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Boys Soccer: Shepard’s run to Windy City Ram title game ends with loss to Lockport

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By Steve Millar
Correspondent

Shepard’s run at the championship of the Windy City Ram Classic fell just short, but senior forward Zach Soltysiak knows there is plenty for the Astros to take away from the experience.

The Astros won their first four games in the 32-team tournament to reach the title match before falling 4-1 to Lockport on Sept. 1 at Reavis.

“We need to practice more,” Soltysiak said. “We have to play as a team. You can see that Lockport’s chemistry is really good. I think we have chemistry off the field, but when it comes to game time, I think that’s when we lack it the most. So, that’s something we have to work on.”

The Porters (5-0) had beaten Shepard (4-2) 2-0 in the Class 3A Lockport Regional final last season on their way to a third-place finish in Class 3A.

Last week, the Astros managed to keep Lockport scoreless for more than 30 minutes before Ryan Pavelka scored on a header late in the first half to put the Porters ahead.

Sean Flannery scored twice in less than five minutes early in the second half to give Lockport a comfortable lead.

But Shepard did not go down without a fight.

With just more than four minutes left in the game, Damyan Villanueva ripped a shot off the post and Soltysiak was there to tap in the rebound to get the Astros team on the board.

“You’re playing for pride at that point,” Soltysiak said. “You have to keep battling. You don’t want to give up.”

Shepard had a couple more chances to cut into the deficit, but Villanueva had a shot saved and Aidan Breslin fired just wide on a free kick.

Ismael Gomez added the final goal for Lockport with just over a minute left.

Gannon Marin made seven saves for Shepard before departing with an apparent injury in the second half after a collision involving a teammate and a Lockport player. Marin is a three-year starter and it would be a big blow for the Astros if he misses time.

In the semifinal on Aug. 30, Shepard got goals from Breslin and Soltysiak to top Reavis, 2-0.

Zaid Jaber, Dimitri Latka, Ryan Plowman and Michael Rantisi led a terrific defensive effort in the shutout, while Marin made five saves.

“The main thing was keeping our line straight,” Jaber said. “We struggled in the first half. The second half was better. We switched it up, we got a little stronger. We got the ball up the field. Guys started scoring up top. That got us momentum and got the feel going.”

Shepard started the season with a 2-1 loss to Plainfield Central before jumping into Ram Classic play.

A 2-1 first-round win over Lincoln-Way Central, when the Astros prevailed in a nine-round shootout, started the run to the championship game.

“I think it’s really good,” Soltysiak said. “We started slow against Plainfield Central. That’s a game we want to take back and wish we could play again. But we played well in this tournament.

“Me personally, I started slow, didn’t score in the first two games, but I eventually got it going in this tournament. I hope we can carry on and win conference this year.”

 

Vikings Take 3rd
St. Laurence outlasted crosstown rival Reavis, 3-2, in a back-and-forth match to take third place at the Ram Classic.

Lalo Perez, Pedro Mendez and Nathan Lara scored for the Vikings (4-2). William Solis and Moises Gutierrez had a goal each for Reavis (3-2).

St. Laurence lost the lead twice before Lara put his team ahead for good.

Perez scored for the Vikings less than three minutes into the game, but Solis answered for the Rams in the 12th minute.

After Mendez scored off a nice setup from Tristan Figueroa in the 21st minute, Reavis responded again less than three minutes later with Gutierrez’s goal.

St. Laurence scored the only goal of the second half, grabbing control for good when Lara took a pass from Ulises Garfias in front of the net and ripped a shot that went off a defender and in with 26:55 to go.

The Vikings were able to hold on.

“We’ve had this rivalry for a long time,” Mendez said. “I transferred last year (from Horizon), so I didn’t know anything about this rivalry before then. It’s fun. We really wanted this win.”

 

 

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