Confidence carries Devils
9/25/12 Hinsdale Hinsdale Central's Phillip Gutman (12) looks to pass the ball during their soccer match against Oak Park-River Forest on Tuesday, Sept. 25. | Dan Luedert~Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 2, 2012 6:49AM
SUMMIT — Part of coaching is developing plans for every possible contingency.
Asked to place his team’s accomplishments in context, Hinsdale Central soccer coach Michael Wiggins last week had the chance to put that concept into practice.
“We have a great group of 22 kids — 11 seniors and 11 (underclassmen),” he said. “We have been preparing for this part of the season since the beginning, knowing, for instance, if you have a one-goal lead to start the second half, what kind of pressure the other team is going to put on you and how are you going to respond.”
The Red Devils’ great season ended in disappointment with a 1-0 loss to Fenwick Friday in the Class 3A Argo sectional final in Summit. Fenwick won 3-1 on penalty kicks.
The Red Devils were trying to advance to their first supersectional in four years.
“You hate to end on penalties (kicks),” Wiggins said.
The loss could not dampen an extraordinary year for the Red Devils, who finished 18-4-3.
“We came together,” star junior Christian Meyer said. “Our year didn’t start off too great with two losses and two ties.”
Wiggins said he judges every team on how it improves from the start. On Aug. 31, Hinsdale Central was just 1-2-2.
“We made some changes and put guys in different spots, and especially putting Ryan (Schwarz) in the center back changed the team,” Meyer said.
During the ensuing six-week stretch, Hinsdale Central won 17 of its final 20 games. Most impressively the Red Devils went undefeated in arguably the toughest conference in the state, the West Suburban Silver.
Apart from the season-ending loss to the Friars, the only team to beat Hinsdale Central after September was Naperville Central, the defending Class 3A state runner-up and the No. 1 ranked team in the Chicago Sun-Times.
The game-changer for Hinsdale Central was an emotional 3-2 victory over Lyons in late September. The other game that helped the players realize their potential was against a good Glenbard West team they beat in Glen Ellyn in the penultimate game of the regular season that secured their undefeated conference mark.
“The Lyons’ game did a lot to help us,” Meyer said. “After that game, we were more confident. In the Glenbard West game, what stands out about that game is that we didn’t play our best game, but we somehow found a way to win. That was the key to our season. After the early part of our schedule, what changed everything is that we found a way to win games.”
In the 2-1 sectional semifinal victory over Oak Park-River Forest, Phillip Gutman had a goal and an assist.
“I think the thing about this year’s team is that we stayed humble,” he said. “We never got full of ourselves. When we struggled at the start, we started listening to our coaches and you saw the results of our work we put in.”