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Boys soccer survives to face rematch for state title

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Senior Mason Williams leaps in the air to get a touch on the ball.

The boys soccer 3A state title matchup of Libertyville and Naperville North is nothing new to the headlines. After prevailing in the semifinal game against Collinsville (19-5-2), the Wildcats (22-0) will face the Huskies (22-0) for the second year in a row for the championship on Saturday, Nov. 3.

After Friday night’s game started two and a half hours late due to extra time being needed in the prior games, Libertyville clinched the victory, 1-0.

Controlling the offense from the beginning, Libertyville produced open looks and close shots. Although they had many opportunities, the scoreboard remained quiet through the first half.

It wasn’t long after halftime though, that senior captain Evan Rasmussen zipped in a low shot to put the Wildcats ahead, scoring his 34th goal of the season. After establishing position in front of the net, Rasmussen received a cross pass from Jack VanDixhorn, setting him up for the goal.

Both teams applied tight defensive pressure throughout the entirety of the game. Near the end of the second half, the play began to become more aggressive, resulting in the feuding over official calls, ultimately giving the Collinsville bench a yellow card. The Wildcats defense earned another shutout after senior goalkeeper Zach El Ghatit recorded eight saves, one of which happened with just under a minute left in the game and forced him to dive in order to secure the ball.

“I came off my line which was a mistake by me. It was a nice driven ball and I didn’t think anyone would get a touch on it so I started coming out,” senior goalkeeper Zach El Ghatit said.“Then I knew I had to backtrack and it was kind of an awkward save but it worked.”

The lofty expectations for Libertyville to have another successful postseason run are backed by the passion and bond shared by the players. This is their third trip to State in the past four years.

“It’s the chemistry and the love that they each have for each other,” Libertyville Head Coach Kevin Thunholm explained. “A lot of teams say they’re family, but you can tell they love to play with each other and love being out here all day long. They trust each other and support.”

Going into their last game with a taste of revenge and desire that dates back to last November when Naperville North ended the Wildcats’ season, Coach Thunholm discussed the importance of needing “to finish the ball, trust in each other, and play good defense” in order to see the result they want.

Although the two teams have history, the Wildcats have made it clear that it doesn’t affect their game plan in anyway.

“We go into every game with the same mindset. Go in strong, go in hard, and hope to finish. It’s not going to be any different against Naperville [North],” El Ghatit said.

Both Libertyville and Naperville North remain undefeated going into the championship game. They will play for the 3A state title on Saturday, Nov. 3 at 7 p.m. at Hoffman Estates High School.

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Boys soccer survives to face rematch for state title