GENESEO — Win or lose, getting a crack at one of the top boys’ soccer teams in the country is an exciting opportunity for Geneseo and coach Harvey Morton.
The second-seeded Maple Leafs (13-5-1) take on top-seeded Peoria Notre Dame (20-1), last year’s Class 2A state runner-up and one of the best teams in Illinois, in today’s Class 2A Galesburg Sectional semifinals.
TopDrawerSoccer.com has the Irish sixth nationally in its high school rankings. PND was ranked best in the country earlier this season before suffering its only loss, a 2-0 home defeat on Oct. 4 to then No. 3 Saint Ignatius out of Cleveland, Ohio.
Multiple Division I senior recruits play for PND, including All-American forward Noah Madrigal and All-State midfielder Myles Sophanavong. DePaul-bound defender McKay LaHood is also on All-American watch lists.
Thankfully for Geneseo, Morton said his team played its best soccer of the season when it beat Dixon 2-0 on Saturday to win its first regional since 2015.
“I think we have a good team and we moved the ball well the other day,” Morton said. “I think if we can come out and do the same thing, we’ll have a chance.”
PND finished its postponed game Monday night, beating Peoria Richwoods just 2-1 after Saturday's match on a wet, sloshy field was delayed. That won’t be a factor on the Galesburg turf.
Geneseo has shut outs in its last three games, playing with a solidified back end thanks to Zach Bauer’s return at keeper after injury. Geneseo played Rock Island — also playing today in the Galesburg sectional — tough in a 1-0 2OT loss a few weeks ago.
Morton has grown accustomed to seeing Irish green in the postseason, going 1-5 the last six years against PND as the girls’ coach. The boys’ team fell just 1-0 to a top-seeded PND squad as a six seed two years ago.
“Sometimes you want to see how good you can play one of the top teams, so I think they’re looking forward to it as a challenge,” Morton said. “They want to come out and compete and see what they can do.”
A strong group of seniors and a team improving its togetherness led to Saturday’s standout performance. Morton is hoping for a repeat effort today.
Playing a clean, mistake-free game is vital against the Irish.
“Win or lose, we want to see how we play against a team of that caliber,” Morton said. “That’s the exciting part, having that opportunity to maybe knock them off and see how you hold up.”
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