Elks douse Comets in memorable SLC title game
ELKHORN--Given the opponent, the stakes and the weather, this was a night the Elkhorn boys soccer team won't soon forget.
And it could be the springboard to another run to the state tournament.
The Elks overcame their biggest rival Tuesday, shutting out Delavan-Darien 2-0 in the Southern Lakes Conference championship game as heavy rains drenched the field at Elkhorn Area High.
Elkhorn (13-1-4), ranked No. 7 in Division 2, won its first SLC title since 2012 and ended a five-game losing streak against Delavan-Darien (20-1-2), which was seeking its third straight conference crown.
"We've had trouble for four years getting past these guys and we finally got it," said Elks junior Luke Umnus.
Umnus provided rain-soaked spectators with a Goal of the Season candidate in the first minute of the second half. Sophomore Alec Birbaum lofted a short corner kick from the left flag to the edge of the penalty area. Umnus made a quick adjustment and, off one hop, volleyed the ball with his left foot into the top half of the net.
Flanked by teammates, Umnus sprinted across the field and dropped to both knees, sliding to a stop in front of the home bleachers to celebrate.
"Honestly, I got lucky with it," Umnus joked after the match. "I got really lucky on that one, but I'm going to act like it was all skill."
It was a memorable goal in a memorable win, because it doubled the lead Bryant Romero gave the Elks with a 16th-minute goal.
The Comets threatened throughout, led by the thrilling play of forward Zeus Huerta, but time and time again their crosses and shot attempts found a defender or the gloves of keeper Alex Hergott.
Huerta (43 goals) and Comets senior Jason Cano (39 goals) were the state leaders in goal-scoring--according to stats supplied to WisSports.net--entering Tuesday's match. The Comets were averaging 5.9 goals per game.
"We knew they had the top two scorers in the state so we had to mark up on those two," said Elkhorn coach BZ Kayser, whose team has given up one goal in its last 10 matches. "We kept our marks up really well; they didn't have too many good looks."
Delavan-Darien coach Mike Marse didn't mince words after the defeat.
"Tonight, I think they played better than we did, plain and simple," he said. "They played the way they wanted to play in the that first half and we let them. Second half we started to build momentum but we just couldn't get the ball in there."
The Comets, ranked No. 1 in Division 3, saw several long streaks end:
A 48-game unbeaten streak, the longest in the state entering Tuesday.
A 27-game Southern Lakes Conference unbeaten streak. The last loss? A 1-0 defeat against Elkhorn on Oct. 7, 2014.
A 28-game streak without being shut out.
There is perhaps a silver lining, though. With its incredible run over, Delavan-Darien has one less distraction as it begins its journey to repeat as state champion.
Tuesday's result did little to hurt either team's playoff resume. Both should be top seeds when the postseason begins next week.
ELKHORN 2, DELAVAN-DARIEN 0
Southern Lakes Conference championship game
D-D 0 0--0
Elkhorn 1 1--2
E--Bryant Romero, 15:10.
E--Luke Umnus (Alec Birbaum), 45:45.
Saves--Alex Hergott (E) 7, Hugo Valadez (DD) 4. Shots--DD 17, Elkhorn 15. Shots on goal--DD 7, Elkhorn 6. Corners--Elkhorn 9, DD 2. Offsides--DD 2, Elkhorn 1. Fouls--Elkhorn 11, DD 5.
Last updated: 11:30 pm Tuesday, October 10, 2017