HOFFMAN ESTATES – For Wheaton Academy to lose in the state semifinals Friday via penalty kicks for a second consecutive year seemed downright cruel.
But a similar feeling of heartbreak from 12 months ago can not take away from what was a memorable 2013 season and two-year run.
“It’s definitely a bummer going out in penalty kicks like we did last year,” said senior midfielder Sam Hardy, whose team fell 2-1 to St. Ignatius after eight rounds of penalty kicks Friday before losing 2-1 to Rochester in the third-place match Saturday and finishing fourth in the state as it did last fall. “We basically had the same run this year that we did last year.
“But we had a great season. All of the guys came together and we were brothers, it was awesome. The goal for us was to get better game after game and practice after practice. We had a lot of depth this year and a lot of guys contributed.”
The Warriors finished the fall with a 22-5-1 record, which included a perfect mark in the team’s final season in the Suburban Christian Conference.
“We went through some adversity; our leading goal scorer from last year did not play this year,” senior defender Marshall West said of Grant Stoneman, who chose to play club soccer. “But we really came together as a team. We had a nice run at the Pepsi Showdown, we won conference and we went downstate for a second straight year, even though we didn’t get the result we wanted. We had a nice year.”
The squad’s back-to-back appearances at state are the second time that has happened in program history. The Warriors also qualified in 2004 and 2005 (as well as 1980 and 1990).
“Making it down two years in a row was great,” Hardy said. “We just wish we could have had a better run this year, just to redeem ourselves from last year because it’s kind of weird sitting on two losses for nine months. We were hungry to get back to the state tournament this year and we did a good job.”
Adding to the experience was the closeness of the group.
“We were a really tight-knit group this year,” West said, “and we received contributions from each class all the way down the roster. It was a special year, with the great camaraderie and brotherhood we had; last year as well.”
Head coach Jeff Brooke, who now has a record of 105-37-11 at Wheaton Academy, also deserves a large share of the credit.
“He is definitely the best coach I’ve ever had for any sport,” West said. “The way he coaches us is different than anything I’ve ever seen. He mentors us and is a great leader. I’m really honored to have played for him the past four years.”