The week in Uni sports: A roundup of varsity action, Sept. 28-Oct. 3
Published: Tuesday, October 6, 2009 - 1:42pm
Last week was a busy stretch for boys soccer, girls swimming, and girls volleyball. On the soccer field, the Illineks proved that their recent tie with Class 2A Champaign Central was no fluke, turning in three strong performances. The swim team kept progressing against top competition, while the volleyball team had a fabulously successful week, ending with a repeat victory as Crusader Invitational champs.
BOYS & GIRLS CROSS COUNTRY
Last week the varsity cross country teams did not compete. The boys are currently ranked eighth in the state among Class 1A teams by DyeStatIL, the online site formerly known as Illinois Prep Top Times. Both Uni squads will resume action Saturday at the Cumberland Invitational in Toledo. This will be their final regular-season meet of the year; the postseason begins Oct. 24 with the Class 1A St. Joseph regional at Kickapoo State Park.
Senior Neil Pearson has been one of Uni's defensive mainstays as the team has held opponents to 19 goals in 16 games. Gargoyle photo by Stephanie Overmier (click to enlarge)
The soccer team recorded its first win since Sept. 12 and ended a streak of three consecutive ties with a conference victory over Normal Calvary Baptist Friday. The Illineks also recorded their final tie of the streak against Warrensburg-Latham on Monday and played Class 2A Urbana close to end the week.
Uni began the week at home with a nonconference matchup against Class 1A power Warrensburg-Latham.
For most of the first half, neither team could find the back of the net. In the 37th minute, Uni finally got through when senior Dan Lilly netted his 23rd goal of the season on an assist from freshman Tarik Koric. Uni outshot the Cardinals 7-4 on the half.
Ten minutes into the second half, though, the Birds struck back, getting a direct kick from the left sideline to come through untouched.
Despite six shots on goal, the Illineks couldn’t score the rest of the game, and the end result was a 1-1 tie. Senior goalie Nile Hamer made seven saves.
On Thursday, though, the Illineks finally got that elusive W when they hosted Normal Calvary Baptist in an East Central Illinois Conference game.
Freshman Patrick Wong, second on the team to Lilly in goals, wasted no time in putting Uni on the scoreboard, following through on the assist from sophomore Conrad Schloer in the third minute. it was Wong's 13th goal of the season.
Lilly would soon follow with a pair of goals himself, on assists from junior Chris Mathy and senior Eddie Diazmuñoz in the eighth and 14th minutes, respectively.
Later in the half, Schloer added two goals of his own in a three-minute span. After following up a Diazmuñoz assist in the 27th minute, the sophomore scored again just two minutes later, this time with an assist from freshman Paul Seeley. Uni outshot the Crusaders 18-4 on the half and took a 5-0 lead into halftime.
Uni didn’t let up in the second half. Senior defender Jasper Maniates-Selvin scored on a corner kick that went in untouched in the 52nd minute. Three minutes later, Diazmuñoz scored on an assist from senior Arnav Pamidighantam. The seven-goal advantage cut the remaining time in half, per IHSA rules.
Diazmuñoz would score Uni’s final goal in the 60th minute, cementing the 8-1 victory.
The Illineks were not so lucky the next day, as they took on Urbana in a nonconference road game. The Tigers scored two goals in the first 20 minutes, the second coming off a corner kick. None of Uni’s five shots on goal went through.
The Illineks cut the deficit early in the second half, when Wong scored on an assist from Lilly two minutes in. But despite five more shots on goal, Uni couldn’t add to its point total. An Urbana corner kick in the 69th minute put the cap on Urbana’s victory.
Uni is now 7-5-4 on the season, although the team's conference mark improves to 2-1. Lilly remains third in the area with 25 goals on the year. Wong is second on the team with 14.
Seeded No. 4 in the Danville Schlarman Class 1A regional, Uni will begin the playoffs Oct. 13 against No. 5 Catlin. The Illineks will host the game at the U of I Campus Rec Turf Field, First and Stadium, Champaign. Admission to the 4 p.m. contest will cost $4.
