By Bobby Narang
WEST CHICAGO – Big moments don’t faze Diego Ochoa.
The York junior goalie is among the best in the state at the demanding yet rewarding position.
His resume includes countless marquee victories dating back to his sophomore season. His solid play in the net helped the Dukes reach the Class 3A state tournament for the second season in a row in 2022. That set in motion the possibility of a second state championship despite key graduation losses from the 2021 state title team.
As a sophomore, Ochoa played in 25 games, allowing just 21 goals and recording 111 saves to play a central role in the Dukes’ fourth place state medal in Class 3A.
On a cool and crisp Saturday afternoon, Ochoa found himself squarely in another big moment on the pitch. With the game tied after regulation and two overtime sessions, Ochoa casually prepared for the win-or-go-home penalty kicks.
“I was ready for PKs and trusted myself, and I had to just trust my teammates,” he said.
St. Charles East, though, had momentum and revenge on its side. The Fighting Saints entered the Class 3A West Chicago Sectional championship game motivated to knock off the top-seeded Dukes.
In recent years, York made a habit of slaying the dreams of the Saints in the playoffs.
In 2021, the season when the Dukes won the state championship in the program’s first Final Four, the Saints suffered a 0-0 (9-8 PKs) loss to the Dukes in the Addison Trail Sectional title game.
In 2019, the Dukes recorded a 1-1 (4-3) triumph over the Saints in the Lake Park Regional final.
York coach Jordan Stopka said he had a simple message for his players Saturday.
“We told them that St. Charles East had a monkey on its backs. We knew it was in the back of their heads,” he said.
Even with the outstanding play of Ochoa in regulation and OT, the Dukes couldn’t add to their recent postseason success against the Saints. St. Charles East converted on three of four PK attempts, while the Dukes made just two of five. Thanks to stellar goalie play from backup Ivan Campobasso, the Saints recorded the win after 100 minutes of play yielded a 1-1 score.
Ochoa will use the loss as motivation to build on for his senior season. The junior was disappointed but his outstanding play in the net kept the Saints from racking up goals. He was all over the box, made tap-out saves on laser shots, dived to his left and right and stopped multiple shots in a sequence late in the first half.
Ochoa never backed down from the challenge. He recorded four of his 12 saves in the second overtime. He had a tap-out save in the 96th minute, snared a line-drive shot in the 97th minute and added another stop a few seconds later.
He extended the PK session with a spectacular dive to his left to stop St. Charles East’s fourth shooter.
“Unfortunately, I missed three and actions come with consequences,” Ochoa said. “I’m pretty happy with my performance, only letting one goal in and trusting my defenders. Mateusz Janowski was a brick wall back there. (St. Charles East) had a lot of energy coming in and were outworking us. We just had to outhustle them to win.
“I learned to keep moving forward from this, not to get stuck in the past and try and get better every day.”
York senior defender Janowski, a two-year varsity player, said the Saints played well, especially down the stretch.
“They had their chances, but at the same time, we were pressing really well. We had a lot of chances in the second half,” Janowski said. “We were going after them. In the first overtime, I thought we could’ve finished one but were unlucky not to get one.”
York senior forward Jayden Waski said mistakes played a big part in the heart-breaking defeat.
“I think we didn’t stick to our plan,” Waski said. “I know we could’ve played better and possessed better but give props to St. Charles East. They are a great team. They came out strong, were physical and have a lot of fast players. Unfortunately, we couldn’t put away our chances, especially in the beginning of the game and early in the second half. It’s a game of chances, but sometimes if you don’t put your chances away, you will lose the game. That’s what happened today.
“(St. Charles East) definitely had a motive against us. Some of their players had been on the team for three years, so they definitely were motivated. They were going for us. We had a target our our backs for this game and even the entire playoffs. That’s what happens when you don’t come out to play and finish your chances.”
St. Charles East forced overtime when senior midfielder Aiden Maloney connected on a shot from 23 yards in the 67th minute to tie the game at 1-1. The Dukes (16-5-0) scored the first goal on a 17-yard shot from Aaron Jobi in the 53rd minute. The lead held for 14 minutes thanks to solid play Ochoa and his backliners.
The third-seeded Saints (19-7-0) have a short drive to their next game. They play New Trier (20-1-2), another top seed, in the St. Charles North Supersectional at 7 p.m. Tuesday. The match marks the Saints’ first supersectional appearance since 2012.
DiNuzzo was a hard man to find in the immediate aftermath of the game. After several minutes, he emerged from the far southwest part of the stadium.
“It’s a monkey off our back,” DiNuzzo said. “The amount of emails and texts I got from former athletes saying ‘Go get them;’ it is something that sticks with them. It’s exciting.
“We didn’t play our best brand of soccer. It was disappointing, but to get the result is all you need. We found a way to win and see another day.”
