NAPERVILLE – All of the Hinckley-Big Rock boys soccer team’s playoff opponents leading up to Tuesday’s 4-0 win over Cristo Rey Jesuit in the Class 1A Naperville North Super-Sectional were familiar with Bernie Conley and his Royals teammates.
That meant the Royals’ prolific goal scorer was marked during the match, in every match. Those teams found out that this H-BR team has an arsenal of scoring options behind Conley.
“We have four people that can score on any given day, so it doesn’t shut us down like it used to, it opens it up for us and it gives us more options,” senior Billy Weissinger said. “We’ve been able to go through way more people.”
That increased responsibility forced the Royals to spread the scoring load, and H-BR became a better all-around team, which they showed Tuesday when four different players scored against Cristo Rey even though Conley wasn’t marked as tightly as in previous matches.
“We’ve been working to get everybody involved, and by doing that, it forced people to step up,” Weissinger said. “It helps us a lot. … It came naturally.”
Eric Phillips opened the scoring in the 13th minute, when he pounced on a rebound and finished an open shot.
Given space, Conley was able to terrorize the Cristeros’ defense with his speed, and he scored the second goal of the game after he busted through the Cristo Rey defense and slotted a shot through the goalkeeper’s legs.
“They didn’t man-mark me as hard as everyone else did, so that left me open and left me the space to do the things that I like to do and I know how to do.” Conley said.
With 13:35 remaining, Conley’s curling free kick cross from 30 yards out found Jared Madden, who volleyed home the Royals’ third goal of the game.
Bill Weissinger closed out the scoring with 4:39 remaining.
After losing in the super-sectional last season, a more balanced H-BR team earned its first berth in the state semifinals since 2003.
The Royals will play Alton Marquette at 5 p.m. Friday at the Corn Crib in Normal.
The Explorers may or may not choose to shadow Conley, but it may not make a difference.
“[The Royals’ balance] forced [opponents] not to mark him as much, because if they do mark him, somebody else is going to step up and score,” Madden said. “Either way, we’re going to score.”