99th minute goal lifts Boys Soccer to regional final


Alex Burstein

Loyola attempts a second-half free-kick against Lane.

By Alex Burstein, Editor-in-Chief

After a double-overtime loss in the city semifinals, Lane Boys Soccer entered overtime again in their very next match with even more pressure – a potential loss ending their season.

But according to Head Coach Andrew Ricks, the pressure was good for the team.

“You don’t want to be in the games that don’t mean anything. … And we’ve been on the wrong end of this actually at Taft last Tuesday,” Ricks said. “We were on the wrong end of that, and it hurt. And now we’re on the right end.”

Lane didn’t lead for the first 99 minutes and 18 seconds, but a late strike from senior Enrique Alvarado sealed a 2-1 win for No. 8 seed Lane (13-4-1) over the No. 11 seed Loyola Academy Ramblers (6-8-4) in IHSA regional semifinal action. The Champions now advance to the Evanston 4A regional final.

Lane came out of the gate slowly on a near-freezing night at Lazier Field. The Ramblers dominated possession early, with precision passing allowing them to weave in and out of a traditionally strong Lane defense.

It took just 13 minutes for Loyola to break all the way through. After a header pass from a teammate, the Ramblers’ Daniel Birmingham pocketed a shot from the right side of the goal box to put Loyola up early.

Minutes later, they nearly went up 2-0 after a miscommunication left Lane goalkeeper Gael Rodriguez far from the goal line. The Loyola shot would miss though. Following the mishap, Lane started showing some consistency on possessions.

In the beginning, I’m not going to lie, we seemed pretty off,” Alvarado said. “But slowly, we were all figuring out the weaknesses, and slowly we were getting ahead.”

Lane took control for the final 20 minutes of the first half, with multiple scoring chances from different players, but they were unable to score on any of them.

Soccer is a funny sport in that the team with the most chances doesn’t always win,” Ricks said.

Even with offensive momentum, Lane went into the half still trailing 1-0.

After 23 minutes of scoreless ball to start the second half, Lane got their best chance yet on a one-timer from forward Marco Ruiz, who tied the match up from the same spot Birmingham scored the first goal.

Lane’s pressure amped up after the goal with increased energy on the field, but neither team was able to find the back of the net a second time, sending the win-or-go-home match to overtime.

“The pressure — immense. One goal can set off the tone for the rest of the match,” Alvarado said. “So it was very intense the whole time.”

The defenses stepped up once again during the two 10-minute overtime periods. The whole twenty minutes were played, as IHSA playoff rules don’t allow for golden goals.

Loyola goalkeeper Jason Brunger started the defensive fireworks, saving what would have been Ruiz’s second goal of the game.

Then, minutes later, Lane goalkeeper Andrés Murdock, who came into the game in the second half for Rodriguez, got hands on a fastbreak shot from Loyola to keep it at 1-1.

Both defenses held solid for most of the remaining time, until 42 seconds remained on the clock. After Brunger blocked a shot from Lane’s Marco Ruiz, the redirection went straight to Alvarado on the left side of the goal. Alvarado struck the rebound with his foot, scored, and after one quick defensive stand for the Champions, the final buzzer sounded.

It feels amazing,” Alvardo said after the game. “I’ve been out on the sideline, praying for something big and in the end, it was worth it.”

Lane now heads to a regional final matchup with No. 2 seed Evanston for the second straight year. Last year, the Wildkits prevailed in a 3-2 overtime win over Lane.

“I like our chances, but it will not be easy,” Ricks said. “It will most likely be a one goal difference game.”

Kickoff is set for 5 p.m. from Evanston’s Lazier Field on Oct. 22.

“We’ve just got to stay focused,” Alvarado said. “We analyzed how Evanston played, so we know what we have to work on to play against those weaknesses and hopefully win regionals.”