MINOOKA – For the first 79 minutes of Tuesday’s Southwest Prairie Conference game between Joliet West and Minooka, the defenses of both teams took center stage.
Although both teams had their fair share of scoring chances, the game was a scoreless tie.
With just under a minute left, a Minooka defender cleared a ball out of the Indians’ zone, and senior forward Ben Wolcott caught up to it. They dribbled through a pair of Joliet West Defenders and pushed a shot past Tigers goalie Daniel Gudino for a 1-0 lead with 33.7 seconds to play.
“It was very tough to get a goal today,” Wolcott said. “I just kept going, and I was able to knock it in.
“It was a great game. Joliet West is always tough. I know a lot of players on their team, so it makes it more fun and competitive. This win helps us with the conference standings, and they are in our sectional, so it will help us with the seeding, too.”
With a strong wind blowing out of the west, Minooka (8-6, 3-2 SPC) had the wind at its back in the first half and had multiple scoring chances. Wolcott had a pair of shots stopped by Gudino, and one went off the left goal post. The Indians also saw two shots by Diego Escobedo and one by Eli Avalos sail either high or wide of the goal.
Joliet West (9-4-1, 2-2-1), meanwhile, had some chances of its own in the first half, but Minooka goalie Ethan Kimbarovsky made two saves, a shot by Alexis Garcia went high, and another by Victor Antomez slid just wide right.
The defense continued to dominate in the second half. Joliet West had a golden opportunity midway through the half. On a corner kick, Kimbarovsky swatted the ball away from the goal, but West’s Adrian Maldonado put a header on goal from the center of the box. Minooka defender Anthony Heald covered for Kimbarovsky and booted the ball away.
“Anthony really helped us on the back line,” Minooka Coach Nate Spriggs said. “It was very hot, so we went pretty deep on our bench to give our starters a rest, and they all did a great job.
“We knew it would be a battle. It always is when we play Joliet West. Some of the guys on both teams went to the same grade school, so they have known each other for a long time. It was back and forth, and up and down the field. Ben was able to get a clean foot on one late, and that was the difference.”
Joliet West Coach Mike O’Shea said he was also expecting a close match.
“It’s always tight when we play Minooka,” he said. “I think the last five or six times we’ve played them, they’ve been one-goal games. We knew it wouldn’t be easy. There aren’t any easy games in our conference.
“Minooka just wanted it more than we did tonight. That’s something I hope we can remedy soon. We had our chances, but we couldn’t put one in the net. In a game that you know is going to be close, you have to convert on your opportunities, and we didn’t do that.”