Sophomore Milee Nelson won the 200 and 500 freestyle in a tri-meet against Danville and Centennial last week. Gargoyle photo by Stephanie Overmier (click to enlarge)
Of the three events in which the Anemones placed first, sophomore Milee Nelson won two of them: the 200-yard freestyle (2:04.86) and the 500 free (5:27.22).
Freshman Bissy Michael also won her event, finishing the 100 breaststroke at 1:15.84.
Senior Sian Best finished second in the 200 individual medley with a time of 2:33.68. Fellow senior Erika Belmont finished third in the 50 free, at 27.86.
The Anemones competed at Danville on Saturday, and despite losing to the Vikings, Uni put in some strong performances.
Michael won the 100 breaststroke again, this time clocking in at 1:15.94. Nelson also had a strong meet, finishing in the top three in four events. She finished second in the 100 free (58.72), less than half a second from winning the event.
Nelson also placed third in the 100 butterfly (1:05.09), the 100 backstroke (1:05.15), and the 200 IM (2:32.17).
The Anemones have one meet this week: the multi-teamed Central Invitational at the Unit 4 Pool on Saturday.
Sophomore Jamie Blue comes up big against Judah Christian. Gargoyle photo by David Porreca (click to enlarge)
In a week that featured seven matches, including three against crosstown rival and conference foe Judah Christian, many teams would be happy just to get to the end of the week. The reward for Uni’s effort? A shiny first place trophy.
Even before winning Saturday’s Crusader Invitational, Uni could have called it a successful week. On Tuesday, the Illineks traveled to Champaign to face the Tribe. After a tough 25-21 win in the first set, Judah came back strong in the second set, winning 25-4. In the third set, Uni took an exciting victory by the minimum two-point margin in a 25-23 win.
Judah fought bought hard in the final set, spurred on by a spirited home crowd. But the Illineks maintained their composure in several high pressure situations and came out with the win, raising their ECIC record to 5-1. Seniors led Uni across the board as Tuli Bera had a team-high five kills, Rachel Harmon four blocks, Chumin Gao 11 digs, and Michelle Wong 16 assists.
But for all Tuesday’s action, Thursday’s match against Buckley Christ Lutheran may have been even better. The two teams split the first two sets, Uni taking the first 25-20, and BCL barely winning the second 25-21.
In the third set, it looked like the Illineks were well on their way to another conference victory, up 21-15, but BCL battled back, and the score was soon tied at 23. But Gao would hit the winning shot, giving Uni a 25-23 win and cause for a teamwide celebration.
Gao led Uni with 10 kills and 15 digs. Wong finished with a team-best 21 assists and four aces. The victory raised the team's record to 9-10 overall and 6-1 in the ECIC.
On Saturday at the Crusader Invitational in Buckley, the Illineks played five matches as they sought to defend their 2006, 2007, and 2008 tournament titles. Their first contest was a rematch of Thursday’s thriller against BCL, but Uni won easily in straight sets 25-17, 25-14.
Next they took on Cornerstone Christian Academy, splitting the two sets 16-25, 25-23.
The Illineks’ third contest — a 10-25, 21-25 loss to Judah Christian — gave them a No. 3 seed heading into the tournament's final two playoff rounds. Uni and Judah immediately played a rematch, and the Illineks won 25-20, 25-27, 15-10.
In the final round, facing BCL for the third time on the week, the Illineks won for the third time, this time when it mattered most, in the tournament championship. For the second straight year, Wong earned tournament MVP honors.
By the end of the hectic week, Uni's record stood over .500 for the first time all season. Now boasting a 12-11-1 mark, the Illineks are also second in ECIC action with a 6-1 record.
The Illineks play a home-and-home against conference foe Decatur Christian this week, as they will take on the Warriors at Kenney Gym tonight and then travel to Decatur on Thursday. The team has five more varsity matches, all against ECIC opponents, before the IHSA Class 2A regionals begin in late October.