OTTAWA — It was a special night at the King Field pitch on Thursday as the Ottawa soccer team honored its 10 seniors prior to the opening kick for their efforts, some for all four years.
Pirates 12th-graders Aaron Dillon, Kekoa Gross, Andrew Hancock, Kyle Haerle, Matt Jackson, Keegan Landers, George Leon, Vinny Parise, Robert Robertson, Noah Taylor and Peter Walsh all were recognized with family in a pregame ceremony.
However, the Northern Illinois Big 12 Conference West Division match didn't go the way of the locals as visiting Geneseo held a 1-0 lead at halftime and then tallied two more times in the second half to top Ottawa 3-0 in the teams' regular-season and league finale.
"Last year's group started us in the right direction and this senior group has really built off of that even more so," said Ottawa coach Jeff Davis, his club falling to 9-14 overall and finishing the loop at 2-6. "The seniors have really been good role models for many of our talented young players and hopefully each class of players will keep setting the bar a little higher.
"This has been a great group of seniors, many playing for me for four years now. They are a really hard-working group all around and I will miss every single one of them next season."
Geneseo (8-7-1, 6-1-1) took an early lead as Mitchell Benhart corralled a corner kick and had his 20-yard shot deflect off a Pirates defender and into the net. Ottawa had a couple of good chances to tie the score before the intermission, but freshman Gio Resendez's 25-yard blast was saved nicely by GHS keeper Zach Bauer and sophomore Tyler Robertson's tough angle shot from the right wing rolled just wide.
The Maple Leafs added second half tallies from Gavin Minneart in the 44th minute and Griffin Tracey with just under three minutes to play. Ottawa's best opportunity in the latter half came with just over seven minutes remaining, but a 20-yard shot from Gross whistled just wide of the right post.
"The last couple of years every one on this team has taken the game more seriously, whether it's the preseason work or everyday at practice," said Gross. "This season has been a blast for me. We've had some guys on the team really step up in captain roles and taken that responsibility to a higher level. I think the program is going in the right direction for sure and I'm proud to have been a part of it."
The visitors held a 23-8 advantage in overall shot attempts, including 10-5 in shots on target. Ottawa's Haerle made seven saves in net for the home side.
"I think that it has been important that we have all worked together as a unit this season," said Walsh. "We have gotten better as the season has went along and I think that comes from hard work in practice. We have really been working on the little things more and I feel that has made this a pretty good season for us."
Ottawa begins postseason play on Tuesday in their own Class 2A regional. The fifth-seeded Pirates play No. 3 seeded Illinois Math and Science Academy at 6:30 p.m. in the second of two semifinals on the King Field pitch.