HOFFMAN ESTATES – Jacobs senior midfielder Alex Nicastro jumped right into the middle of his team's last huddle after West Chicago ended the Golden Eagles' season, 2-0, in the Class 3A Conant Supersectional on Tuesday.
Nicastro, one of 10 returning starters, also was on the last Jacobs team to end its season in the supersectionals, in 2017.
"I told them that we’re a family, and we’re going to get through it together," Nicastro said. "All of us worked hard for this moment. They've got to use this feeling next year and see if they can do better.
"I see really big things for them."
Jacobs (16-5-3) was hoping to make its first state appearance in program history. Instead, West Chicago (22-2-3) will go for the first time when the Wildcats meet Edwardsville at 5 p.m. Friday in the state semifinals.
Jacobs, the Fox Valley Conference champion at 8-1, earned its third regional title in four years and then won its third sectional title in four years. The Eagles, however, have not been able to get past the supersectional hump.
"We had dreams and aspirations of making state, and we came close," second-year coach Colin Brice said. "We met our goal of winning conference, winning a regional and winning a sectional. We fell shy of going to state, but it was still a successful season. Our boys will be prepared to play again here next year."
Jacobs had the better chances early Tuesday, but West Chicago took the lead after getting a penalty kick after a foul was called against P.J. Hopkins. Jessie Hernandez stepped up and fired his shot to the left as Jacobs goalkeeper Preston Krahl dived the other way, giving the Wildcats a 1-0 lead with 14:45 left in the first half.
Brice felt his side had about three solid scoring chances in the first half, but the Eagles were unable to break through.
Armstrong made a dangerous cross about midway through the first half with Nicastro making a run into the box, but West Chicago goalkeeper David Kuehn stepped through and grabbed the ball before Nicastro could take a swing.
Armstrong had another chance right before halftime that was turned away by Kuehn. West Chicago had a player sent off early in the second half with a red card, but the Eagles' chances were few and far between despite having the advantage.
"We put those chances away [in the first half], and I think it’s a different game," Brice said. "In the second half, we knew they were going to settle in. We were playing too direct. We tried to get our guys to start playing the ground."
Krahl made six saves in his last high school game. Kuehn had seven stops for the Wildcats, who added their second goal with 18:49 left on a 25-yard shot by Hernandez off a free kick.
Jacobs graduates nine seniors. The Eagles improved by six wins, in addition to an FVC title and postseason hardware.
"It's hard to see them all go," said Armstrong, a junior. "They’ve all given their hearts and soul to this program, and they’ve made everybody better players. Not only high school kids, but youth kids that come and train with us, too."
"We just love playing soccer. We love playing this sport. It was awesome to get back here."
STAR OF THE GAME
Jacobs, jr., F
Armstrong had the Eagles' best chances throughout Tuesday's supersectional loss and finished the season with a team-high 15 goals.
0: Jacobs never has advanced to state.
AND ANOTHER THING ...
Jacobs goalkeeper Preston Krahl made six saves in his last high school game. Krahl, who also kicks on the football team, finished the season with seven shutouts.