Judah Christian still dancing in the postseason

Judah Christian still dancing in the postseason

CHAMPAIGN — Wednesday's match could have been the last of the 2018 season for Judah Christian boys' soccer.

The Tribe wasn't about to make it feel that way.

While Judah's opponents from Bloomington Cornerstone Christian quietly huddled up at halftime and sought ways to break the Tribe defense, the boys in purple and black danced to 1980s music playing over The Field of Dreams sound system.

"Actually, our favorite song is by Shakira — 'Waka Waka,'" senior goalkeeper Griffin Fazio said.

There's a fair chance Judah might blast that tune at Friday's practice — in preparation for a Class 1A sectional title match.

Tyler Grenda followed a Caleb Aldridge free kick and found twine with less than nine minutes to play, giving the sixth-seeded Tribe exactly what it needed in a 1-0 upset of the second-seeded Cyclones.

"They sing before games. Kind of ironically, they sing like three-part harmony songs," second-year Judah coach Josh Birky said. "We try to encourage it. I've told them — at this point, we're playing on found money — to just be loose and enjoy themselves."

It was easy for the Tribe (12-7-2) to do so Wednesday night, even in the surrounding chilly conditions.

Cornerstone (19-3-1) collected a 6-2 victory over Judah on Sept. 25 at the very same field. That potent offense, led by senior Moses Kabuswe, could only break through on a second-half tally that was canceled via an offside call.

"They really stretched the field front to back and got us stretched out of our normal possession," Cyclones boss Jeremy Knapp said. "They executed on what they wanted to do, and we didn't execute very well."

Fazio said that lopsided defeat to Cornerstone caused Judah to "refine our defense to actually match" the Cyclones. Even with senior backliner Benjamin Rebeiz sidelined by injury, that plan worked to perfection.

"Their three guys up top have scored 100 goals this year," Birky said. "I eat my words — I told them I didn't think we could shut them out ... and they proved me wrong."

Guys like Nathan Aardsma, Isaac Noteboom and Misael Rodriguez — two juniors and a freshman — swarmed any white-shirted athlete maintaining offensive possession, and senior Micah Mills rushed left and right in the midfield to break up Cornerstone bids.

Whenever that wasn't enough, Fazio proved up to the task in net.

"I'm really proud of (my teammates)," Fazio said. "They played well and had good spirit. This was probably one of my better games (too)."

It all came down, then, to finding a goal somewhere along the way.

Junior Joe Linsner bombed a long free kick over sophomore Cyclones keeper Sam Walker late in the first half, but the official deemed Linsner kicked before a whistle sounded.

That wasn't the case with Aldridge later on. When the junior's own free kick landed in the box, the junior Grenda used his lengthy reach to beat a defender and tip a shot past Walker.

The prosperous boot set off a frenzy among the sizable Judah crowd, which gets to come back 11 a.m. Saturday for a never-before-seen sectional final.

Neither the Tribe nor first-seeded St. Teresa (20-2-3) had ever advanced past the sectional semis before this week.

Judah would like to be the program left dancing when the clock strikes zero versus the Bulldogs.

"That's the best we've played in two seasons," Birky said. "To be this far on home turf with that group of guys is wonderful."