Hawks return to the promised land

Pictured is the 2013 IHSA Class 1A Super Sectional Champions, the Gibault Hawks. (Jeremy Kovarik photo)

Update: The Gibault Hawks defeated Francis W. Parker (Chicago), 3-0, tonight at the Corn Crib in Normal to advance to the state championship game tomorrow at 5 p.m., against Herscher High School.

The Hawks took a 1-0 lead into halftime on an Andrew Reinholz goal, assisted by Frank Mantia. Wes Degener scored both second half goals, sealing the win and a trip to the title game.

Our earlier story…

On October 29, 2005, Gibault and Quincy Notre Dame faced off in the State Championship game. The teams battled to a tense, scoreless 80 minutes of regulation, and remained deadlocked through overtime. The title match was settled on penalty kicks, with Gibault outscoring QND 5-4 to win the program’s first of three state championships.

Exactly eight years later, the Hawks and Raiders were at it again, this time with a trip to state on the line.

It was déjà vu all over again as the game would prove to be yet another classic in the storied history of the Gibault soccer program. Channeling the 2005 team, the Hawks defeated Quincy Notre Dame in penalty kicks after playing to a scoreless draw.

Just like in 2005, regulation was a back-and-forth, gut-wrenching affair. For anyone who had been experiencing high stress levels while watching the Cardinals in the World Series, this game did not help. Each team had excellent scoring chances, but the defenses stood strong, and both goalkeepers put together a superb performance.

Gibault seemed to have the better of the opportunities. Four minutes into the second half, Frank Mantia’s free kick caromed off the post. At the very end of the game, the Hawks had another great chance off another Mantia free kick. Mantia’s free kick was redirected on net and appeared to cross the line, before being cleared by a Raiders defender, but the goal was disallowed. The teams headed to overtime, still knotted at 0-0.

The nail-biting continued into overtime, as the Hawks and Raiders once more traded scoring chances, but neither team could find the net. The tension reached a breaking point as the match headed to penalties.

After QND’s first kicker missed high and wide, Gibault’s Andrew Reinholz stepped to the spot. The junior defender booted it to the right side, putting the Hawks up 1-0 after the first round of PK’s.

The Raiders started the second round with another wide miss. Frank Mantia followed with an unstoppable rocket to the top right corner, giving the Hawks a 2-0 advantage in the shootout.

Quincy Notre Dame’s third kicker stepped to the spot desperately needing to convert, but it was yet another high and wide miss. Needing to make just one more PK to win the game, Gibault turned to defender Ethan Shields. The junior calmly slotted it into the back of the net, setting off a wild celebration on the field and in the stands.

The win propels Gibault to the state tournament for the first time since 2009, when they took second place. It is the program’s ninth state appearance since 2000.

“We are absolutely ecstatic,” said Matt Reeb, who will make his first trip to state as the Hawks’ head coach after taking over for the legendary Jim Corsi in 2011. “We found a way to get it done just like we have all year. We’re a resilient team.”

Gibault heads to Bloomington looking to win the program’s fourth state title. The Hawks will face off against Chicago’s F.W. Parker in the semifinals. The game is at 7:30.

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