BARRINGTON -- Glenbrook North is back to the state finals for the first time since 2004 after its 3-1 double-overtime victory over Elgin in the Barrington Supersectional on Wednesday.
Ian Lee bagged his 28th of the season with an 83rd-minute spot-kick, then Michael Miller put the game away when he squeezed his attempt into the far corner two minutes before time.
These two high-flying clubs were asked to return to Barrington Community Stadium in the late afternoon Wednesday after extreme weather conditions Tuesday forced the match to be suspended in the 62nd minute. Strong winds and heavy snow made it near impossible to see the ball or the Maroons, who were dressed in their all-white kits.
The teams resumed play at 5 p.m. Wednesday.
"We were really chasing the game last night in the first half," admitted Spartans manager Paul Vignocchi.
“Elgin is easily one of the best teams we've faced all season. Their technical ability and overall skill was so impressive when you consider how bad the conditions were during that first 40 minutes of play."
Next up for the Spartans (21-3-2) is conference foe New Trier, which topped St. Charles East 2-1 for the St. Charles North Supersectional title Wednesday night. The teams will meet in the 6 p.m. state semifinal Friday at Hoffman Estates High School.
Elgin held a 1-0 halftime lead Tuesday.
"We played a great first half in just terrible conditions," said Maroons manager Jimmy Romano. “We all felt like we dominated the first half and could have easily put another 1-2 into the net aside from the goal Xavier (Salinas) scored."
The sophomore defender bagged the opener in the 29th minute. His teammates Alberto Gayten, Jaylen Plancarte and Aaron Saldana stood out with their possession, passing and terrific movement to keep Glenbrook North pinned in its own end to defend the one-way traffic of the Maroons.
With Roberto Salinas and Edgar Perez strong along the back for the Maroons, it appeared as if the Upstate Eight Conference co-champions were halfway home to victory.
"We were so flat at the start of the game last night," said Glenbrook North’s Jackson Lee, one of the heroes on the second night of play. “Elgin was such a good team. They gave us so much trouble. Fortunately, we made it to the half chasing just one goal.”
As they have shown throughout the postseason, the Spartans have proven to be a very good second half team. The first 22 minutes came Tuesday, followed up by another wonderful 18 minutes Wednesday that set the tone for the overtimes and eventual victory.
Junior Lukasz Wilczek brought the Spartans even in the 53rd minute thanks to a terrific helper from Yianny Caparos.
In the first overtime, a superb early ball from out of the back from Caparos led to the eventual game-winner, though the referee's decision that led to it brought a howl from the Maroons bench.
Jackson Lee came from out of nowhere to chase down the Caparos serve, which created enough confusion to allow the sophomore, who possesses cheetah-like speed, to touch past Maroons keeper David Castaneda just inside the box.
The referee saw Jackson Lee tripped up in the box. After a short chat with his assistant referee at the near touchline, he pointed to the spot. From there Ian Lee easily converted his 28th of the season to give the Spartans their first lead.
"We did not agree that our center-back took down no. 27 (Jackson Lee)," said a disappointed Romano. “He already took his shot on goal, so that entire sequence should not have given them a PK.”
Elgin nearly answered just before the first extra session came to a close when Aaron Saldana seemed to send Alberto Gayten through with a lovely ball. But an offsides flag was correctly raised to negate the scoring opportunity.
Once into the 90th minute, Gayten went close, and the Maroons managed to create two deep throws, but the Spartans stingy backline led by senior Sam Lappin with strong mates Chase Petersen and Brady Spiggos made sure nothing of danger would come to keeper Gil Meyers, who was strong over the two nights between the sticks.
Midfielder Steven Rhee curled a 30-yard free kick over the Elgin wall and toward the open near-post corner in the 96th minute, but Castaneda made a brilliant save to keep the Maroons in the game.
Miller’s insurance goal dashed Elgin’s hopes less than three minutes from time. The tally capped a frantic second 10-minute session. Vignocchi’s men claimed their eighth state tournament appearance and first since 2004, when Vignocchi led his club to a fourth place finish in his first year as manager.
"It was all Elgin in that first half, then we pulled ourselves back up to play much better in the second half," said Vignocchi. “The difference today was that both Rhee and Ian Lee helped us control the midfield. That helped get our attack up and running.
"Our work-rate and overall effort was so good all day today. It was the reason that we were able to keep a great team like Elgin from creating too many opportunities."
In that 2004 state tournament, long-time Spartans manager Al Knepper assisted Vignocchi. Knepper led the Spartans to a second place trophy in 1989, the last previous time the program advanced into the final weekend of the season.
Elgin (16-4-3) put up a valiant fight. It was especially impressive given that the Maroons played without star Eduardo Nava, who got a red card at the end of the 2-0 Round Lake Sectional win.
"It's really disappointing to get this close for a third-straight season and to fall short once again, but we have a tremendous core of players coming back," Romano said. “Many of them played a lot of minutes this season. They all will remember this night and use it to help get us back into the supers next year.
"We were not happy with that call that gave them the PK, and we're still not sure of the reason for it. The guys will get over this loss, realize they had a great season and come back better and stronger because of it."
Elgin: X. Salinas (Saldana), 29'
Glenbrook North: Wilczek (Caparos), 53'
Glenbrook North: Ian Lee (PK), 83'
Glenbrook North: Miller (unassisted), 98’