Just when the season seemed like it just started for the Oak Park and River Forest boys soccer team, it came to a screeching halt last week in Oak Park.

After beginning the campaign with high expectations, the Huskies saw their 2006 postseason run come to an end after just one game.

“I can’t believe it’s over,” said OPRF coach Paul Wright, whose team fell 3-2 in a shootout to cross-town rival Fenwick in the Class AA regional semifinals. “I think it took a little while for the boys to realize that being ranked eighth in state at the start of the season does not mean teams are going to bow down and let them roll over them.”

Joe Elpayaa’s save in the shootout helped the Friars claim the upset victory and a spot in Friday’s regional final against Lyons.

Drew Golz and Graham Killian tallied for Oak Park, which controlled the play and jumped out to a 2-0 lead. The loss ended the Huskies’ campaign at 13-6-4 overall, with five losses coming by one goal.

“The program is headed in the right direction because there are expectations,” Wright said. “In years past, soccer has been just one of the sports here.

“We cut 46 kids from the program this past year, with only 12 the previous year. The students know that the soccer program is something special to be part of and want to make the effort to be a part of it.”

Drew Golz, who scored one of the Huskies’ two goals in regulation against Fenwick, finished with a team-leading 17 goals. Mark Rosenberg added 12, while junior Mark Schroder chipped in with eight.

“Last year, we won a regional championship for the first time in 10 years,” Wright said. “This year, we were conference champions in one of the toughest conferences in the state and that is something to be said.

“We played some of the best teams in the state and either won or lost by a goal. So this program can hang with the best and I would put them up against anybody, anywhere, anytime. I believe in this community, the kids and the program that is being established.”

While the foundation for a strong future has been laid, that still doesn’t take away the sting of last week’s upset loss.

“We outshot most of the teams we played, and we still couldn’t get any breaks at times,” Wright said. “We had a ton of talent this year and opportunities.

“Fenwick did not have a single shot in the second half of the game and we had 16. I would take those odds any day of the week.

“But Fenwick did a great job of bunkering and playing off the transition. It was a physical grudge match where the boys were at each other all game, but while shaking hands there were hugs, tears and more hugs. We are rivals during the game, but friends afterwards.”

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