Paul Vignocchi took his first Glenbrook North team to the IHSA finals in the large-school division in 2004. The Spartans defeated Geneva 2-0 in the quarterfinals to earn a state trophy, but then fell 1-0 to Buffalo Grove in the semifinals and lost 4-3 to Rockford Guilford to finish fourth in state.
Twenty seasons later, Vignocchi has his program back at the state finals. And even though the Spartans had to wait an extra day to achieve that feat due to weather, it was well worth it as the program assured itself of its sixth trophy. The others were won between 1981 and 1989.
Glenbrook North captured a 3-1 victory over Elgin after 18 minutes of regulation time and two overtimes Wednesday in the Barrington Supersectional. The match began Tuesday but was suspended in the 62nd minute because of near white-out conditions and snow on the field.
That win earned the 21-3-2 Glenbrook North a spot in Friday's Class 3A semifinals against fellow Central Suburban League South Division member New Trier in a 7:30 p.m. match at Hoffman Estates High School. Glenbrook North and New Trier met Sept. 11 when the visiting Spartans won 2-1 to hand the Trevians their lone defeat.
In the supersectional, senior midfielder Ian Lee scored his team-high 28th goal in the 83rd minute on a penalty and junior forward/midfielder Michael Miller added a score in the 98th minute.
Elgin scored in the 29th minute to go up 1-0. The Spartans evened it in the 53rd minute when junior midfielder Lukasz Wilczek connected off of an assist from senior defender/midfielder Yianny Caparos.
It was the latest in a dramatic series of postseason victories for the Spartans. They edged Rolling Meadows 1-0 and Palatine 2-1 to win the Fremd Sectional championship. The Spartans captured a 2-1 victory over Barrington to claim their own regional championship.
The Spartans went 9-0-1 to start the season before suffering a 2-1 loss to Evanston. They hit a little bit of a rut by finishing the regular season 1-2-1, but got back on the right track with a win over Libertyville in their regional opener.
In the postseason, Glenbrook North has outscored its opponents by a 10-3 margin. With two playoff shutouts, the Spartans have six on the season and have allowed a single goal in a match 14 times.
This is the fifth 20-win season in Vignocchi's 20-year career at Glenbrook North. One more victory ties his best win total, which was 22 in 2016. He owns a 274-125-61 record at the school.
The Spartans hope to get another victory over the Trevians to assure them of a visit to the championship for the fourth time and the first since Al Knepler led the program to a second place finish in 1989. Glenbrook North has won one state championship, when it went 18-4-2 in 1983 for coach Mike Radakovich.
The leading scorers for the Spartans are Lee (28 goals, 10 assists); senior midfielder Steven Rhee (11 goals, 7 assists); Miller (11 goals); and sophomore midfielder Jackson Lee (10 goals, 6 assists).
Other top Glenbrook North scorers include junior forward/midfielder Jake Armstrong (6 goals, 4 assists); junior defender Chase Petersen (10 assists); junior defender/midfielder Brady Spiggos (1 goal; 6 assists) and senior defender/midfielder Sam Lappin (1 goal, 4 assists). Junior goalkeeper Gil Meyers has a 1.12 GAA and has recorded 82 saves in 25 matches.
Spartans who earned IHSSCA postseason honors are All-Stater Lappin, All-Section selection Lee, All-Section Honorable Mention pick Rhee, All-Academic selection senior midfielder/defender Kieran Layland and Sportsmanship Award recipient Caparos.
Glenbrook North's team captains are Caparos and Lappin. The team's assistant coaches are Seong Ha and Rob Demano.
"It feels great to be back in the Final Four," Vignocchi said. "The boys have worked very hard and have come together and are playing their best soccer of the season. I've said it all year, this team has a lot of grit and is very resilient. They believe in each other and are playing for each other."