NORMAL – Getting to the state finals was all Hinckley-Big Rock’s soccer team could think about after last season.
After coming up one win short in 2011, H-BR made it their goal to get to the Corn Crib in Normal in 2012.
“After losing last year in that super-sectional game in overtime to Lisle, we came out during our super-sectional game against Cristo Rey (this year) and we just wanted to be [in Normal] right now,” senior forward Zach Michels said.
It marks only the fifth time in H-BR’s storied soccer history the Royals have advanced to the state tournament, and their first appearance since 2003.
And the biggest reason they’re here is the senior class. The group of seven seniors on the roster never have had a losing season. Their current four-year record of 70-25-4 is one of the best marks in school history, quite the accomplishment for a program that celebrated its 1,000th game earlier this season.
“How big have they been to this school,” H-BR coach Paul Taeuber said. “It’s not the way they wanted to go out. There’s only one team that can take it.”
Senior Bernie Conley will end his career as one of the top-three goal-scorers in H-BR history, but it’s been a group effort to finally get the Royals back to the state tournament. Billy Weissinger, Michels and Jared Madden are the team’s next-leading goal scorers as those four seniors have accounted for 99 of the team’s 123 goals this season.
Like they’ve done all season, the seniors carried the load for H-BR against Alton Marquette. Michels, Conley and Weissinger each scored while Madden assisted on Conley’s header just before halftime.
“We’ve all played together forever,” Michels said. “I can’t remember the last time we were separated. We just came together and worked our butts off for four years and this is how it paid off.”
Regardless of today’s result in the third-place game against Rockford Keith, the Royals will have posted the best finish in school history.
Competing in the state consolation game is not what any of them had dreamed about as a way to end their careers. But playing in Normal on the last day of the year is a fitting conclusion to a special season and a remarkable senior class.
“We worked for this for four years,” Madden said. “We got here, we didn’t get exactly what we wanted the first game, but we’re still going to try to have fun and win the second game.”