It was a great time to schedule a district rivalry at the end of the boys soccer season for District 128, the first meeting between Libertyville and Vernon Hills since 2016.
Host Vernon Hills pulled past Libertyville 1-0 in the nonconference matchup on Thursday night.
“When (Libertyville coach) Kevin (Thunholm) scheduled this past summer, we did it twofold,” Vernon Hills coach Mike McCaulou said. “We knew that both of us were quality this year. We wanted to use this as a prep for the postseason. Two quality programs going at it. I think we did that for them and they did that for us. Libertyville, traditionally, is a powerhouse year after year. It’s a soccer school. They do a great job and they are so organized. This was a win-win opportunity for us.”
The Cougars (10-4-3) found the winning goal in the 77th minute off a throw-in. Valde Nambo set up the goal with a touch over to Aleksa Arbutina. It was only his second goal of the season and he was recently moved forward to help in the scoring attack.
“This was probably the best goal I’ve scored,” Arbutina said. “I saw the ball go to Valde. He’s got a good foot and I knew he could pass the ball to me to finish. I just got my head up quickly, turned and just took a shot. Right when it left my foot, I was so confident and saw it go in the far post.”
The Cougars have come together to have a successful season.
“Our chemistry keeps it going,” Arbutina said. “Going in we’ve got a lot of seniors and juniors. We’ve got a way to integrate it very well. We’re a pretty diverse team and don’t let it affect how we see each other as a team.”
Libertyville (9-6-4) played without eight players that were out with illnesses and some injuries. But the Wildcats were able to have a pretty good effort for the full 80 minutes.
“It was a matter of good timing with nobody to get hurt,” Thunholm said. “We just wanted to get better. The boys like to play each other and that’s important. They all play in club together. We’ve got a lot of kids that played and we switched positions. We’re still trying to figure our heartbeat and what’s important to us. We really weren’t concerned about the outcome of this game and wanted to stay healthy. Hopefully, we learned a few things. If you leave teams to hang around, they will find a way to finish. Vernon Hills did that.”