With some time to decompress following a whirlwind past couple of weeks, first-year Gibault Catholic High School head soccer coach Darryn Haudrich reflected on his team’s Class 2A state runner-up finish.
“As a whole, I am overjoyed and elated with the success of the team,” Haudrich told the Republic-Times. “In jumping from Class 1A and coming off a third place state finish, no one was expecting the Hawks to make their way back to the state finals one year later. The run was historic, unprecedented, and overwhelming to be a part of.”
Haudrich classified the 2-1 victory over Wheaton Academy in the state semifinal on Nov. 3 as the team’s biggest win of the season.
“(It was) by far our most resilient effort in coming back in a game and claiming a victory,” Haudrich said. “Wheaton was a very talented team with a storied history of success, so taking them down Friday night almost felt like we had won the tournament.”
Wheaton kept sustained pressure on the Hawks the entire first half, Haudrich said, and possessed the ball well throughout the game.
“They eventually broke down our defense and managed to find a way to score in the first half,” Haudrich said.
But just like many of the postseason games during the state tourney run, Gibault’s defense found a way to withstand continuous attacks and its offense found a way to break through.
Karson Huels tied the game with a penalty kick, and Ryan Swindle won it with a late goal.
“I knew that Karson would make his spot kick and that was all the momentum we needed to get back in the match,” Haudrich said. “Ryan sealed the game with his patient goal late in the game. While Ryan is an unlikely source for offense, he is a poised finisher and chose the most important moment of the season to score a big goal.”
Connor Olson played well in goal once again for the Hawks, and Logan Doerr was lethal on the offensive attack, Haudrich added.
“And again, our defense was our MVP for much of the match,” he said.
As for the 6-0 state title game defeat at the hands of Solorio Academy on Nov. 4, Haudrich said his team came out flat and slow and never really seemed to find a groove.
“Solorio kept in control all of the game and rarely had breakdowns on defense,” Haudrich said. “They were the most patient and calm team we have faced all season, which was evident with their ball handling and timely attack as well as attitude of being just as content maintaining possession of the ball.”
The Hawks also ran into some discipline problems in the contest, the coach said.
“I believe we were physically and emotionally drained from all of the high stakes games played along the way,” Haudrich said. “Not to make an excuse – as I don’t believe we played well enough to really give Solorio much of a match – they were the better team throughout the contest. However, on more rest and perhaps playing them on Friday night would have completely changed the outcome of the game.”
Haudrich said the title game started to trend in a troubling direction when his team was issued a yellow card for a player’s equipment violation in the first half.
He said “sloppy defensive play and a questionable penalty kick at best” added to the poor start, which was capped off by a long-distance goal by Solorio to end the first half.
“The second half didn’t get much better. Despite having some quality chances to get back in the match, we just couldn’t seem to find a way to execute when needed,” Haudrich said.
The coach also explained the circumstances that led to his ejection and the ejection of three Gibault players in the second half.
“The first red card sustained was the result of a second yellow for a hard challenge taken by Robert Lugge,” Haudrich said. “I was ejected a short time later for a secondary yellow, not a straight red, for dissent expressed towards an official.”
Haudrich stressed that he used no foul or harsh language during his exchange with the referee.
“My response was provoked by the main referee stating to several of our players following a second PK call that ‘it didn’t matter because the game is already over,'” Haudrich told the Republic-Times. “When calling into question his integrity, he took exception to my approach and I was ejected from the game.”
Josh Hooser received a red card for mocking a referee from the bench – which Haudrich said was completely uncalled for on the player’s behalf.
The final red card was issued to Olson for stating his displeasure with the officiating.
“I question whether any of the red cards were warranted, while also believing there is a credible integrity issue among the officials overseeing the matches at the state’s highest level of competition,” Haudrich offered. “It’s upsetting to me how things ended, including not being allowed to participate in the medal ceremony or the official picture as consequence for the red card received.”
Haudrich said he will contact the IHSA to express concerns with how these events were handled during the match.
Now that the season is in the rearview mirror, Haudrich has fond memories of his first season at the helm of the Hawks.
“Watching the team battle and compete all season, I knew the talent and ability were there, it was a matter of having our best effort and results for a string of five games to even have a shot at making the state finals,” he said. “We found a way to compete each game and were led by stingy defending, heroic goaltending and timely offensive finishes all throughout the postseason run.
Gibault finished with a record of 18-7-3 and made the school’s 10th state soccer tourney appearance.
“It was quite the journey to be part of, amazing to accomplish as a first-year head coach, and historic from the school’s rich history standpoint,” he said. “Despite the finish not going as we would have preferred, the accomplishment of this team will be recognized for years as one of the area’s greatest feats in overcoming adversity and unforeseeable odds.”