Elkhorn’s senior boys soccer players will never know how it feels to lose a Southern Lakes Conference match.
The Elks wrapped up their fourth consecutive league title and fourth straight unbeaten conference season Thursday night.
Ray Beilman’s late-game penalty was the difference-maker in an otherwise fiercely contested match, one that Elkhorn won 1-0 over host Delavan-Darien. It wrapped up a 10-0 regular-season for the Elks in a campaign that included only league games due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Coach told us this was like a Disney movie,” said Elks senior Luke Schoeneberg, who was part of the varsity team since his freshman year. “Because we got to play our rivals here at the end. It feels great.”
The Elks went 36-0-1 in SLC matches during Schoeneberg’s four years, including league tournament matchups.
With less than five minutes to play, it appeared that mark might be headed toward including a second tie. Comets keeper Hector Flores had made seven saves, including a couple from point-blank range, and senior defender Enrique Rizo swooped in in the 86th minute to fend off a ball destined for the back of the net with Flores off his line.
But less than a minute later, the Comets were whistled for a foul for holding an Elks player in the scoring box on a free kick, and Elkhorn was awarded a penalty kick.
Beilman stepped up to the spot and buried a shot in the lower left corner.
“It wasn’t our prettiest game, but we got it done,” Schoeneberg said. “We had more offensive chances last time (against Delavan-Darien). This time we kind of played more defense.”
The final few minutes were especially bitter for the Comets. For 85 minutes, they showed their improvement since a 3-1 loss in Elkhorn a month earlier. Then they lost on a penalty in what head coach Mike Marse said felt like a familiar situation.
“It just seems like we get calls against us in games like this all the time,” Marse said. “The guys just feel like they can’t catch a break.
“I know the team is upset, but we played a heck of a game. I told them, ‘If you play land come together like this the rest of the season, as long as the playoffs go, who is going to stop you?’”
The Elks’ last loss in an SLC match was to Delavan-Darien, 1-0, on Oct. 11, 2016.
The Comets had designs on ending that streak, but Joe Griswold made six saves to preserve the clean sheet for the Elks. Included in those six was one where Griswold sprawled to his left in the 61st minute to keep the match scoreless.
Flores made two close-range saves and saw a potential Elkhorn goal waved off due to offsides in the first half. He made another brilliant stop in the 75th minute, just three minutes after Elks junior Colin Frank blasted a shot off the crossbar.
“Hector sometimes gets me, because he wants to turn on the switch when it’s important, and I tell him he needs to turn on the switch from the first game of the season,” Marse said. “But he played a great game. I’d just like to light that fire sooner.”
If Thursday was any indication, that fire could be lit for deep playoff runs for both the Elks and Comets.
Elkhorn got a No. 1 seed in its Division 1 bracket and will play either Waterford or Westosha—a couple SLC rivals—in a regional final Oct. 24.
Delavan-Darien got a No. 2 seed in its Division 2 bracket—behind New Berlin Eisenhower—and hosts Martin Luther in a regional semifinal at 7 p.m. Tuesday.
ELKHORN 1, DELAVAN-DARIEN 0
Elkhorn 0 1—1
Delavan-Darien 0 0—0
E—Ray Beilman (PK), 85:49.
Saves—Joe Griswold (E) 6, Hector Flores (DD) 7. Shots—Elkhorn 13, Delavan-Darien 12. Fouls—Elkhorn 11, Delavan-Darien 18. Corner kicks—Elkhorn 3, Delavan-Darien 3. Offsiders—Elkhorn 2.