SYCAMORE – Anthony Parillo’s shot was a frozen rope.
On a frigid day that saw temperatures more characteristic of mid-December than late October, there was no more fitting way to describe it.
Parillo took a pass from Tyler Siebert and blasted a one-timer into the lower left corner from 25 yards out to give Kaneland an early lead, and the Knights never looked back, defeating Sycamore, 4-0, in a Class 2A Sycamore Regional semifinal.
Kaneland advances to play Burlington Central on Friday in the regional final.
“It’s the fourth [regional title game] in four years because we’ve gradually toughened up our schedule,” Kaneland coach Scott Parillo said. “Burlington’s tough, that’s going to be a tough team. They’re relentless.”
Parillo’s blast put Kaneland up, 1-0, in the first 10 minutes, and the Knights looked as if they would bury Sycamore early.
But Sycamore goalie Dylan Nelson consistently came up with big saves to keep the Knights off the scoreboard.
Kaneland’s Arsim Azemi and Angel Escontrias played a nice give-and-go combination resulting in a low shot from Azemi in the penalty box, but Nelson slid back across his net and reached behind to make a diving save.
“He had a stellar game, maybe the best game he’s had all season,” Sycamore coach Dave Lichamer said. “He was aggressive off his line, he wasn’t giving up rebounds.”
Kaneland (10-5-4) scored before halftime as Escontrias controlled a bounding ball in the box and blasted a left-footed shot into the top corner for a 2-0 lead.
The Knights added two more in the second half, the first coming when Curtis Thorson tried to play a cross into the penalty area. The pass deflected off a Sycamore defender and into the net for a goal six minutes into the second half.
Later on, Adhurim Azemi played a perfectly placed pass through to Escontrias, who slid a shot past Nelson for a 4-0 lead.
“Our midfield is our strong point,” Anthony Parillo said. “If you can switch the ball enough, it’ll bring the defense out of position and that’s where we can really use our skill.”
Nelson finished with 11 saves on the day while Kaneland keeper Jarred Karr wasn’t tested often, recording only two saves.
Sycamore (2-19-1) will lose nine seniors off this year’s team, but Lichamer noted the Spartans will have a pretty strong core coming back in 2014 and will look to bring up some younger players to fill out the roster.
“It was a step in the right direction from last year,” Lichamer said. “It wasn’t a stellar year for us in terms of the record, but I credit my guys, even when we’re down 4-0, they fight and fight and fight and continue to play.”