GRANT PARK — Although it was tournament soccer, there was a slightly different feel in the air.
St. Anne endured through a roller coaster of emotions from last Friday against Watseka after freshman defender Pedro Pena suddenly collapsed on the sidelines and was rushed to the hospital during the Cardinals’ 4-1 victory over Watseka.
St. Anne lost 4-2 to Grant Park in Class 1A Regional soccer action with its teammate’s health weighing on its mind. Pena is still recovering in the hospital in Chicago but is in good spirits according to St. Anne coach Andy Stembridge.
“Going through that situation on Friday was extremely scary for everybody especially because of the unknown,” Stembridge said. “But since then everyone has rallied around Pedro and each other, which is really cool to see from other small towns.”
St. Anne honored its follow teammate by starting the game with just 10 players on the field while St. Anne fans and players donned shirts saying ‘Play for Pedro’.
Since Friday, Stembridge said that multiple teams and coaches have reached out to him and expressed their sympathy as well as make contributions and donations to the team.
“Grant Park did a great job, Beecher raised some items and sent them to us and some other schools have reached out as well and said they wanted to honor him during halftime. It’s been awesome to see the out pour of support from other soccer communities and we couldn’t be more appreciative.”
Jon Goldenstern connected on the first goal of the contest to give Grant Park a quick 1-0.
He wasn’t quite finished though as he found the back of the net again just minutes later off an assist from Nolan Schneider to make it a 2-0 game with just over 15 minutes left in the first half.
″(St. Anne’s) defense made some mistakes and I just took advantage of it,” Goldenstern said.
But his teammates weren’t going to let him have all the fun. Logan Weissberger joined the frey with just under a minute left and found the back of the back for a 3-0 halftime score.
“We played well,” Grant Park coach Jacqlyn West said. “We had some moments late where our defense lost its shape, but for the most part we did things right. We moved, passed and stayed wide. We won nearly every 50-50 ball and that was a big key for us.”
Hayden Lehnert put the final Dragon goal into the back of the net just minutes into the second half for a 4-0 lead.
Raul Guerrero came alive late with two goals for the Cardinals in the final 10 minutes of play, but it was just too little too late as the Cardinals’ season came to a close.
“Looking back, this season was a roller coaster,” Stembridge said. “We had close games, blowouts and games we should have won. We pieced together a few wins to end the season and build some momentum towards playoffs. This was a fun team to be around and we’re like family.”
Grant Park advances to a Class 1A regional final against the winner of today’s matchup between Bishop McNamara and Momence.
The championship will be played on Friday at Grant Park and it’s not exactly a secret who the Dragons want to face.
“We want Momence,” West said. “Nothing against Bishop McNamara at all. But Momence got one on us and won the conference championship. We want that rematch.”