CHAMPAIGN — The St. Teresa boys soccer team had been a successful program the previous five years, winning three regional titles in that span.
But the Bulldogs could never get past the sectional semifinals. That changed this year, and now the Bulldogs are a game away from their first state appearance after Saturday's 1-0 Champaign Judah Sectional title against the host Tribe.
"From the beginning of the season, I told them, 'I want you guys to play the game. Play soccer,'" first-year St. Teresa coach Davis Wegmann said. "They'd been having winning seasons. And, nothing against anyone, but it was all about winning. This year, the focus was developing and learning how to play the game, and doing it together as a unit. Everyone was involved. We were a family. When that happens, that's when you can go far."
But Judah Christian didn't make it easy. The Tribe packed their players onto their side of the field, making it a defensive struggle.
"They knew we liked to step into the other half, so they wanted to prevent us from scoring, then try to spring a fast attack," Wegmann said.
But that attack never came, even after St. Teresa (20-2-3) broke through and scored midway through the second half.
You have free articles remaining.
Leading scorer Edgar Onate put the ball in the net, but it was Luichi Caceres who created the chance. Caceres lost the ball on the outside, but stole it back, dribbled past his man and dropped a pass to Onate coming from the opposite side. Onate used his left foot to deposit the goal.
"We'd been frustrated because we'd missed a penalty kick," Wegmann said. "But we stayed with the attack and started hammering away until the rock broke. They trusted me and had trust in themselves, and that was the most important thing."
From there, St. Teresa's defense controlled the game. Judah Christian (12-8-2) could never muster offensive opportunities.
"They didn't have one clear shot," Wegmann said. "We were the aggressors for the whole game. Our game plan was to not let them breathe, and we did that."
Wegmann said center backfielders Boston Stewart and Christian Stone, along with center midfielders Christian Herrera and Jace Hise, led the defense.
St. Teresa will play Earlville at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the Peoria Christian Super-sectional, which will be played at East Peoria's EastSide Centre.
"We don't know much about them — we know it's up toward Chicago and we looked at their schedule," Wegmann said. "We won't take them for granted, but I don't like to focus too much on the other team. If we go in there and execute our game plan, no one will stand in our way."