MAHOMET — Urbana is a win from reaching its first Final Four in boys’ soccer.
But the Tigers have higher expectations than simply making school history.
“I believe we can win state,” junior sweeper Darian Gingold said. “As long as we keep playing like we have been, we have that opportunity.”
Gingold & Co. inched closer to meeting their goal with Friday’s 1-0 win against Springfield that gave the Tigers their first sectional championship since 2005. Urbana takes on Marion in the UIS Super-Sectional at 7 p.m. Tuesday in Springfield, the winner advancing to Class 2A state in Frankfort.
“We set a goal to win state at the beginning of the season,” junior midfielder Saul Downie said. “Every day, every one of us is working toward that goal.”
Randy Blackman’s latest group of Big 12 champs showed its depth against Springfield, which defeated the Tigers 2-0 earlier this season.
Scoring machine Jonathan Lukusa struck early for the match’s only goal.
“Try to find the big guy,” Blackman said of his strategy. “He hit a real good shot.”
Tigers like Gingold, Downie, Joseph Lund, Kevin Lopez and Caine Huart helped keep the Senators at bay with another stingy defensive effort.
“We don’t win without guys like that,” Blackman said. “I’m really proud of how we played defensively.”
Keeper Brian Summers made eight saves, none bigger than a diving stop with about 10 seconds left in the match.
“I thought it was going in,” Blackman said.
“I was quite nervous,” Downie said. “To go 791/2 minutes and then watch it slip away. ... I was scared but not surprised he made the save.”
Summers allowed one goal in two sectional wins.
“He’s been absolutely fabulous,” Blackman said. “And he keeps getting better and better.”
Just like the Tigers, who celebrated their sectional title with their fans before retreating home.
“It wasn’t that we were celebrating the sectional as much as it was celebrating that everybody played fantastic,” Downie said. “That was the best part.”
Blackman’s Tigers won super-sectionals in 1991 and ’05 to advance to what then was an eight-team state finals. But both times, Urbana lost in the quarterfinals.