When a team has won 10 in a row and 16 of its last 17 matches heading into the IHSA Final Four, there's no reason its players shouldn't believe they have a very good opportunity to win the state title.
That's the story for Crystal Lake South as it brings a 20-4-1 record into Friday's 1:30 p.m. match against Rochester in the Class AA semifinals at Hoffman Estates High School.
Coach Brian Allen's squad advances to the state finals for the third time since 2018 and hopes to duplicate their 2018 showing, when the Gators capped a 22-2-3 season with a win over Gibault in the semifinals and then a title victory over Notre Dame (Peoria), both in penalties, to win the top trophy in their first finals appearance.
Crystal Lake South went 20-5-4 in 2019 and lost 2-0 to Benet in the championship. The program has gone 100-24-15 during the past six seasons. Allen, who has been head coach for 17 seasons, has recorded a 249-120-33 career record.
In their current 10-match winning streak, the Gators have outscored their opponents by a 32-3 margin, which includes a 16-2 scoring edge in the five postseason matches.
The Gators assured themselves of their third state appearance when they captured a 2-1 victory over Timothy in two overtimes in Tuesday's Grayslake Central Supersectional.
Junior forward Ali Ahmed scored the unassisted game-winner with just under three minutes left in the second overtime for the win. Senior midfielder Nolan Getzinger connected following an assist from senior midfielder Nico Velasco to make it 1-0 in the second half before Timothy sent the match into extra time with two minutes left in regulation. Senior goalkeeper Chris Slawek recorded six saves for Crystal Lake South.
After beating Lake Forest 1-0 to capture their own regional title, the Gators won 2-1 over Grayslake North and 2-0 over Harvard to claim the championship of the Grayslake Central Sectional.
Crystal Lake South's top scorers are Ahmed (25 goals, 4 assists), Getzinger (16 goals, 27 assists), junior midfielder Nick Prus (13 goals, 3 assists) and Velasco (7 goals, 6 assists).
Sophomore defender Pierce Johnson has three goals. Junior defender Diego Paguada and junior midfielder Mason Ross each have five assists; senior defender Garrett Hess and senior midfielder Brendan Lewis both have four assists. Others who have played in all 25 matches are senior defender Blake Marunde, senior midfielder Steven Smith and junior midfielder Hayden Stone.
Slawek has an 0.76 GAA in 21 matches and has recorded 109 saves. The Gators have posted 13 shutouts this season and allowed just one goal on six other occasions.
Gators who received IHSSCA recognition were All-Stater Getzinger, All-Section selections Ahmed and Johnson, Sportsmanship Award winner Hess and All-Academic Award recipient Marunde.
Crystal Lake South started the season 4-3-1 and allowed 17 goals. The Gators turned things around with six wins in a row before losing 4-2 to Fox Valley Conference foe Huntley. They then won 10-straight matches. The 16-1-0 run has featured 11 shutouts and five games with one goal allowed.
Team captains are Getzinger, Hess, Lewis and Marunde. The Gators' assistant coaches are Anthony Allen, Zane Boettcher, Adam Gatza, Jonathan Talavera and Jeff Cadieux.
Crystal Lake South’s regional win was its sixth since 2017, ninth under Allen and 12th in school history. The sectional title was its third.
"We are excited to be back at state again and the guys know that they can't take anything for granted. Any time you are playing on the last weekend of the season, it is a special opportunity," Allen said.
“I've been extremely pleased and proud of the guys' dedication to continue to play our brand of soccer at a consistently high level throughout the season, and especially in these playoffs where they've shown tremendous growth and resiliency in each round on both the attacking and defensive sides of the ball.”