Geneseo soccer wins regionals

Claudia Loucks
The Geneseo Boys’ Soccer Team won the Class 2A Regional title at Almquist Field in Rock Island and advance to Sectionals to face Washington on Tuesday, Oct. 26, at Dunlap Middle School. Team members are in front from left, Hunter Holke, Zach Nelson, Gage Tafoya, Jack Debord, Matt Daly, Alex Slaymaker, Connor Nelson; in back, Eric States, Tyler Tafoya, Will DeJohn, Drew Cucuru, Andy Danielson, Jacob Nelson, Cooper Mathews, Brayden Combs, Kyle Rahn, Bennett Kreiner, Nathan Vergane, Carter DeSplinter, Zach Stoeger, Braeden Possin, Jack Polowy, Brady Hammer, Ethan Ernst and Max Sottos.

The Geneseo Boys’ Soccer Team captured the Regional title when they defeated Rock Island, 1-0. The Leafs advance to face Washington on Tuesday, Oct. 26, at Dunlap Middle School.

The journey to Sectionals began when the Leafs took out the Dixon Dukes, 6-2, in the first round of Regionals held in Rock Island.

Geneseo got on the board first from a shot and goal by Hunter Holke in the 16th minute of the match. Just four minutes later, Ethan Ernst picked off a loose ball off a corner kick from Braden Combs and buried it for a goal.

Dixon was able to cut the lead in half with a free kick late in the first period. Just before halftime, Nathan Vergane was able to strike a ball into the net off another corner kick, this time from Bennett Kreiner.

The Leafs ended the first half with a 4-1 lead.

Starting the second half, Hunter Holke scored his second of the night off an assist from Matt Daly.

Dixon broke loose on a through ball of their own to cut the lead to 5-2. Holke rounded out the scoring with a hat trick beating the Dixon keeper on a ball from Nathan Vergane.

The Leafs seem to have gotten a lift from senior Cooper Mathews inserted into the starting line. After being plagued by injuries all season, Mathews got the call to be ready.

“I wanted to finish off my high school career on a high note,” Mathews said. I’ve played soccer since I was five years old and wanted to play till the end with my teammates. I’ve struggled with concussions since my freshman year and it’s been hard but I really just want to play and contribute to the team.”

GENESEO VS. ROCK ISLAND ON OCT. 23

Geneseo had just faced Rock Island five days prior to the Regional Championship game on Oct. 23 in Rock Island. In that previous game, Rock Island came out on top, 2-1. Both sides seemed to hold back knowing they would most likely meet again in less than a week with the season at stake.

The closely matched game started with Rock Island, playing on their home turf, putting a lot of pressure on the Leafs’ defense. The defense, led by juniors Matt Daly and Alex Slaymaker withstood the pressure and the teams went into the half tied at 0-0. Daly, known for his offensive ability has played a major role in this year’s defense.

“Wherever Coach puts me I will put 110 percent effort into that position,” Daly said. “If putting me on the back line helps us, then that’s what I’ll do to benefit the team and keep winning in this post season.”

The second half of the contest with Rock Island had the Leafs become the aggressor, testing the Rock Island defense with numerous shots on goal. Just four minutes into the half, Kyle Rahn collected a drop from Braden Combs and crossed a ball into the box. Hunter Holke was able to get his head on the ball and redirected it past the RI keeper for a goal.

With the Leafs up 1-0, the team went into a defensive mode, and killed off 26 minutes of Rock Island’s attempts at tying the game.

Gage Tafoya in goal made a number of stops and the midfielders and defense stood up to the talented Rock Island team to secure Geneseo’s second Regional Championship in three years. Geneseo was Conference Champ with no post season last season due to the pandemic.

Geneseo Coach Harvey Morton said, “We definitely came in with a strong mindset of wanting to win. We knew we would have to be fast to match their speed. Our defensive line really saved the team. They did a great job at starting the offensive plays from our half of the field. The mids and forwards played very strongly. They hit feet on their passes; they moved off the ball well and had great spacing. I couldn’t be more proud of our team.”

Senior forward Hunter Holke added, “We really wanted this game. Coach Harv had us ready to play. He knows how to motivate us. He always has his teams ready to peak at the right time. Rock Island is always tough.”

“The support tonight from Geneseo fans was awesome,” Holke said. “You would not have known we were not playing at home. They really helped us finish this game off. I wish we could take them with us on the bus to Dunlap this Tuesday (Oct. 26).”

When asked about their upcoming Sectional match with Washington on Oct. 26, sophomore forward Braden Combs said, “They have a good, tough team. They move the ball very well and press hard on defense. They have a few target players that we will have to look out for and do our best to neutralize. We know Tuesday is going to be a great game and we will be ready to play and give our best.”