Knights pass Loyola on Whiteman goal
By Neil Milbert
After failing to win in their first 14 games, the Prospect Knights have turned their soccer season around and now have the opportunity to win the IHSA 3A Regional Tournament for the third straight year.
Coach Kurt Trenkle’s 17th-seeded team earned the right to play top-seeded Evanston for the Regional title on Tuesday back at Loyola Academy by defeating the 14th-seeded host Ramblers 1-0 in their opening round game on Oct. 18.
The Knights’ 3-11-5 record isn’t indicative of how they’ve been playing recently. In their last seven games they have a 3-1-3 composite and in their last five their resume reads 3-1-1.
Only 3 minutes 54 seconds remained in regulation time when junior Alex Whiteman scored the goal that eliminated Loyola (6-12-2).
It came after a lapse by the Ramblers in their end that sent two attackers bearing down on goalkeeper Konrad Kowal.
“I had to wait and see if he (Whiteman) was passing to the other guy or shooting,” Kowal said. “He spotted it well.”
Prospect dominated every phase of the game in the first half. The Knights had a substantial advantage in time of possession and they didn’t allow a single shot-on-goal.
The only time senior goalkeeper Jack Cooney was challenged was when he came far out of the net to keep the ball beyond two onrushing unmarked Ramblers.
On the other end of the field, Kowal faced repeated challenges by Whiteman and senior Sean O’Carroll.
However, in the second half the complexion of the contest changed drastically and it was the Ramblers who were attacking relentlessly.
“We dominated the game territorially and in (time of) possession,” Loyola coach Rob Etheridge said. “We just couldn’t find the net.”
At least five of Loyola’s scoring chances were Grade A opportunities.
The best chance came with nearly six minutes elapsed in the half when the Knights’ defense unraveled, leaving Joshua Word with the ball on his foot to the immediate right of the goal.
“I had the reaction to go the other way,” Cooney said. “I didn’t think he’d go for the near post but I got there in time.”
Less than three minutes later Cooney had an ultra-close call when a shot glanced off the top post and went over the goal.
“I was hoping we would come out with the same intensity in the second half as in the first but they started putting a lot of pressure on us,” Trenkle said. “It became a very physical game.
“Jack made some very good saves and our back line held. Erick Karkut played a fantastic game on defense. He was holding everything together and communicating well. It was perhaps the best game I’ve seen him play this year.
“We continued putting a lot of pressure on their back line and it paid off.”
Whiteman downplayed his derring-do in scoring the deciding goal.
“Somebody went to the center, the ball came back to me and I went one-on-one with the keeper,” he said.
“The big thing is we came here as the underdog and we beat them on their home field.”