CHATHAM — It was a banner day for the Central State Eight Conference on Wednesday and now the league is guaranteed to have one team sitting a step away from the Class 2A boys soccer state finals.
Rochester, still with a sub-.500 record despite three straight postseason wins, beat Urbana 1-0 in the first Class 2A Chatham Glenwood Sectional semifinal on Wednesday. The Rockets (10-12-1) will face fellow CS8 member Chatham Glenwood (17-3-2) in the sectional title game on Friday at 5 p.m. on the Glenwood soccer field.
Glenwood topped Champaign Central (20-3-2) 4-1 in the semifinal following Rochester’s victory.
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Rochester wins a squeaker
Anyone who has spent more than a handful of minutes with any coach has likely heard a number of clichés, like “the biggest game is the next” or “we need to play all four quarters” or “give the opponent credit.” But sometimes, a cliché works. Or in the case of Rochester, maybe a couple do.
The postseason is called the second season. In other words, even a woebegone team down on its luck throughout much of the regular season can put together a stretch of good enough games to find a way to make a deep run. While it would be dismissive to say Rochester was an also-ran in the regular season, the Rockets entered the postseason with a 7-12-1 record and went 2-5 in the Central State Eight. But sometimes a cliché is on point.
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A 7-0 win in the Springfield High Regional semifinal against Athens set up a rematch with the hosts on their home turf at Lee Field. The Senators beat Rochester 2-0 on Sept. 6. But on Friday, Rochester took a 1-0 lead before winning in the penalty kick shootout to take the regional title and advance to Wednesday’s sectional semifinals.
The second normally eyeroll-inducing coach speak came from Rochester coach Chad Kutscher, shortly after Darren Booth’s goal proved to be the game-winner and sent the Rockets into the 2A sectional title game.
Rochester did a complete overhaul of its formation just before it faced Springfield High in the regional title game last week.
“The kids are taking what we’re talking about and they’re applying it in these game situations and they’re buying in,” Kutscher said. “I hate to use that cliché … but they really are.”
Kutscher, who has more than 500 wins coaching Rochester boys and girls soccer wins, says the change has worked so well so quickly, he now wonders if he should’ve altered the Rockets’ system earlier.
“I’m kind of kicking myself: maybe I should’ve done this a long time ago but we’re playing a really good style with this formation,” Kutscher said. We’re closing down things in the middle, our wings are playing really well playing up and getting back. This formation can be very defensive if you need or it can be very attack-minded if you need.”
On Wednesday, the Rochester defense stymied Urbana for 80 minutes. The Rockets allowed the Tigers just two shots on goal and only a few additional scoring chances. Rochester goalkeeper Aidan Hughes made both saves but enveloped and deflected the ball each time it came in his territory.
That defense meant Rochester didn’t need many chances on offense. Less than 90 seconds into the second half, Rochester quickly pushed the ball from the middle and got it to a streaking Booth, who slid just in front of Urbana goalie Tyler Marcum and popped the ball over Marcum’s head and softly into the net.
“Lachlan Sullivan won (the ball in the middle) and played it to Brendon McArdle,” Booth said. “(McArdle) played a floater over the top. I just barely got to it and just slipped and chipped it over the keeper.”
Rochester goalie Aidan Hughes said it’s incredible how much better Rochester has gotten in such a short period of time.
“We got a lot better since the beginning of the season and we’ve worked so hard in practice and in every game,” Hughes said. “Like today, we saw a difference and that difference is huge. It’s crazy to think. It’s a euphoric feeling; it’s an exciting feeling.”
Rochester kept up enough offensive pressure, finished with seven shots on goal and didn’t allow Urbana clean looks until the Tigers amped up its attack late.
“The first time playing against them and they have big guys, tall guys and they play physical,” Urbana coach Miki Kowalski said. “We had a few chances at the end but they had a good keep, a couple of good center-backs and they knew how to keep the ball.”
Glenwood’s second-half surge
After a scoreless first half, Christian Ray scored from the left side of the net in the 45th minute after Carter Downen came up with a rebound to give Glenwood a 1-0 lead. Six minutes later, Maddox Gerger put away an Ethan Greer rebound for a 2-0 advantage.
“An unlucky shot hit the post and I was just there to punch it in,” Gerger said.
After Glenwood goalie Josh Jones made two saves in the 62nd minute, Eben Reed dribbled past the Central defenders to find an opening for a 3-0 lead. Glenwood coach Kyle Franke said he kept rotating players in to have the freshest legs on the field.
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“I subbed a little more and I felt if I kept subbing those guys up top and kept rotating them through, that would we wear their defense down and I think we did,” Franke said. “Central) is a scary good team.”
The Maroons’ heartbeat was resuscitated in the 67th minute when Diego Zarco scored on a free kick but that cause of hope lasted just two minutes until Miles Calderon had an open net after Gabe Seeber came out to challenge Downen before Downen made the pass for the easy goal.
“I saw (Downen) making a run outside so I knew if I could get in and get open in the middle, he would eventually find me and I could do something with that,” Calderon said.
Jones made two saves but had a noticeable limp in the last several minutes after a Central player slid into him.
“We just didn’t come out ready and we weren’t playing as physical and being the villains we need to be in the first half,” Jones said.
Contact Ryan Mahan: 788-1546, [email protected], Twitter.com/RyanMahanSJR.
This article originally appeared on State Journal-Register: IHSA soccer: Rochester, Glenwood will meet in sectional championship