In June, Crystal Lake South's boys soccer team played a summer tournament game against Peoria Notre Dame and lost in penalty kicks after playing to a 1-1 draw.
“Our staff got the team together and told them not to worry,” coach Brian Allen said. “How cool would it be if we actually got to play them again on the final weekend of the season?”
That proved prescient. The Gators defeated Notre Dame in penalty kicks Saturday to win the IHSA Class 2A state championship.
Green- and gold-clad fans gathered Thursday at South to celebrate the historic season with the team.
The boys soccer title marked South’s third team state championship in school history, along with the 1980 boys golf team (in Class AA) and the 2017 baseball team (in Class 4A).
“That’s an amazing feat for these boys, and the coaches and staff,” athletic director Jason Bott said.
Senior Jack Wruck, who scored the final PK goal to give the Gators the state title, didn’t remember much about that summertime matchup with Notre Dame.
“I knew we played them, but I didn’t remember if we’d won or lost,” Wruck said. “Before the [state championship] we did watch film from the summer. So that refreshed our memories.”
Wruck said it was “surreal” kicking the state title-winning penalty kick and celebrating with his teammates. Wruck was one of four Gators seniors who played four years of varsity soccer and one of 12 total seniors.
Allen was proud of his team for buying in and never straying from the goal all season, which was to grow with every practice and game. Allen introduced a new saying this season. Almost every tweet from the team’s Twitter account included the hashtag #WEgo, which is all about leaving egos at the door.
“The WE is always capitalized because the WE is always more important than any one ego on the team,” Allen said Thursday.
Nobody embodied that more than South’s senior goalkeepers.
Three times during the postseason – including the state semifinal and championship games – Matt McCaleb played 100 minutes in goal through regulation and overtime, only to be subbed out for Oscar Estrada in the PK shootout.
McCaleb and Estrada were each other's biggest fans on the bench, too.
“A team with egos is not likely changing things up for penalty kicks,” Allen said. “But this is no ordinary team.”
South has the hardware to prove it.