While players took turns shooting at their nets during pregame warmups, the song “Still Hungry” by rock band Adelita’s Way blared over the loudspeakers.
One verse went something like this:
I will do whatever it takes—I’m still hungry.
I’m still hungry.
I’m still hungry.
That nicely sums up the mindset for Jonathan Diaz and the Delavan-Darien High boys soccer team.
The hard-working Diaz played a central role Tuesday, scoring a pair of goals and embarking on a marauding run through the midfield to set up a third as the Comets defeated Union Grove 3-1 in a Southern Lakes Conference tournament semifinal.
“I came here to win. That’s it,” the soft-spoken Diaz said.
Delavan-Darien (16-1-3) shook off a fluky goal by Union Grove (7-4-5) early in the second half, scoring twice in the final 30 minutes to advance past the upset-minded Broncos.
Next Tuesday, the Comets will meet rival Elkhorn in the Southern Lakes tournament final for the eighth straight season. The Elks have won the last two, including a 5-0 result last year.
Diaz, a sophomore, doesn’t have ultra-gaudy scoring numbers, but with 16 goals and 16 assists this season, he’s been an integral part of the Comets’ attack.
And his work rate is unmatched.
“He’s like a dog,” Delavan-Darien coach Mike Marse said. “He goes and he runs and he doesn’t stop.
“He’s the hustler of the three forwards. Jon does a lot of the dirty work because he’s so strong. On the ball, he can take it away from just about anybody.”
That was apparent often Tuesday. After gaining possession near the center line in the 69th minute, Diaz raced forward before getting the ball to teammate Dieonte Orth, who sent a cross into the penalty area.
Estevan Colin out-jumped a Union Grove defender to nod the ball inside the left post for his state-leading 43rd goal and a 2-1 lead.
That came about 18 minutes after the Broncos equalized on Ben Erickson’s free kick from midfield. His high, driven attempt slipped through the hands of Delavan-Darien No. 2 keeper Hector Flores.
The Comets responded with a burst of energy and creativity, controlling possession over the final half hour and keeping Union Grove on its heels rather than sitting back to absorb pressure.
“After we got the second goal, it seemed like they calmed down a little bit more and started playing to each other and looking for each other,” Marse said.
Diaz added his second goal in the 84th minute, when he used the outside of his left boot to slip a shot past Union Grove keeper Mitchell Curtin.
The Comets jumped in front early after Union Grove was whistled for obstruction on the edge of the penalty area, setting up an indirect free kick in the 18th minute.
Ivan Calixto Perez tapped the ball to Diaz, who curled a left-footed shot over a four-man wall and into the top-left corner.
“We knew we could score on free kicks if we got them,” Marse said. “That’s something we went over yesterday.
Union Grove played without leading scorer and captain Logan Farrington. Coach Sean Jung said the senior, who has scored 110 goals over a four-year varsity career, was held out with a sore hip.
“Everything we do revolves around him holding up the ball,” Jung said. “It changes the game.”
Union Grove has been a rising power in the Southern Lakes under Jung, who took over the program ahead of the 2012 season. The Broncos finished last that fall and then were seventh in 2013.
Since then, they haven’t finished worse than fourth. But they have always played in the shadow of the Southern Lakes’ twin powers—Elkhorn and Delavan-Darien. The Broncos will play in the third-place match for the sixth straight season.
The Comets will face Beloit Memorial on Thursday before another meeting with their biggest rival Tuesday. Elkhorn beat Delavan-Darien 2-0 on Sept. 24 and is unbeaten in its last five games against the Comets.
“Hopefully we can play loose, not get too tight, not get too nervous,” Marse said. “I told them, ‘Just go out there and play like you’re on the playground.’
“’If you can just pass around like you’re out behind Phoenix Middle School, you’ll be fine.’”
Elkhorn 6, Badger 0—Alec Birbaum and Devon Davey each scored twice to lead the Elks back to the Southern Lakes title game.
Ariel Mora and Ray Beilman also scored for Elkhorn (12-1-0), which hasn’t lost in its last 26 conference matches.
Badger will face Union Grove in the third-place match Tuesday.
DELAVAN-DARIEN 3, UNION GROVE 1
Union Grove 0 1—1
Delavan-Darien 1 2—3
DD—Jonathan Diaz (Ivan Calixto Perez), 18th.
UG—Ben Erickson, 51st. DD—Estevan Colin (Dieonte Orth), 69th. DD—Diaz, 84th.
Saves—Mitchell Curtin (UG) 6, Yovany Fonseca (DD) 3, Hector Flores (DD) 2. Shots—UG 9, DD 18. Shots on goal—UG 6, DD 9. Corners—UG 1, DD 2. Offsides—UG 0, DD 2. Fouls—UG 14, DD 19.
ELKHORN 6, BADGER 0
Badger 0 0—0
Elkhorn 4 2—6
E—Alec Birbaum (Sean Ahler), 7. E—Birbaum (Luis Roman), 12. E—Devon Davey, 29. E—Davey, 38.
E—Ariel Mora, 58. E—Ray Beilman (Roman), 75.
Saves—Nathan Buntrock (B) 11, Preston Ward (E) 1, Xocoyotzin Aranda (E) 1.