Boys soccer: Lake Park clinches share of DKC crown
Tom Thomas didn't start for Lake Park in Thursday's DuKane Conference boys soccer game at Wheaton Warrenville South.
He didn't even get on the field in the first half.
But when coach Sean Crosby called on him during the second half, he provided a spark that helped the Lancers beat the Tigers 5-0.
The victory was huge. It gave the Lancers a share of the inaugural DuKane Conference title with Wheaton North, which is also the Lancers' first conference title since winning the DuPage Valley in 2013.
"I always love to come in towards the end of the game because while everyone is tiring down, I'm just getting started," Thomas said. "So that's a great way to take advantage of them and basically it's my goal."
Thomas scored soon after he entered the game, putting the finishing touches on a stellar 4-goal second half by the Lancers.
"We usually turn it on in the second half," Thomas said. "Basically everyone had a part in it tonight. We took all our input at halftime on how to improve and it really influenced us to get this result."
Lake Park (15-3-3, 5-1-1) jumped on the Tigers just six minutes into play when Victor Pawlik sent in a booming free kick from just beyond midfield and Tommy Zakic headed it to Jesus Juarez.
"Jesus just had to tap that in," Crosby said. "It was a great redirect from Tommy and Jesus was in the right spot and no one else could pounce on it."
Wheaton Warrenville South (5-9-2, 2-4-1) kept things close for a half, but the Tigers weren't at full strength and have to turn around and get ready for a Class 3A Elk Grove regional quarterfinal against the Grenadiers on Saturday.
"We had to look at Saturday and I hate looking ahead, but we still had guys at 60 percent and we had to weather this and try to get through and prepare and give them another 48 hours," Tigers coach Guy Callipari said. "Playing that play-in game will benefit us because we think we certainly can achieve there, and having that kind of momentum at that point, you just never know going into the regional with where we're seeded."
Gabriel Mendrano's goal a couple minutes into the second half set the tone the rest of the way, and then a penalty kick from Franco Presto followed by an own goal allowed the Lancers to break things wide open.
It also helped that their defense was lights out. It even limited the Tigers to a single corner kick and that came in the final two minutes.
"Tom Thomas was our spark plug," Lake Park senior defender Max Ellenbecker said. "Once he came in we started combining more and playing more direct and taking shots, and our communication throughout the back has been great lately. The cohesiveness has been great."
So have the Lancers as a whole all season long.
"For our guys to come out and kind of pinpoint their goals and then execute, they deserve this," Crosby said. "Some of these guys have been on varsity for three years and never sniffed a conference championship in the DVC, so for them to go out and earn this was great to see because I knew they had the talent to get here."