DeKALB – In a 1-0 win over Jacobs on Tuesday, the DeKalb boys soccer team played defensively and didn’t see much time on the ball. That style of play was necessary against a strong offensive team that relied on ball control to create chances.
Against Huntley in the Class 3A DeKalb Regional championship Saturday, the Barbs played the same way, only this time, sitting back wasn’t part of the gameplan in a 3-1 loss.
“To a large degree, we just didn’t play very well, and that’s disappointing,” coach Brent McIntosh said. “I thought if we just came out and did a few things better, executed a little better … obviously we were in the match even when we weren’t playing well.”
Neither team had many chances early, but the Red Raiders (16-6-1) were able to hold the ball for much of the first half.
With 17:44 remaining in the first half, Huntley’s Niko Mihalopoulos redirected a free kick cross with a header, and Lucas Baker was there to score from point-blank range.
As the minutes before half time waned, DeKalb (12-3-5) began putting stretches of possession together, but they weren’t able to equalize.
“After the first goal, they got momentum and we got a little shell-shocked,” Sean Woodford said. “Near the end of the first half, we started to play better.”
Early in the second half, Mihalopoulos was sprung free on a breakaway by a pass from Baker and he placed his shot past goalkeeper Cully Hicks.
Once again, DeKalb began to string passes together toward the end of the second half, and Sean Woodford’s cross from the end line found the feet of Eric Ngum, who hit a hard shot just under the cross bar to make the score 2-1.
“In the second half, we started to get on the ball more,” Ngum said. “We started really attacking and putting pressure on them and giving our back line a break.”
The Barbs pressed, but Huntley forward Matt Kitsis was able to finish off the scoring with 2:41 remaining with a shot from outside the penalty area against the run of play.
While DeKalb was able to make a last-gasp effort, they ultimately fell short.
“I thought we were flat today. We weren’t emotionally good,” McIntosh said. “I thought the last 20 or 25 minutes of the second half, things started to click for us, and we started to put pressure on them. It was just too small of a window, we needed to play more like that for 80 minutes.”