BLOOMINGTON — The Moline boys’ soccer team put together an impressive postseason run to the Sweet 16 as a No. 5 seed, but that didn’t make Friday’s 3-2 loss at the buzzer to Edwardsville any less painful.
The heartbreaking finish ended the Maroons’ first run into the state’s Sweet 16 since 2011. Edwardsville (20-4-1) took home the 3A Normal Community West Sectional title, with the game moved to the turf at Bloomington High School’s Fred Carlton Field.
Moline coach Rick Sanchez credited the Tigers for getting off the final shot with the clock in their field of vision. Brennen Weller crashed in to fire the winning shot off a rebound on a ball punched back by Moline keeper Carson Klavohn.
Moline’s 24th-year head coach said he had never before seen such a buzzer-beating game-winner.
“We always say, play to the whistle,” Sanchez said. “But that’s been a first.”
“It’s hard to lose as it is, but to lose in that kind of fashion, puts a little extra sting on it.”
The Maroons (13-8-3) turned a 1-0 halftime deficit to a 2-1 lead after goals by Blake Bastian and Isaac Ruiz.
The Tigers tied the game when All-State forward Cooper Nolan kicked in a goal between Klavohn’s legs in the 67th minute.
Moline was out-shot 15-5 and Tigers keeper Tyler Frolik had three saves. Klavohn finished with eight saves, keeping the game tied with multiple stops down the stretch.
The losing sting may take some time to wear off, but this group of Maroons achieved more than what some may have thought possible after a bumpy regular season and a share of fifth-place in the Western Big 6 Conference race.
“No matter what, we as a coaching staff are proud of what they’ve been able to accomplish,” Sanchez said of his team, which showed a knack for battling back from deficits. “The one thing they need to remember is to walk off this field with their head high, because they were able to accomplish a lot of good things.”
Moline’s three postseason wins over teams seeded higher than the Maroons also took place far from the home pitch, which Sanchez said never seemed to bother them. Joliet West and Edwardsville both hosted a regional. Moline traveled to Pekin twice, Normal, and Bloomington.
“We put in 1,000 miles in the last week-and-a-half coming to four games,” Sanchez said. “Overall, you would think that it would (affect them), but this is the kind of group that we have. It didn't seem to faze them.”
Sanchez said the game being moved from grass to turf factored in to a greater degree.
“They typically play on turf, we typically don’t,” Sanchez said. “The timing was a little bit off at times throughout the game.”
Sanchez said this team’s second-season success is what he’s tried to preach as a coach. The string of wins proved they may not have been “upsets” at all.
“Everybody is off to a 0-0 start,” Sanchez said. “Then now we go after it. We do the little things and we stick together as a group and we play for each other. And that’s exactly what this group did.”
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