MATHER WINS STATE SOCCER TITLE
By John Montgomery
Mather shocked the state by winning the Class 2A soccer championship on Saturday afternoon at Lincoln Way North in Frankfort. The Rangers(21-3-1), who won the Public League title, beat Chatham Glenwood(17-6-2) 6-0 to become only the second CPS school to win the state soccer finals.
Qudus Lawal showed why he is one of the state’s best players by scoring a title game record four goals including three in the second half to seal the victory for the Rangers.
“I am not going to forget today,”admitted Lawal in the post game press conference after the win.
“He’s one of the fastest people I’ve ever seen(Lawal),” Mather Athletic Director Paul Swiatly said after the win on Saturday. “His skill set in soccer is second to none.”
“It’s fun to coach this team,” Mather first year head coach Branko Cvijovic said. “They really love the game of soccer which is contagious. They don’t care about stats. They don’t care about titles. They want to have fun and play soccer which makes my job easier.”
Only three Public League teams have ever advanced to the state championship game. Harrison won the state championship in 1973 while Schurz lost in the finals in 1977 to Granite City South.
Mather led only 1-0 at halftime as Lawal scored three more times in the second half.
Lawal finished the season with 41 goals while the Rangers posted nine shutouts including a 1-0 win over Lane in the Public League championship game.
Lawal had a great individual performance in the title game against Glenwood, but the Rangers outshot their opponent 21-6.
“I knew it was going to be a promising season from day one,” Cvijovic said after being the sophomore coach at Mather. “I saw what we had.”
Mather beat three-time state champ Peoria Notre Dame(21-6) 3-0 in the state semifinals on Friday as Lawal scored two goals.
“Skill wise I wouldn’t be surprised if Lawal plays professionally,” Cvijovic said. “I’ve never seen anybody use his body on a soccer field as well as he does to make the plays(to score goals). He’s skilled player. It’s
hard to guard him on the field. You have to have more than just skill.”
Lawal is one of five players who attended Mather after growing up in Nigeria playing the game of soccer.
Mather’s fab five consists of Lawal, Chizom Ogbonna, Enitan Junaid, Hassan Ibrahim, and junior Eseh Godman.
“The idea of coming here was very exciting to me,” Lawal said recently on his decision to come to the US and play soccer with his childhood friends at Mather.
Mather won the regional championship with an 8-2 win over Roosevelt. The Rangers won the sectional title by beating Fenwick, and the fab five earned a ticket to play in Frankfort for the state finals after beating St Francis 7-1 in the supersectional at DeKalb.
Mather lost last season in the Class 3A sectional final to Maine West 3-1. The Rangers would be placed in Class 2A based on school enrollment.
The Rangers were one of the best teams in the state during the regular season losing only three times before winning the Public League title.
“It was icing on the cake(to win city),” Cvijovic said. “We knew it would be tough playing one of the best programs in the city and the area. It was a great accomplishment beating Lane because we won against a good program.”
Coaches usually worry about a letdown after winning the city championship. The Rangers were dominant in the state playoffs outscoring opponents 34-6 before posting back-to-back shutouts downstate with goalies Eduardo Garcia and Edwin Vazquez.
The Rangers used two goalies during the season which is an unusual strategy employed by Cvijovic.
“He (Cvijovic) is a person of high moral character,” Swiatly said of his first year coach. “He made it so there were no egos on the team. We didn’t just win because we were talented. We won because we played together and that’s bottom line. I think he is the Illinois High School soccer coach of the year.”
Mather will try to repeat next season with 12 players returning in 2012.