Grabowski, Crystal Lake South, move
to semis with win over Washington
Hot Gators extend unbeaten streak to 8 games
By Matt Misiek
CRYSTAL LAKE - What a difference three weeks makes.
Exactly 22 days ago, the Crystal Lake South Gators were a team searching for answers after being outworked by Warren in a 7-0 loss in the Grayslake North Invite.
Since then, the Gators have been on a serious roll. They entered the quarterfinal match in the Gatorade bracket of the PepsiCo Showdown on a seven-game unbeaten run that featured six wins. Tuesday afternoon, Crystal Lake South looked to keep the momentum going against visiting Washington of the Chicago Public League's Premier Division.
The third-seeded Gators survived an early barrage of chances created by the sixth-seeded Patriots, thanks to their keeper Brandon Gorka. The junior's brilliant first half allowed the Gators to settle in and break through for a 4-0 victory to advance to the semifinals against Carmel on Thursday.
Gorka was put to the test in the second minute when he blocked a point-blank effort from Washington’s speedy forward Alberto Solis. Ten minutes later, Gorka stopped an effort off the head of the Patriots’ Juan Garibay. Shortly after that, freshman Angel Arismendiz forced another save from the Gator keeper.
“I was feeling pretty good,” said Gorka. “We were getting them in position to make shots, and I had myself positioned well to stop those, and I made the saves I could.”
Crystal Lake South coach Brian Allen praised his keeper for the effort early on.
“His decision-making was sharp today,” he said of Gorka. “He came off his line. He controlled, the backline, talked with his backs. He looked confident today and when he is confident, that is what he is capable of doing.”
The efforts of Gorka kept the game level, and the payoff for the Gators came in the 18th minute. Forward Andrew Grabowski, who keyed the offensive attack with two goals in Saturday’s tourney-opening win over Ridgewood, took a long ball just beyond midfield, made a quick right turn and was in the clear. Grabowski then took it left around Washington keeper Eduardo Rodriguez and slotted the shot home to put the Gators ahead.
Gorka then went back to work with the lead against last year’s Class 2A fourth-place finishers. More standout saves ensued.
In the 30th minute, Gorka slid in to deny Solis’s low drive from the top right of the box. Solis nearly scored several minutes before that with a long drive that clipped the outside of the right post.
Gorka's biggest save in the second half came when he denied Arismendiz on a direct header three yards from goal. He punching the ball straight up in the air and enabled his defense to clear.
As good as Gorka was defensively, Grabowski was equally as good on offense for the Gators (7-2-1).
Grabowski advanced the ball single-handedly through the Patriot defense on multiple occasions. The chances he took narrowly missed, but the senior tallied his second goal in the 62nd minute. The Chicagoland Soccer Man of the Match won an aerial ball that bounced off the turf. He turned and chipped over Rodriguez to extend the advantage to 2-0.
“It’s the motivation to advance in such a big tournament,” Grabowski said. “This is the first year that we are participating and to make it to the semis is great.”
Sophomore midfielder Ryan Coughlin tallied the third goal in the 70th minute after he was on the receiving end of a sweet through-ball from freshman midfielder Alex Canfield. Junior Nikolas Getzinger scored with 12 seconds left off a corner delivered from Tommy Ciezadlo to end the scoring.
Even though the result was not the result Washington (5-2-0) sought in the tournament, the Patriots were upbeat afterward and talked about the chances they had in the opening 40 minutes.
“The first half we dominated,” said Washington coach Alvaro Perez. “We had multiple chances but the ball has to go in and it didn’t. In the second half, they (Crystal Lake South) dominated with the second goal. With that second goal, we kind of lost morale and got dominated from that point on.”
Perez pointed toward the future for his Patriots.
“Coming from the Final Four team from a year ago, this is a brand new team," he said. “I have multiple freshmen playing varsity ball. I’m playing for the future right now.
“With our team now, we are going to keep working at it and make ourselves strong in the passing game. This is a good loss. We can use this game to prepare us for regionals and sectionals.”
Several of the Washington players also shared high hopes for the remainder of the season.
“In my opinion, we dominated the game,” said Arismendiz. “It was just our mentality that could have been a lot better. If we have that better mentality, I feel we can make a great run at conference, city and state.”
The Washington program visited the DePaul University campus and took in a Blue Demons match this past weekend. For Alberto Solis, it was a memorable experience.
“It has been good,” said Solis. “If you want to learn from someone better, that program is definitely a program to learn from. If we can take that experience and learn from it, we most certainly will get better.”
As for Crystal Lake South, coach Allen offered some of the keys to the Gators turnaround run.
“Our backline is starting to take shape,” he said. “We are starting to get our formation and rotation in line and solidified. Everyone is starting to get healthy.
"It’s the little things that come together that make the difference, but everyone still needs to play at a high level.”
GK: Eduardo Rodriguez
D: Jose Valadez
D: Diego Larios
D: Eduardo Alfaro
MF: Juan Garibay
MF: Oscar Padilla
MF: Adrian Yanez
MF: Carlos Martinez
F: Angel Arismendiz
F: Felipe Ramirez
F: Alberto Solis
Crystal Lake South
GK: Brandon Gorka
D: Joey Montalbano
D: Marcin Sliwinski
D: Ryan Yazel
D: Adam Greenfield
MF: Joel Bennett
MF: Ryan Coughlin
MF: Nikolas Getzinger
MF: Angel Merida
MF: Jack Wruck
F: Andrew Grabowski
Man of the Match: Andrew Grabowski, Crystal Lake South
Oficials: Mike Schmikley (center); Ken Woodhouse; Peggy Crutchfield