The student news publication of Libertyville High School

Drops of Ink

The student news publication of Libertyville High School

Drops of Ink

The student news publication of Libertyville High School

Drops of Ink

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Soccer: Dream season concludes with a Class 3A state title

Alyssa Stokovich
The Wildcat’s celebrate their first ISHA Class 3A state championship title after defeating Quincy 2-1.

On Saturday, Nov. 7, the Wildcats made history for Libertyville High School when they defeated the Quincy Blue Devils 2-1 and won the first state championship in the program’s history.

“It was our goal. Obviously you can’t guarantee anything but we definitely thought we’d make it,” said senior captain Kevin Reilly, a four-year varsity player.

And that they did. Both of the Wildcats’ goals of the night came from Ryan Wittenbrink, a mere sophomore as reminded by Libertyville’s student section, with assists from senior midfielder Liam O’Connell. O’Connell was later named the tournament MVP after marking his 22nd assist of the season.

After an impressive 2-1 win against Morton the previous day, the Wildcats again entered the Hoffman Estates High School stadium for the state championship matchup against the Blue Devils with the confidence to end the road to state with a title and a trophy.

Starting out strong, Libertyville’s forwards and attacking midfielders created many opportunities, totalling 14 shots on goal throughout the game. However it was in the 19th minute that O’Connell’s long cross found Wittenbrink, who knocked a header into the left side of the net. This display was only one among many of the sophomore’s  impressive plays in the state contests. Wittenbrink also tied the record of three goals in two final four games.

As the first half came to a close, the Cats’ impressive defense held strong by keeping the Quincy offense in check and the 1-0 lead for the Cats. As the team returned to the field for the last 40 minutes of play in the season, they were refreshed and motivated to hold off Quincy.

That’s when the Wittenbrink-O’Connell combination stepped up again in the 54th minute and showed what they were made of. As O’Connell directed the ball through the Quincy defense, Wittenbrink drove it into the left corner of the net once again. This insurance goal put Libertyville up 2-0 with only 26 minutes of play left in the game of a lifetime.

Although the Cats proved victorious in the end, Quincy managed not to leave empty handed. With less than two minutes left in regulation, the Blue Devils put up a point on the board, but were left with no room to play catch up as the Wildcats still carried a lead of one. The Blue Devils ended their season with a 20-5-2 record and a second-place state finish.

With the last seconds of the season beginning to count down, emotions built and celebration ensued. Libertyville family, friends, and fans surrounded the field waiting to congratulate the team on their long-awaited victory. However, none had waited longer for this victory more than head coach Andy Bitta who, after 31 years of leading the program, finally managed to claim win No. 436 with a state title.

Bitta, who lead the Cats to second-place finishes in 1986 and 2010, was thoroughly celebrated and praised as the team chanted for him to raise the trophy soon after it was presented in front of the cheering stands. He obligingly did so alongside his 25 players, who all boasted nothing but smiles for the rest of the night.

To the seniors, nothing could have concluded their last season sporting the Wildcat uniforms better than ending it with the biggest win of their careers thus far. Coming into the program as freshmen, they left as champions.

“Getting to play with your best friends everyday is honestly the best part about it, and I’m definitely going to miss that the most,” said senior captain Tucker Goebeler after the game.

In a matter of 80 minutes, the boys’ added their 19th, and most important, win to their final season record of 19-3-1, and with the 12 seniors who will be departing next year, they leave behind a legacy of devoted and hardworking team players who left it all on the field for one last game in a true dream season.

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The student news publication of Libertyville High School
Soccer: Dream season concludes with a Class 3A state title