If Illiana Christian is going to have success going into the Class 1A Lisle Sectional, it's going to begin and end with goalie Chad Ketelaar. He is a sophomore varsity starter who has posted six shutouts on the season. The Vikings have lost 13 matches this year, but 10 of their 13 losses have come by one goal or less. The team has worked on winning the one-goal matchups, and lately have been able to do just that.
"Some of these games are just one-goal games," Ketelaar said. "The second half of our season has been way better because we've been winning those one-goal games and even scoring two or three more than that."
The Vikings will be shorthanded in a big way come Thursday's match against host Lisle at Benedictine University. Illiana Christian will be without seven seniors who will be in Washington, D.C., on their senior trip. With the Vikings short handed, Ketelaar will play an even bigger role in keeping the Vikings defense together while at the same time being the last line of defense.
"We're losing a lot of the defensive half of our team," Ketelaar said. "We've just been hammering into the new players, just get in front of them and hold them so they don't get a good shot off."
Coach Chip Bevan has lost his senior before during tournament time, and his advice to his team was simple: Don't let them score, and they can't win.
"One of the predicaments we find ourselves in every year is losing seniors to the senior trip," Bevan said. "Number one priority is keeping the ball out of the net. If they can't score, they can't beat us. Period."
If the Vikings do find a way to get past Lisle in the opener, the seniors would be home in time for Saturday night's championship match. The Vikings have been letting their bench players see more action in recent weeks in anticipation of missing their seniors, and Ketelaar knows the guys on the pitch will be ready.
"They're pretty good," Ketelaar said of the younger players who will be asked to fill major roles. "They're just all going to have to step up their intensity. Other than that, they're going to be just about as good as our seniors."