If Andres Vasquez’s heart was beating any faster, it might have burst straight through his Delavan-Darien jersey.
The senior midfielder never expected a trip to the WIAA Division 3 sectional finals would rest squarely on his right toe.
But after coming through in the clutch twice Thursday night, Vazquez can officially drop the “unsung” description from his label as Comets hero.
Vasquez had the critical assist on a goal that restored a tie in overtime then netted the game-winning strike in a penalty-kick shootout. Delavan-Darien beat Shorewood 5-4 in kicks after a 2-2 draw and will play Catholic Memorial at 7 p.m. Saturday at Shorewood with a trip back to the state tournament on the line.
“I’m speechless. I couldn’t have imagined this during school,” Vasquez said. “I never thought it would come to me.
“You can ask my teammates, I was stuttering and asking my teammates for advice on what side (to aim my penalty kick). But in the end, I came through for my team.”
The Comets, defending state champions and eyeing a third gold ball in four years, practiced penalty kicks this week, knowing the state’s toughest sectional might come down to a shootout.
It was 3-3 through three rounds, but Delavan-Darien keeper Hugo Valadez dove to his left in the fourth round for the critical save.
“What a game,” Valadez said. “I just stayed focused and don’t listen to anyone else. We practiced yesterday and I stopped a couple, and that helped me with my confidence.”
The shootout was tied 4-4 when Vasquez stepped up to the spot for the final shot of the five-round shootout. He ripped his shot into the left side of an empty net, with Shorewood’s keeper guessing and diving the opposite direction.
“He played all night; he didn’t come out all game,” Delavan-Darien coach Mike Marse said. “He was coming back and helping the defense when he had to. There were times he was there when no one else was there.”
Vasquez was an unlikely offensive threat. His assist in the overtime was his fourth of the year, to go along with three goals for a team that has scored 152 goals in 27 matches.
“I always look to seniors that are starters, that if they want to take it they can take it,” Marse said of his the decision to put Vasquez in the penalty-kick lineup. “He’s really come up big. He’s probably played almost every minute of every game this year. And he’s one of those guys that you don’t really hear about but puts in all the work.”
The No. 1-hitter ranked Comets advanced despite never holding a lead in the match.
They overcame a sluggish first half when Pablo Guzman Martinez deflected Jason Cano’s shot in the opening minutes of the second half to tie it 1-1.
“I knew what they (Shorewood) wanted to do, because I scouted them before the game, but I don’t think the team really knew what they wanted to do,” Marse said. “Once we pressured them so they couldn’t get the pass into the 18, we did better. And instead of dribbling the ball, we got it back upfield right away. The second half, I thought we pretty much dominated.”
But it was still 1-1 at the end of regulation.
In the first 10-minute overtime, the Comets survived a defense lapse that allowed Shorewood’s Jaison James’ second goal of the night in the 95th minute.
Less than a minute later, Vasquez fired a laser of a cross from deep in the right side of the scoring box. It connected with junior Daniel Rangel, who tied it 2-2.
“I feel like we have the confidence,” Vasquez said. “Coach always tells us to push through, push through. I feel like today we did.”
Indeed, the Comets have pushed their way within one more victory of returning to state.
DELAVAN-DARIEN 2 (5), SHOREWOOD 2 (4)
Shorewood 1 0 1 0—2
Delavan-Darien 0 1 1 0—2
Delavan-Darien won 5-4 on kicks
S—Jaison Jones (Gordy McKaig), 13:03.
DD—Pablo Guzman Martinez (Jason Cano), 49:48.
S—Jones, 4:33. DD—Daniel Rangel (Andres Vasquez), 5:08.
Delavan-Darien’s shootout scorers—Zeus Huerta, Cano, Guzman Martinez, Osvaldo Torres and Vasquez.
Saves—Dominic Zizzo (S) 10, Hugo Valadez (DD) 2. Shots—Shorewood 12, Delavan-Darien 27. Shots on goal—Shorewood 4, Delavan-Darien 12. Fouls—Shorewood 4, Delavan-Darien 9. Corner kicks—Shorewood 5, Delavan-Darien 17. Offsides—Delavan-Darien 3.