Boys Soccer beats Leyden to advance to Regional Final


Bradley Hills

Lane and Leyden line up before their Regional Semifinal battle. With the win, Lane will face New Trier in the Regional Final on Oct. 20 at New Trier.

By Bradley Hills, Sports Editor

Standing on the sideline, side by side, some wrapped up in blankets, Boys Soccer watched as their teammates took the penalty kicks that would decide their fate and whether they would play another game or not.

Despite Lane having the advantage throughout much of the shootout, the outcome of the game and each team’s season hinged on one final shot. If Leyden scored, the penalty shootout would continue, but if they missed, Lane would going to the Regional Final.

“There was a lot of pressure,” Jhan Estrada, Div. 969, who came in the game as goalkeeper during the penalty shootout, said. “It was a big situation but coming in I was pretty confident in my ability to save penalties.”

However, on the final penalty kick, Estrada did not need to make a save, as the penalty kick ricocheted off the right post to secure a Lane victory.

The once cold and huddled up Lane team immediately sprinted onto the field to celebrate with Estrada, the victorious goalkeeper.

The game started off robustly, with Lane and Leyden trading attacks and chances to take the lead. Lane created multiple scoring opportunities within the span of minutes midway through the first half.

Cathal O’Connor, Div. 958, and Fernando Alvarado, Div. 982, had multiple first half chances result in breakaways and shots that could not find the back of the net.

“We had two or three clear-cut opportunities that we could have been up 2 or 3-0 at halftime,” Coach Ricks said. “We didn’t put those opportunities away that’s why the game got extended.”

With each team trading unsuccessful chances, the first half ended in a 0-0 tie.

“I thought we had better chances even though it was tied,” Ricks said. “If it was a boxing match I think we would have won the first half.”

The second half started in a very similar fashion, with each team counterattacking and putting men forward to break the deadlock.

The breakthrough would end up coming 15 minutes into the second half, where an Omar Divanovic, Div. 967, pass to O’Connor ended up with a shot on goal that got tapped past the Leyden goalkeeper by Alvarado to give Lane a 1-0 lead with 25 minutes remaining.

“I’m always looking at the ball,” Alvarado said. “The shot was going pretty slowly and I saw the goalie going for it so I let it go through my legs and back heeled it, which the goalie was not expecting it at all.”

After scoring, Lane continued to keep up the pressure in order to hold off Leyden. However, their attempts almost failed, as a Leyden free kick from just outside the penalty area went off the crossbar and had to be cleared off the goalline.

Lane’s ability to stay strong and keep the intensity high was lauded by their coach.

“I was pleased because we held,” Ricks said. “That’s how I judge where a team is at. If you score and in the first five minutes either don’t give up a goal or score again, that’s a good sign. A weak team is one who scores and get scored on right away.”

However, Lane was unable to hold off Leyden for the entire game. With 5 minutes left in regulation a long ball fell to a Leyden player in the box, who turned home a half volley to tie the game at 1 after a strong series of pressure from Leyden.

After Leyden’s goal, Lane was forced to shift from a more defensive strategy to back on the attack.

“We were sitting back trying to bend and not break but we broke,” Ricks said. “After we conceded a goal we became the aggressor though.”

After attempts to get a second goal from both teams failed, the game went to extra time, where despite each team getting opportunities, no goals were scored. This pushed the game to a penalty shootout.

Despite some missed penalties from Lane, saves from Estrada and missed penalties by Leyden allowed the Indians to win the shootout 3-2.

The Indians’ focus now shifts to the Regional Final on Oct. 20 against New Trier, at New Trier.

Facing an opponent ranked top 10 in Illinois, per MaxPreps, presents a unique but not unfamiliar challenge to the Indians, as Leyden was ranked higher than Lane before this game.

“I do not see anything in New Trier that’s going to cause us to change our game,” Ricks said. “Preparations will continue the same. We’ll try to get mentally prepared and we’ll take lots of penalty kicks.”

Estrada talked about Lane’s underdog mentality for the upcoming game, saying that, “They’re the number one seed in our regional. We’re the underdogs so we’re going to go in and show them what we have and hopefully come out on top.”