Thursday, May 23, 2019

First to state

Harvard High School boys soccer team member JD Escobar raises the IHSA Class 1A fourth-place trophy while his teammates watch on Nov. 2. The Hornets soccer team qualified for the state finals for the first time in school history. HML photo by Jay Schulz

When the Harvard High School boys soccer team defeated Peoria Christian High School Oct. 28 in the IHSA Class A Mendota super-sectional, they became the first soccer team from the school to qualify for the state finals.

The Hornets traveled to the Corn Crib in Normal Oct. 31 and lost 2-1 in a 10-penalty-kick game to Timothy Christian High School. In the third-place game Nov. 1, the Hornets lost 1-0 to Herscher High School to finish fourth overall.

Even though the Hornets did not win at the state finals, they were satisfied.

“I really felt like we played well,” said Harvard head coach Dave Abel. “Obviously, we would have liked different results, but I think we played hard until the end of each game. At no point in time did I think a team felt safe against us. We competed. We put a lot of pressure on them. We gave ourselves opportunities for success. That’s really what you’re looking for.”

“I thought it was a great experience,” said senior sweeper Daniel Mercado. “It was good going all the way [to state] and being able to be with the team longer. Every time before a game, we would say play as a team, play like it’s our last game. We played all the way to the end.”

The Hornets finished 23-6. They graduate seven seniors, five of which were starters. But the future looks bright as the junior-varsity team finished 20-0-1.

Abel said he believes the younger players on the team will be hungry for a return to state.

“Look at what kind of impression that leaves for the next kids that are going to take over the leadership roles and what it is they are going to strive for,” Abel said. “I think these young kids will want to have that experience again.”

Mercado agreed.

“The young guys learned a lot from this,” Mercado said. “Hopefully, they make it to state next year, and, hopefully, they get first place.”

Overall, Abel said he was proud of what his team accomplished.

“It’s exciting, and I’m proud,” Abel said. “I’m proud of these kids, not just how they performed on the field but how they prepared at practice and in the offseason – how they are as young men. I think it carries over. If you do those things outside of the games, winning and getting your team to the state tournament is a byproduct. It’s a positive thing, not just for the guys, but for the fans, the school and the community. It was a great thing to be a part of.”