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Wildcats Come Up Short in State Match

Senior captain Ryan Wittenbrink presses the Cats offense forward at the start of the first half.

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Coming in with a 22-0-2 undefeated record, the Libertyville boys soccer team had finally arrived at the IHSA 3A State Championship on Saturday, Nov. 4. Hundreds of fans from Libertyville, and the opposing team, Naperville North, gathered in the stands at Hoffman Estates High School, anxiously awaiting the start of what was projected to be a competitive match.

A dense fog settled over the stadium and temperatures dipped down into the lower 40s as the start of the 7 p.m. match approached. The Cats began an early warm-up 30 minutes prior to the start of the match, all with the mindset of continuing their undefeated season.

The fog seemed to grow thicker throughout the first half, as the first 40 minutes of the game concluded with a score of 0-0. But as the fog lifted midway through the second half, Naperville North found the goal. The Cats couldn’t find the net, as they experienced their first lost of the season, ending with a record of 22-1-2, to Naperville North’s 27-1-1.

The lone goal was scored with 16 minutes left in the second half off a throw-in from Naperville North captain Jack Barry, to junior Colin Iverson, who headed the ball into the goal.

Naperville North goalkeeper Tommy Welch stopped 11 shots and was certainly a key reason for the game’s final result.

The Cats played an extremely aggressive game, and they certainly kept the Naperville North defenders on their toes. The Cats moved the ball up and down the field extremely fast, creating multiple scoring opportunities for themselves, none of which they were able to execute. With multiple balls deflected off the post, the Cats just weren’t able to finish the shots they had.

“[We needed to] finish the ball. We hit the post three times. They had a great goalie, but we hit the post three times,” Libertyville head coach Kevin Thunholm said, as he explained what the Cats could’ve done differently.

After the goal, the Wildcats fought for the remainder of the game, trying to sneak a goal in to tie things up. Although the Cats seemed to dominate at times during the match, they could not get the equalizer.

Emotions were running high on the Libertyville bench after the match. The Cats worked rigorously throughout the season, with the intention of making it down State.

Senior Captain Ryan Wittenbrink was a prominent force in the success of the Wildcats throughout the season. Indiana-bound Wittenbrink was back for his second state run after being part of the  2015 state championship team, leading this year’s team through the season. Wittenbrink ended his legacy at Libertyville with 39 goals and 17 assists this year, making him one of the best players in Libertyville soccer history.

“This is a hell of team, one of the best teams that has come to Libertyville. I couldn’t be more proud of each and every guy on this team,” captain Riley Hoff said. “We put our hearts out. My four years here was one of the most incredible times of my life [and] I’ve got nothing but high hopes and pride for this team. I love each and every one of them like my brothers.”

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Wildcats Come Up Short in State Match