BLOOMINGTON – With an undefeated record and a berth in the state tournament on the line, Mendota’s soccer season all came down to penalty kicks.
The Trojans and Bloomington Central Catholic played to a 2-2 tie after regulation and the two 10-minute overtimes, so five players from each team lined up for shots on goal. Only eight kicks were needed as Central Catholic buried all four of its attempts while the Trojans were successful on just two, and the Saints came away with a thrilling 3-2 victory in the Bloomington Central Catholic Class 1A Supersectional on Oct. 26 at the BCC field.
The loss was the only one by the Trojans this season after a 23-game winning streak going into the supersectional. Central Catholic advanced to the state tournament with a 24-3-1 mark. Mendota concluded the 2021 campaign by scoring 143 goals and giving up just 10. The three goals by Central Catholic were the most allowed by the Trojans in their 24 games.
The Saints got the first crack in the penalty kick phase and Joseph Carter drilled it past Mendota goalie Manny Trejo for a 1-0 BCC lead. Johnathan Cortez was the first kicker for the Trojans and he tied the count at 1-1 with a shot past a diving Auston Koch. Jacob Jongky made it 2-1 Saints and the Trojans’ Yahir Diaz answered with a shot that rattled the cage for a 2-2 tie.
Central Catholic made it 3-2 when Jaylen Bischoff’s kick found the net, but the tide turned when Koch was able to stop an offering by Mendota’s Jasiel Watson on the Trojans’ third try. The Saints went in front 4-2 when Gavin Young’s boot was good, and then Koch got his mitts on a shot by Alex Mandujano and the win went to the Saints.
“It was a bad way to go out on penalty kicks,” said Mendota coach Nick Myers. “When we went to PK, I was confident in our chances. I would pick the same five guys again if we had to do it all over.”
The Trojans got the scoring started in the game when Ricky Orozco took a feed from Cortez and rammed it past Koch at the 27:00 mark of the first half.
Two minutes later, Mendota had a great chance to double its lead, but two shots on goal missed the mark. Then with 7:26 left in the half, a blast by Diaz sailed just outside the right pipe, and the half ended with the Trojans clinging to a 1-0 lead.
“It was great for us to get that 1-0 lead since I thought (Central Catholic) dominated possession in the first half,” noted Myers.
Central Catholic managed to gets its first goal of the night at the 33:56 mark of the second half when Carter headed a shot that eluded Trejo to tie the score at 1-1.
Just over five minutes later, the game took a positive turn for the Trojans when Koch journeyed far out of the Saint goal in an attempt to grab the ball and he collided with a Mendota player. Koch was assessed a yellow card and sent to the bench by the referee. The Trojans attacked the goal and an Orozco kick bounded off the substitute Saint goalie and was then headed by Mendota off the rebound, but the shot clanged off the right pipe. Central Catholic survived the barrage and Koch re-entered the game 2 ½ minutes later.
More than 15 minutes elapsed without a goal, but then the Trojans got the go-ahead tally at 12:59 when Cortez sprinted on a breakaway and ripped a shot by Koch, who ventured too far out of the net.
Another scoring chance for Mendota occurred at 10:33, but a header shot just missed the mark. Then with 7:24 left in regulation, Central Catholic’s Carter scored his second goal of the game to make it 2-2.
The Saints thought they had the go-ahead score with 5:51 to play, but the goal was denied when Central Catholic was called for shielding Trejo when he came out of the goal in attempt to stop the shot.
Mendota had the only other good scoring opportunity before the end of regulation when Orozco’s header off a corner kick was wide of the goal at the 4:54 mark.
Central Catholic had the only real legitimate chance at scoring during the two overtimes, but neither team could convert and the game went to penalty kicks.
The Saints posed a challenge for Mendota that it really hadn’t seen much of this season and that was their ability to run with the Trojans.
“This team was able to keep up with us and we had to adjust to their quickness,” said Myers. “Their speed caught us off guard. But I thought both of their goals were mistakes by us.”
The site of the supersectional wasn’t determined by the IHSA until after the post season began, and although the Trojans had to play on Central Catholic’s home field, Myers didn’t feel it was a disadvantage to his team.
“The pitch was the same for both teams, so playing on their field is not an excuse,” he said. “But…it would have been ideal to play on a neutral field.”
The Trojans will lose six seniors off of this year’s club and Myers is grateful for their contribution to the program over the last four years.
“I can’t say enough about our six seniors; they were a great group,” Myers said. They include Trejo, Mandujano, Diaz, Jose Ruiz, Luis Garcia and Josue Arteaga.
“But, we have a solid group of guys coming back, so we have a great opportunity to be back in this position again,” he said.