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Game story: Maine South gets boost from football rivalry, tops Loyola in futbol regional

By Bill McLean, 10/18/23, 6:30PM CDT


Hawks strike early in 2-1 win over Ramblers, Evanston rematch next

PARK RIDGE — Powerhouses Maine South and Loyola clashed on the gridiron seven times from 2007 to 2018.

Maine South’s Hawks won four of the meetings, including the 2016 Class 8A state championship game.

The schools’ soccer clubs battled in a Class 3A playoff opener Tuesday night on Maine South’s pitch, also known as Wilson Field.

Don’t think for a second that football wasn’t on the minds of the bulk of the futbol coaches and combatants.

“The football rivalry between the schools spilled over to tonight,” Hawks coach Dan States said. “It was a fun high school game, as well as an intense game. The players were more energized than they normally are, with a lot of that having to do with the football history between the schools.”

“It’s a rivalry game,” Maine South senior forward Zach Malinsky said.

Malinsky, a Chicagoland Soccer All-State Watch List selectee, netted what turned out to be the game-winning goal in the 51st minute of a 2-1 decision. A deft diagonal feed from junior midfielder Will Smucker preceded Malinsky’s 15-yard, near-post blast past Ramblers senior goalkeeper J.P. Devron (six saves).

States’ crew, seeded sixth in the Class 3A Evanston Sectional, had opened the scoring in the second minute. Loyola cut Maine South’s lead in half via senior midfielder Townes Robertson’s penalty kick in the 67th minute.

Maine South (12-7-3), an honorable mention team in final Chicagoland Soccer Top 25 regular-season poll, will host third-seeded and eighth-ranked Evanston for a regional championship at 11 a.m. Saturday. Evanston (16-2-3) defeated 14th-seeded Maine East 2-0 in Tuesday’s first regional semifinal.

Maine South improved to 6-1-1 on its home turf this fall. The tie was a 1-1 stalemate on Sept. 26 versus Evanston’s Wildkits.

“Return engagement,” States said, looking ahead to Part II.

Loyola had to bid farewell to the season.

“I feel for our (10) seniors,” said Loyola coach Justin Dunn, whose 12th-seeded Ramblers (8-8-3) played way above their seed. “It was tough, having to go against a Central Suburban League South heavyweight like Maine South (2-1-2 in the ultra-tough South Division) this early in the playoffs. We knew this would be a tough game.

“Unfortunately, we did not play very well in the first half.”

Maine South played brilliantly in a seven-second stretch in the second minute, beginning with a back-post, 37-yard free kick off the right foot of Hawks senior back and All-State Watch List pick Sam Middendorf.

The lengthy, spot-on service found the head of senior back Darragh Cronnolly, who nodded the ball to senior forward Nick
Milkowski. The 6-foot-3 Milkowski, planted two yards from the opposite post, volleyed in Cronnolly’s short cross for his 14th goal of the season.

Maine South 1, Loyola 0, just like that.

“(States) told us to come out hard, play quick soccer,” Milkowski said.

Maine South’s student fans did their part, too, much to the delight of the Hawks.

“Our ‘12th man’,” said Malinsky, who now has 15 goals in ’23. “Their passion helped us all night.”

“They amped us up,” Milkowski said.

Malinsky’s difference-maker earned him a share of the Chicagoland Soccer Man of the Match honor. Hawks senior midfielder Sebastian Bonifacy deserved the other piece of it for his calm responses to swarming pressure from the Ramblers.

“Sebastian did a good job distributing the ball to the flanks out of a crowd,” States said. “He was solid when they closed in on him.

“Tonight’s game” he added, “was one of his better ones this season.”

The night’s first goal was a thing of beauty and skill and precision: Middendorf to Cronnolly to Milkowski.

Or tic-tac-toe.

“We practice set pieces a lot,” Cronnolly said. “What also helped us tonight was our aggressiveness in the box.”

Loyola tallied its final goal of the season after Ramblers senior forward Jeremiah Gyorgy drew a foul in the box in the 67th minute. Robertson’s groundball PK scooted untouched to the southeast corner of cage and upped his season-goal total to 10.

Dunn changed his formation to a 3-5-2 in minute 60 in the hopes it would add some oomph to his crew’s attack.

Middendorf booted a critical clear for the home team in the 70th minute. Hawks senior midfielder Dexter Kelleher snuffed out a dangerous ball with a clear five minutes later.

The final horn blew with with no Loyola equalizer.

"I love everyone on this team,” Robertson said, his eyes welling up. “The team was a family to me. I’m sad that the season is over for us.

“We moved the ball all season unlike other teams. We liked to possess, and we were good at it. We kept the ball on the floor.”

Winning keeper Alex Gallinger, a Maine South senior, stopped two shots. The diving save he made to his left in the 46th minute provided another reason for the student fans to erupt joyfully.

“That Loyola team is technically sound,” States said. “We knew they’d be a dangerous team, because they had played such a
challenging schedule.

“I’m proud of the way we competed. This was a team result, a team win.”

Urgency from players of a certain class played a significant role in the win.

“It’s the last dance for our seniors,” said Cronnolly, who thumped clears, intercepted crosses and stymied Loyola runs.

“We want to keep this season going for as long as possible.”



Maine South’s States, on whether his club is a morning team ahead of Saturday’s 11 a.m. title match vs. Evanston: “We’ll see.” … Loyola’s 10 seniors are J.P. Devron (GK), Daniel Birmingham (D), Dan Ryczek (D), Jack McBrearty (D), Jeremiah Gyorgy (F), Andre Hardin (MF/F), David Faber (F), Oscar Vasquez (D), Townes Robertson (MF) and Jack Carretta (MF). … Dunn, on Carretta: “He took a two- to three-year break from soccer to focus on basketball. And then he came back to soccer his senior year.” … Robertson’s fondest memory of the season was Ramblers sophomore midfielder Rayden Dominguez’s late goal — with a scant six ticks left in regulation — in Loyola’s 2-1 defeat of visiting St. Laurence on Sept. 28.


Starting lineups

GK J.P. Devron
D Daniel Birmingham
D Daniel Ryczek
D Jordy Jacome
D Jack McBrearty
MF Andrew Hardin
MF Jack Carretta.
MF Townes Robertson
MF Rayden Dominguez
MF Kevin Sicena
F Jeremiah Gyorgy

Maine South
GK Alex Gallinger
D Jacob Walendzewicz
D Sam Middendorf
D Wyatt Kelleher
D Darragh Cronnolly
MF Cristian Abdala
MF Will Smucker
MF Dexter Kelleher
MF Sebastian Bonifacy
F Nick Milkowski
F Zach Malinsky

Chicagoland Soccer Men of the Match:
Zach Malinsky, sr., F, Maine South;
Sebastian Bonifacy, sr., MF, Maine South


Scoring summary

First half
Maine South — Milkowski (Cronnolly, Middendorf), 2’

Second half
Maine South — Malinsky (Smucker), 51’
Loyola — Robertson (PK), 67’