TISKILWA - Some things are missed more when they are gone.

Include Earlville/Leland junior defender Andrew Abens in that category.

Abens, the starting right fullback, injured his left leg with 18 minutes, 56 seconds remaining in the second half of Tuesday's Class 1A Princeton Sectional championship game in Tiskilwa. Rockford Keith Country Day held a one-goal lead when Abens was helped off the field.

The Keith lead ballooned to three goals just over two minutes after Abens moved to the bench.

Those two goals propelled Keith to a 5-3 win over Earlville/Leland in Tuesday's state quarterfinal game.

"It affected us a lot," said E/L junior goalie Cory Buhler of Abens leaving the field. "He's one of the main players. … I thought we could step it up. We tried."

Keith held a 3-2 lead Tuesday before Abens' injury.

Abens was helped off the field with 18:56 left in the second half, and he did not return Tuesday.

Keith proceeded to score with 17:28 left in the second half and with 16:47 left in the second half to lead 5-2. E/L later responded with a goal for the final 5-3 score.

Earlville/Leland head boys soccer coach Roger Essmann was disappointed the defense did not play better in Abens' absence.

"I'm not so sure it was him. It was his area," Essmann said. "We were losing containment there. The one thing I was worried about coming into this was containment. We didn't do a very good job of it (Tuesday) night."

Some stay, some go

Abens is one of five starters that return next season for Earlville/Leland. Other returning starters are Buhler, sophomore midfielder Tyler Becker, junior forward Tyler Frieders and junior forward Chris Collins.

"We got five underclassmen coming back, and we got some kids waiting for their chance - just like these (seniors) did when they were freshmen," Essmann said. "They watched for their opportunity. Look what they did - making it to the Elite Eight four year in a row. For them, that's quite an accomplishment."

The six senior starters E/L loses are senior sweeper Trevor Becker, senior midfielder Ryan Hardin, senior forward Danny Heath, senior defender Joe Meyer, senior stopper Brad Nordlund and senior midfielder Jarid Reiter. The team's non-starting seniors are Matt Leal and Cris Torman.

"I love these guys," Reiter said. "They're really good. All of them are beautiful ballplayers. I love this season. I love playing left mid so much."

None of this year's seniors were on varsity as freshmen in 2006. Since this class started contributing as sophomores, they posted a three-year varsity record of 62-9-3.

Buhler knows next year's team has high standards to match.

"It's going to be another tough one," Buhler said. "I have faith in us, though."

Recognition arriving

Essmann informed his seniors of postseason honors Tuesday after the game.

Hardin and Trevor Becker received all-sectional honors from the Illinois High School Soccer Coaches Association.

This is the first time since 2007 that Earlville/Leland had two players earn all-sectional honors. In 2007, E/L goalie Brad Miller received all-sectional honors and E/L forward Seth Stockley got all-sectional and all-state honors from the IHSSCA.

Hardin, Heath, Nordlund and Trevor Becker made the Little 10 All-Conference team.

Pitch conditions

Leland athletic director Jerry Pohl said before Tuesday's game that he had contacted the IHSA to inform them about the Tiskilwa soccer field conditions. Pohl said he e-mailed the IHSA after Thursday's semifinal games.

The two sectional semifinal games Thursday were played in a constant rain, and most of the field's grass was torn up by the soft conditions and turned into mud.

The IHSA did not respond to Pohl's e-mail.

"We were down here (in 2006 for the sectional), and there was really poor lighting and the field was really in bad shape. Some people said the same thing (Thursday)," Pohl said. "I e-mailed (Beth Sauser, the IHSA administrator in charge of soccer) nicely that for the finals of a sectional, it seems like you could find a better site. It's nothing against Princeton or these people. Somewhere you could find a better one. But it's hard. People don't want to host them."

Before the game, Essmann said he would favor a change in venue after arriving and walking on the muddy field. He reiterated those feelings after the game.

"(The field) might not have made a difference, or it might have made a bigger difference in the score for them," Essmann said. "Who knows? It doesn't show what you can really do out here - not to take anything away from (Keith) because they deserved it, and they played hard.

"It's just too bad that it's such a mud area right now. … It'd be nice for a high-level game to have a little bit nicer area. (Princeton) put on a nice tournament. I'm not saying anything bad about Princeton. (Thursday) night really took its toll on the field."

Erik Hall can be reached at 223-3200, ext. 195, or at sports@newstrib.com.


A real time look at local businesses social media postings.

Recommended for you

Load comments