GENOA – Uriel Ortega never envisioned he and his Genoa-Kingston soccer teammates would be experiencing the highest of highs this season.
He didn’t envision that his teammates would step off the bus just after midnight Wednesday morning, fresh off of a win in Peoria that sends them to the state semifinals, with students and parents waiting for them in the parking lot, cheering and honking their horns.
He didn’t envision his team, allowed to come in late to school the next day, would gather in the parking lot before second period before walking together through the doors of their high school, where they were applauded by schoolmates.
No, this wasn’t the year this was supposed to happen.
“I never thought of going to state my senior year,” Ortega said. “I thought last year we were going to make it far. I never thought this year was going to be our year.”
The Cogs lost two all-area forwards to graduation after last season, but this year they’ve made up for the subtractions with a stingy defense, which has shut out its past four opponents, and a midfield that is strong in possession.
When the Cogs play Herscher at 5 p.m.today, they’ll wade far into uncharted territory. The Cogs never had even been to a sectional final before last season, which it lost in controversial fashion.
At the beginning of the year, the team set a goal of making the state semifinals. Now that the Cogs are there, coach Randy Tate has to make sure his team keeps pushing.
“You’ve got to walk a fine line between keeping them enthused and being a little lackadaisical, and settling for getting there,” Tate said. “Hopefully we did that.”
Tuesday’s winning goal against Somonauk, which beat them 7-1 early in the season, came with only minutes left in the second overtime, and the Cogs were exhilarated, having completed their preseason goal in dramatic fashion.
“It was kind of weird, because we’re really happy, but we have to focus on our next goal, that is to win in the semifinals so we can go to the final for the state championship,” senior Juan Da Silva said. “As a team, I think there’s a lot of pressure, but when we get on the field we do what we’ve got to do. Just play, that’s it.”
Ortega doesn’t think re-calibrating will be an issue.
While Ortega didn’t necessarily expect this success coming into his high school career, the Cogs are playing some of the best soccer they ever have, just at the right time. That momentum may make an already special season even more spectacular.
“Our goal was to get state, and we accomplished that,” Ortega said. “But now we have a new goal … We’re already in the top four, and I’m expecting to get that state title.”