Bunnies pull soccer playoff victory out of their hats
TOLONO — Andrew Young analyzed the situation.
The junior midfielder on the Fisher/Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley soccer team had a free kick from 20 yards on the right side.
With less than 20 minutes left in a scoreless Class 1A Urbana Uni High Regional quarterfinal match, Young unleashed a shot with his left foot.
The ball curled around the five-person wall the Rockets had assembled and into the low left corner of the net.
That was all the fifth-seeded Bunnies needed in a 1-0 victory to win their postseason opener that featured cold and wet weather throughout the match.
Young doesn’t use his left foot often, but when he needed it, he came through.
“I saw they lined up to block a right-footed shot, so I just figured I might as well take a left-footed one,” Young said. “It curved just right, the keeper couldn’t see the ball and it went right in. I’m not very comfortable with (the left foot), but I figured it was a good time to try it out.”
The free kick came about after Fisher/GCMS junior forward David Ricks — who made some key defensive plays late in the match — drew a foul on the Rockets.
The victory ended a seven-match winless streak for the Bunnies (3-12-5), who suffered a 3-0 loss to Unity (6-12) on Sept. 24. Similar postseason magic happened for the Bunnies last year when they came into their regional as the lowest seeds and wound up playing for a regional championship.
“Last year we came out here and made it all the way to the regional championship,” Bunnies senior keeper Darren Eckerty said. “This year it’s just good to come back out here and making a name for ourselves in the regional. It’s just one of those things that we seem to do really good once the regular season ends.”
A regional semifinal match against top seed Uni High at 4 p.m. Tuesday at the University of Illinois Turf Fields. Fisher/GCMS has lost twice already to the Illineks this season.
“We get to play another game,” Fisher/GCMS coach Levi Horsch said after the Bunnies gave the first-year head coach his first postseason victory. “They deserve it. They’ve been working hard. We marked well on defense, and offensively we had some pressure. We didn’t have that the last game we played against (Unity).”
Eckerty came up with nine saves in the second half (16 in the match), making some critical ones late to stave off the hard-charging Rockets.
“We just start clicking at the end,” Young said. “It just works better in the postseason. We get that drive in a win-or-lose game, and we just play well.”
Uni High 2, Centennial 0. Patrick Wong had a goal and an assist for the visiting Illineks (16-2-1), who got a shutout from Tristan Gurtler. Paul Seeley had two assists, and George Voulgaris also scored.