Crystal Lake South senior goalkeeper Carson Hill has been waiting for this year, and he is taking full advantage of it.
Hill bided his time on the junior varsity last year while two senior goalkeepers, Matt McCaleb and Oscar Estrada, guided the Gators to an IHSA Class 2A state championship. It was a tough act to follow, but Hill is holding his own this year.
“It’s a really big step for me,” Hill said. “It’s a big role, especially with what we did last year. [Winning state has] always been a dream of mine. If it happens, I’ll be happy, but it’s always team first. My teammates are more important.”
Hill and the Gators have eight shutout victories this season. Prior to the season, coach Brian Allen said Hill was one of the Gators’ hardest workers over the offseason. Hill made two diving saves in Tuesday's loss, 1-0, to Jacobs in overtime, one on a free kick from just outside the 18-yard box.
"My team was putting forth their whole effort and wanted it bad," Hill said. "On that free kick, I just put my body out there. I wanted it as bad as them. I stuck my arms out and got it. I just laid out for it hoping my hands would get there."
Hill said he learned a lot from going to camps with Estrada and that he developed a relationship with McCaleb off the field, too.
At 6-foot-4, Hill is a tall, lanky target in the net.
“I take it game by game and make sure I don’t think too far ahead so the pressure doesn’t get to me,” Hill said.
Tigers roll on: Crystal Lake Central has won seven of its past eight games after an overtime win over McHenry on Tuesday. The recent run of success was sparked by an overtime loss to Prairie Ridge on Sept. 24, a game coach Jay Schwarzrock called the Tigers’ “low point.”
“We kind of turned it around and started crawling out of the valley,” Schwarzrock said. “Right now, I think we’re peaking a little bit. We had a nice game against Cary-Grove, a nice game against Huntley and put away some teams that we should have. We ran into a little bit of a road bump [against South]. We knew it was going to be a battle, but we’ve got to learn not to play on pure emotion.”
South defeated Central, 3-1, last week.
The Tigers won a Class 3A regional last year, and drop down into Class 2A for this year’s postseason.
1. Jacobs (12-3-3, 8-0 FVC): The Golden Eagles are guaranteed the FVC title, no matter what happens against Prairie Ridge on Wednesday. They will try to make it an undefeated, 9-0, run.
2. Crystal Lake South (13-4-4, 6-1-1 FVC): The Gators won't defend their FVC title, but they will finish solidly in second place. South finishes the season at Hampshire on Thursday before hosting a Class 2A regional next week.
3. Crystal Lake Central (10-5-2, 6-3 FVC): Central has won six of its past seven contests, including a big win over Dundee-Crown on Thursday.
4. Woodstock (16-5, 10-0 KRC): The Blue Streaks completed a sweep of the KRC, winning all 10 conference games without allowing a goal. Woodstock has a nonconference tuneup against Burlington Central on Thursday before entering the Class 2A tournament next week.
5. Hampshire (13-8-2, 4-3-1 FVC): It's been an up and down season for the Whip-Purs, but a win over Dundee-Crown on Tuesday propelled Hampshire back into the rankings.
WHAT TO WATCH
Crystal Lake South at Hampshire, 4:30 p.m. Thursday: The Gators will try to rebound in their regular season finale at Hampshire.
Richmond-Burton vs. Rockford Christian at Class 1A Rockford Christian Regional championship, 10 a.m. Saturday: The No. 1-seeded Rockets have never won a regional title in boys soccer, but will try to do so Saturday.