an edge in penalty kicks.
“There’s certain things he does extremely well that I think, in that situation, he thrives,” Allen said. “And Matt played a phenomenal 100 minutes, he does his job in there.”
Estrada called McCaleb his “best bud.”
“It’s amazing watching him,” Estrada said. “His personality is just crazy, he’s a very good goalkeeper. I admire him so much.”
McCaleb held Gibault scoreless through the first half. Canfield drew a foul inside the 18-yard box to give South a penalty kick in the 35th minute of action. Edge nailed the PK to put the Gators on top, 1-0.
South created the majority of the scoring chances in the first half. That changed in the second half.
“In the second half, we made a point of emphasis to keep the ball a little more and play the style that we wanted it to be,” Gibault midfielder Karson Huels said.
Huels scored for Gibault on a free kick assist from Adam Stearns eight minutes after halftime. Neither team capitalized on its scoring chances late in regulation or in overtime.
Then Estrada stole the show.
“It’s amazing,” Edge said. “He’s done it twice now. … It’s just unbelievable.”
STAR OF THE MATCH
Oscar Estrada, Crystal Lake South, sr., GK
Estrada sat on the bench through regulation and two overtimes Friday before entering the state semifinal game for the penalty kick shootout. He made back-to-back saves when he needed it most to send the Gators to the Class 2A state championship game 1 p.m. Saturday.
100: Starting goalkeeper Matt McCaleb deserves his share of the credit, too, for keeping Gibault Catholic to one goal in 100 minutes of play.
AND ANOTHER THING…
Estrada and McCaleb split time early in the season. After McCaleb started earning more of the playing time, South coach Brian Allen kept reminding Estrada to be ready at any moment. “The coolest thing is watching them embrace [their roles],” Allen said. “They speak very highly of each other, they make us a better team in training.”
Crystal Lake South 2, Gibault Catholic 1 (5-4 PKs)
GC 0 1 0 0 – 1
CLS 1 0 0 0 – 2 (5-4 PKs)
CLS – Edge (PK), 35th minute.
GC – Huels (Stearns), 49th minute.
Goalkeeper saves – Crystal Lake South: McCaleb 7. Gibault Catholic: Olson 13.
PK goals – Crystal Lake South: R. Coughlin, Langdon, Wruck, Edge, Canfield. Gibault Catholic: Huels, Doerr, Stearns, Merlenbach.