The Saints advanced thanks to exceptional shootout play from goalie Ivan Campobasso. The junior reserve said he believed it was his first use as a PK specialist this season. Starting goalie Jordan Rolon collected seven saves in 100 minutes of action, but gave away to the 6-foot Campobasso in the tiebreaker.
Just a few inches taller than Rolon, Campobasso stopped York’s second attempt with a dive to his right. The Dukes missed on their third PK shot off the post, and then converted their fourth attempt to put them a marker behind St. Charles East.
As the majority of the fans ran down from the bleachers to get a front-row view from the fence, Campobasso stayed locked in the moment.
He closed out the win with a two-handed save on York’s fifth attempt. The Saints gained an early advantage when Logan Lewarchick, Marc Walker and Aiden Maloney all found the back of the net on the team’s first three attempts.
“I feel like it’s because I’m very long, and I like to get really far to the post,” Campobasso said of his late entry into the high-stakes game. “We work it a lot in practice, to see which one should go in on game day. I just feel like I would be more comfortable, so that’s why they give me the chance. … I just went out. I got on that line; and I knew I was pumped up.”
Stopka suspected St. Charles East may have had shootout intel on his club.
“We just had to be calm, but unfortunately their keeper made some great saves,” Stopka said. “I don’t know if they watched film on us against Glenbard East (a shootout win in the Schaumburg Regional title match Oct. 20). They knew which way we were going.”
The Dukes walked away from the defeat lamenting missed opportunities. And there were a number of them.
With 22 seconds left in the first half, senior forward Damian Glodz beat two defenders, but his short shot missed wide by a foot.
After entering the second half in a scoreless tie, the Dukes showed aggressiveness with three shots in the first four-plus minutes. Michael Greco blasted a shot that nearly found the back of the net, and Glodz had his attempt from in-close deflected. Jayden Waski nearly scored a goal in the 52nd minute, but his shot was stopped by a diving Rolon.
The Dukes nearly scored another goal in the final minutes of regulation on two quick shots that both missed by a few inches. Janowski booted a long shot off the left post in the 76th minute.
In the second OT, Waski drilled a banger of a shot that seemed headed toward the back of the net from 46 yards but was saved by Rolon.
The Dukes came close to reaching their third-straight supersectional, a fact that players called a major achievement.
Janowski, a member of the program for four years, talked about the team’s tight bond.
“Obviously, this program is like a family with me,” Janowski said. “I’ve played with these guys since my freshman year. These guys are my brothers. I’m going to miss them a lot.”
York senior midfielder Gustavo Herrera was unable to play in Saturday’s sectional final due to an injury suffered in the semifinals. He said it was a sad way to end his three-year varsity career.
“It was pretty hard not to play, but I love watching my team play and love how all these guys play,” Herrera said. “They all had heart in them, and they never gave up and just kept going. It was amazing being on that state championship team as a sophomore and then getting fourth last year. Fortunately, we couldn’t get all the way back to state. These guys are my brothers, but this was probably one of my funnest years playing in the program.”
Waski, also a two-year varsity player, said the sectional title game loss doesn’t tarnish the legacy of the seniors.
“From watching all the games in my sophomore year and watching the state championship run, that was something special to me and also inspired me,” Waski said. “Everyone on this team pushed me to be a better player. Seeing the kids idolize the state championship team also put something in me to push other kids around me. That’s what makes us a great team. We all work off each other and all of us want to make each other better.”
Stopka said his players were motivated for another state trip.
“The kids put in so much work and took what we said and put it on the field,” Stopka said. “It’s a very humbling experience to lose, but (St. Charles East) is a great team. We could’ve lost to them two years ago in the same exact game and not won state. Sometimes it’s a game of inches.
“Diego was phenomenal. We have Diego to thank for not falling behind early in the game.
"What a team and a program. We had so much fun with this team. We’re always joking and having fun, but they know when to get serious. You can’t lose sight of why we play the game in the first place. This was a fun team. I’ll always remember this team.”
GK: Diego Ochoa
D: Mateusz Janowski
D: Freddie Steen
D: Alexander Menolascina
MF: Oliver Connor
MF: Aaron Jobi
MF: Nico Feldmann
MF: Michael Greco
F: Alan Rivas
F: Damian Glodz
F: Jayden Waski
St. Charles East
GK: Jordan Rolon
D: Brandon Garland
D: Griffin Counts
D: Jake Walker
D: Michael Greszenko
MF: Garrett Melton
MF: Logan Lewarchick
MF: Aiden Maloney
F: Marc Walker
F: Omar Ontiveros
F: Connor Sychowski
Chicagoland Soccer Man of the Match: Ivan Campobasso, jr., GK, St. Charles East
York: Jobi (unassisted), 53’
STE: Maloney (Marc Walker), 67’
York: Damian Glodz (goal); Jayden Waski (saved); Michael Greco (post); Mateusz Janowski (goal); Daniel Marcial (saved)
St. Charles East: Logan Lewarchick (goal); Marc Walker (goal); Aiden Maloney (goal); Griffin Counts (saved)