NORTHBROOK – Top-seed Glenbrook North advanced into the sectional semifinals thanks to a hard-fought 2-1 victory over upset-minded Barrington on a cool, and windy Saturday afternoon at William Lutz Stadium.
Manager Paul Vignocchi’s club will now face dark horse and no. 13-seed Rolling Meadows (10-9-2) at 5p.m. Tuesday in a Fremd Sectional semifinal.
"It wasn't always pretty, and both teams went hard after each other," said the Spartans mentor after his men claimed the program’s 20th regional title and first since 2019. “At this time of the season, all you're looking for is a way to stay alive and advance, and the boys did that.
"Barrington made it very tough on us, After watching their win the other night over Glenbrook South in kicks (2-2, 8-7/9), we knew we would have our hands full today," continued Vignocchi.
"We got out of our game in the second half. (Some) of that was on us, and some on Barrington, but we didn't panic. When we needed some help, Ian (Lee) came through for us, as did Gil (Meyers) who made a crucial save on their PK to help us move on."
"The first 15-20 minutes belonged to Barrington," said Lee. "We were a little out of sync during that time, but this team is always composed. When Steven (Rhee) was moved, it seemed it really helped turn things around for us."
"I opened in the middle," opined Rhee, who shared the Chicagoland Soccer Man of the Match honor with Lee, who has 20 goals this season. “Coach (Vignocchi) moved me more outside, and I feel like things opened up for us after the switch."
While the visitors were gaining more confidence and enjoying plenty of the play, Lee turned the tables and finished what Rhee started for the opener in the 23rd minute.
"Steven gave me a great ball," said Lee.
Barrington relied on its composure to remain in the game.
"Coming off of our wins in pens over GBS on Tuesday, there was a lot of confidence among us," began senior Logan Cidulka, who was magnificent in his final prep match for manager Scott Steib. “I really felt that momentum carried into the first 20 minutes or so when we playing well on both sides of the ball.”
The Broncos center back was outstanding during an impressive 80-minute performance. He and sophomore teammate Jack Ball formed a strong partnership along the back for their club.
“After giving up the first goal, we were forced to work hard to stay in the game," Cidulka said. "We did."
The last 10-12 minutes of the first half was filled with far too many whistles. It slowed the match to a near halt, robbing both sides of the opportunity to create any rhythm or flow to its game and limited the offenses.
Just moments into the second half, Glenbrook North (19-3-1) brought its big, home crowd alive when Michael Miller flashed his angled effort just wide of the back post. After a free kick, Rhee tricked his way in-close before going over the bar.
While each side struggled to keep the ball on the floor during the opening quarter hour, a strong west wind whipped up from time-to-time and made for plenty of balls sent airborne to head the wrong way for both clubs. It only added to some chippy play.
When the home-side enjoyed the wind at its back, the menacing long throws of Chase Petersen became most dangerous.
A trio of deep throws from the Spartans proved threatening. Junior Kieran Leyland headed one over the bar. Rhee and Miller combined after another but could not deliver. Then Ben Melnick helped his club earn a corner all within a five-minute span.
"At times we had some trouble getting out of our own way during the early part of the second half, but we began to find ourselves after that stretch. It led to us finding the equalizer," said Steib, who earlier in the season claimed his 400th-career at Barrington.
Before the Broncos (8-12-3) got back level, it was the work of Jack Armstrong up-top and defender Yianny Caparos, who kept Glenbrook North on its front foot.
Caparos, the Spartans left outside back, joined the Spartans attack to help create a variety of deep throws and corners. He also provided quality combination play with Rhee up the left side.
Armstrong was extremely active on the attack as he ran consistently hard at the Broncos backline. It caused them to parry the ball out of danger instead of playing through their midfielders.
"One of the big reasons for the success of our team this year is our depth and always having someone step up when we need it the most," said Rhee.
Barrington found its way forward after Steib brought Wilson Neuhauser and Nico Herran back on. The duo combined with Daniel Gawronski to provide much needed pace and energy that spurred the visitors’ attack.
A free kick from the midline fell to Gawronski, whose left-footed half volley forced Glenbrook North’s Gil Meyers to save in the 55th minute. Moments later Gawronski was allowed to tee-up from 35 yards and produced a wicked smash that demanded Meyers’ attention.
