Andres Lemus had a quick choice to make.
Playing a beautiful through ball from teammate Saul Camacho, the St. Laurence forward could either finesse the ball over the goalie or beat him head-on.
A sophomore, Lemus made the right choice.
With the Bremen goalkeeper racing to make a play, Lemus went for the ball, worked past his man and chipped in an angled shot from 15 yards out to lift St. Laurence to a convincing 2-0 victory on Oct. 29 over Bremen in a Class 2A Kankakee sectional semifinal.
“I was focused on putting the ball in the net,” Lemus said. “I saw the keeper coming out, and it was either chip it over or take him on. Taking him on was the better idea. I used my speed to my advantage and took him on.”
Advancing to the sectional championship on Nov. 2, St. Laurence beat Oak Forest 4-2 for the program’s first sectional crown.
Senior Charlie Martinez and Lemus scored 2 goals apiece in the championship win with junior Pedro Pantoja adding 2 assists. Junior Valente Lara and junior Ruben Perez added an assist each.
Filling in for senior goalkeeper Fernando Cervantez, freshman Damian Ascenscio made 6 saves in net.
Cervantez and senior Luke Arthurs were ineligible for the sectional championship after being issued red cards in the closing minutes of the semifinal game against Bremen.
Two Bremen players were also issued red cards following a late-game scuffle near midfield.
In the last two seasons, St. Laurence lost in the sectional semifinals.
For senior defender Julian Cardiel, it was a long time coming on a long road of hard work.
“It’s something that started in the summer,” Cardiel said. “Our practices, the grind, the result is getting us all the way here and, hopefully, to the supersectional. It would mean the world.”
Lemus and Perez scored a goal each for the Vikings. Camacho and Arthurs had an assist each.
Cervantez finished with 6 saves.
St. Laurence Coach Kyle Boekeloo said the Vikings have hit their stride in recent weeks as the team played some of its best soccer.
“[The win] proves a lot about the boys and shows a lot about their ability,” Boekeloo said. “They’ve really bought in over the season, even when we’ve been down and out with injuries and some bad losses. They bought in and still believed. This is the best soccer we’ve been playing these last two weeks.”
Lemus’ goal with 23:11 left in the first half gave St. Laurence a 1-0 advantage going into the second half.
The Vikings extended the lead 10 minutes into the second half as Arthurs sent a beautiful cross from just inside midfield to a charging Perez in the box on the right side.
Perez headed the ball in past a diving effort from the goalie.
“This win meant a lot,” Lemus said. “We’ve been winning regionals, but we wanted to play for a sectional title, a supersectional and state. We wanted to push forward as a team.”
Cardiel, his younger brother, Jessie Cardiel, Camacho and Lara anchored the defensive effort, limiting Bremen’s shots on goal.
“It starts with me and Fernando communicating all the time,” Julian said. “It’s the organization between me, my brother, Saul and Valente. The communication is key on our backline.”