The rain and the winds threatened to put an end to Senior Night for the Morris Redskins soccer team on Thursday before it even began, but the ‘Skins carried on and survived the weather. Unfortunately, they could not survive the onslaught of Yorkville senior forward Artan Emini, as they dropped a Northern Illinois Big 12 East Conference match to the Foxes by a score of 5-1.
After a pregame ceremony aided by umbrellas and raincoats, nine seniors started for Morris on the night, with Kade Bashor forced to miss action due to injury. Mitchell Peal, Mike Grommon, Zach Harper, Jacob Komperda, Zack Laursen, Josh Schmitt, Luis Villanueva, Brogan Connor and Alex O’Conner joined juniors Chava Villanueva and Brian Vazquez to form Morris’ starting 11 for Morris’ final home game of the 2012 season.
“We had guys who couldn’t even do a really good two-touch when they started,” second-year Morris head coach David Valdivia said of his senior class. “And they didn’t know much about formation, and that’s what I’m trying to teach. Every little bit that they’ve gained – learning how to pass – has been really special to see.”
However, the Redskins fell behind early when a through cross was headed in by Emini to give Yorkville a 1-0 lead in the seventh minute. It was the first of three goals for Emini, who also kicks on Yorkville’s football team.
Two minutes later, it appeared as if Yorkville had added to the lead, but the Redskins caught a break when a fortunate offsides call negated the goal.
In the 15th minute, Morris forward Nestor Rodriguez got the first true look at goal for the Redskins, but the junior’s shot couldn’t find daylight amongst a wall of Yorkville defenders, and the shot never made it on net.
Less than two minutes later, a controversial penalty shot for Emini found the back of the net and Yorkville took a 2-0 lead. In the 27th minute, Emini completed his hat trick when he bent a long shot into the top right corner.
It was a half of 'could-have-beens' for the Redskins, as Yorkville keeper Josiah Hahn made several sprawling saves to keep Morris off the scoreboard. Yorkville would also add on another goal late in the first half to go up 4-0.
In the 37th minute, Hahn stonewalled a shot by Chava Villanueva and a rebound attempt by junior midfielder Kyle Monk on Morris’ best scoring chance of the half, but Yorkville would go on to carry that 4-0 lead into the break.
Despite a seemingly insurmountable deficit, the Redskins continued to push forward in the second half in an effort to end senior night on a high note.
“It was amazing seeing this team stay out there with their heads up,” senior captain Connor said. “At halftime, I actually had a really big speech after coach had talked, and I made sure that they weren’t gonna put their feelings down, and that they weren’t gonna get down about any of this.”
An early Yorkville goal in the second half may have put the game out of reach for the Redskins, but Morris continued to apply pressure. In the 53rd minute, a cross by Monk found the right foot of Chava Villanueva in the box and the strike found the back of the net to put a stop to the Yorkville shutout.
Morris continued to control possession for the remainder of the half, but despite several good scoring chances the score would end at 5-1 and Yorkville would improve to 13-4 (6-2), while Morris would drop to 8-8-1 (2-5).
It was a tough way to end it for senior Josh Schmitt, but the captain couldn’t have been prouder of his team’s effort on senior night.
“Being out here with these guys, I wouldn’t walk on this field without any of them.” Schmitt said. “This is the best coach I’ve ever had, and it’s all about Redskin Pride. This team means the world to me, and this field means the world to me and it’s just amazing that I got to play on it.”