Another long-range free kick, this time from Ball, ended with a nice clearing effort from Petersen in the 58th-minute.
"I think we all believed if we continued to grind (it) out that a goal would finally come," said Cidulka. “It eventually did because of our energy and desire to get back into this game to have the chance to win.”
Said Rhee: "They were better than us leading up to their goal. We kind of lost sight of playing the way we should have."
Barrington’s Mattie Vitale helped send Andy Sfondilis, then Gawronski into the Spartans area. After a foul was called inside the box, Glenbrook North’s bench howled its disapproval. Vignocchi and his staff felt a clean tackle from behind was missed.
Vitale went to the spot in the 60th minute to see his well-aimed effort turned away after Meyers went into full extension toward his left post.
"Gil came up big for us when we needed it most with a brave and amazing save," said an appreciative Vignocchi.
Instead of hanging their heads after the missed chance to get back even, the Barrington kept its focus. Four minutes later the Broncos were rewarded.
That's when Ball hit a near-perfect 40-yard free kick into the box. Kian Cullen found a way to be the first in a crowd to rise up. He redirected the ball past Meyers in the 64th minute.
"We were back in the game, and we all knew we had a chance to stay alive in the playoffs," said Cidulka.
After defending numerous deep throws from Petersen, the sixth deep toss of the second half proved to be Barrington’s undoing.
From the near side, and into a strong wind, Petersen was still able to reach the spot with his throw. With several players from both clubs appearing to surround the ball, Ian found the sitter and drove it past Broncos keeper Charlie Field, who had no chance on the nearly point-blank blast.
"I'm not really sure who had a touch on that throw from Chase," said Lee. “It might have been a couple of Barrington guys, or maybe Jackson (Lee). All I know is it was there for me, and I wasn't going to waste the opportunity.
"Just a tough way to concede the eventual game-winner,” Barrington’s Steib said. “We had been playing very well up until that point. It seemed like we had a lot of the momentum with us after Cullen got us back even."
Vignocchi immediately go to a 4-5-1 formation for the final nine minutes to protect his one-goal advantage. His offense saw chances go wide from Rhee and Jackson Lee. Meanwhile the Spartans defense held Barrington in check.
The home side masterfully managed the lead and the clock as it created a handful of corners and deep throws which burned time until all that showed on the scoreboard timer were zeroes.
"It's a tough way to go out, but there are so many positive things to take from this team, and my high school career," said Cidulka.
"The friendships that I've developed are something very special to me. The bond we created to become a family has been amazing."
"I can tell you this has been a tremendous group of young men,” said Steib. “To be honest, I wish it was the start of August once again so that we could all be together for another season."
Glenbrook North, which was ranked ninth in the final regular-season Chicagoland Soccer Top 25, was excited and relieved to move on.
"We had to grind this one out today," said Rhee. “Although the game was not always very pretty, we still were able to find a way to get the win.”
"(Gil) kept us in the game with his great save on that PK,” added Ian Lee. “It really helped us keep our focus afterward."
"There were a lot of heroes out there for us today, beginning with Gil and (defender) Sam Lappin,” said Vignocchi. “They all helped us keep our focus after Barrington had the play early on, then after they made it 1-1.
"You know to expect games like this in the postseason. Our ability to stay composed and not panic was the key for us to get this result."
G- Charlie Field
D- Nico Hauser
D- Logan Cidulka
D- Jack Ball
D- Andy Sfondilis
M- Wilson Neuhauser
M- Mattie Vitale
M- Brian Mazgaz
M- Daniel Gawronski
F- Philip Jackowski
F- Kian Cullen
Glenbrook North (4-3-2-1)
G- Gil Meyers
D- Yianny Caparos
D- Sam Lappin
D- Chase Petersen
D- Brady Spiggos
M- Alex Ferencz
M- Kieran Leyland
M- Ian Lee
M- Jackson Lee
M- Steven Rhee
F- Michael Miller
Chicagoland Soccer Men of the Match: Ian Lee, sr., MF, Glenbrook North; Steven Rhee, sr., MF, Glenbrook North
Glenbrook North: Ian Lee (Rhee), 23'
Barrington: Cullen (Ball) 64'
Glenbrook North: Ian Lee (unassisted), 71'