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Hiawatha advances to regional final

GENOA – Marek Mlodzianowski had to take a few deep breaths Wednesday at halftime of the Hiawatha boys soccer team’s 2-0 win over Chicagoland Jewish High School in the Class 1A Genoa-Kingston regional semifinal.

The senior had his chances, including a breakaway attempt that was saved and a shot off the post, but neither he nor the Hawks could finish any chances in a scoreless first half.

“It was unbelievably frustrating, I couldn’t take it,” Mlodzianowski said.

Despite being the lower-seeded team, Hiawatha (10-8) had a majority of the scoring chances throughout the game. Finally, Mlodzianowski broke through with 23:33 remaining in the second half when he collected a cross from Reyman Solis. 

His low shot dribbled to the corner of the goal and found the back of the net. 

“It felt like a thousand pounds got lifted off of my shoulders,” Mlodzianowski said. “I was so happy.”

Luis Martinez added a second goal with 13:43 remaining when he scored on a breakaway, and Chicagoland Jewish High School (9-5-3) never threatened Hiawatha goalkeeper Adam Gawlik’s goal.

But Hiawatha thought it should have done more and left chances on the table, just like it thought it missed opportunities throughout the season.

“I feel like this game should have been far more than 2-0,” said Solis, who is still recovering from multiple injuries. “It’s great to win and all, but in my eyes it’s a disappointment to play the way that we played … This whole year so far has been an upset. [10-8] definitely wasn’t what we were looking for.” 

But the Hawks are coming together at the right time with a match-up against Genoa-Kingston in the regional championship looming Saturday. With Mlodzianowski returning after missing several games with mononucleosis and Poncho Garcia back from injury, the Hawks finished third at the Little Ten Conference tournament.

Last season, the Hawks shocked the LTC by winning the conference championship, but bowed out in the first round of the postseason.

“We’re happy to get into the regional championship because we kind of choked last year early on,” Hiawatha coach Kyle Monestero said. “We’ve gotten over the hump of injuries and health issues … We’re looking strong as a team.”

If the Hawks want to make their preseason state championship dreams a reality, Solis knows they’ll have to learn from those early-season struggles.

“It was definitely a slap in the face to actually realize that, you know what, teams actually came to get us this year,” Solis said. “I feel like the end of the year is where we really get our focus.”

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