Dozens of fans, friends and former players saluted Willie Filian Saturday afternoon as the longtime Palatine coach led his team into Chic Anderson Stadium for his final home soccer game of his brilliant 34-year career.
Filian will retire following the 2021-2022 school year with far too many honors to list. However, his nearly 700 combined career victories, to go along with an unprecedented two state title in the fall of the boys season in 1994 followed by a spring title by the girls, are two of many highlights Filian will take away with him.
“Winning those back-to-back state championships is something none of us associated with those teams will ever forget. Having the opportunity to coach all six of my children (here) is something very special. Being part of the MSL coaching fraternity has been an honor, and having a guy like Charlie Gries as my assistant, great friend, and sidekick has made all of these years truly memorable,” said Filian after his club beat his former player, and longtime friend, Kevin Lennon in a 9-0 win over Wheeling.
“Willie has impacted so many players, and students here at Palatine, and all around the area in our sport. It was like a right of passage to get to play for him, while many of my friends were excited to have (their) kids play for him as well,” said Lennon, who did some last minute scheduling magic in order to guarantee he, and his Wildcats, would be part of the special day.
Nine different Pirates (5-9-2, 4-5-2) would score in the first half in what would see the home side claim a 9-0 victory. One of those goals came from senior captain Allie Henning, who has starred during her terrific four-year career under Filian.
“Coach (Filian) has meant so much to this school, and the sport of soccer, and personally, he’s been a wonderful influence on me, and all of us, and I feel very proud to have been a part of his legacy, and fantastic career,” said Henning.
The Wildcats, who open regional play next Friday at Zion-Benton, found themselves short-handed in advance of this contest. So Lennon went to his JV coach to pull up a handful of players.
He then would lean on his captain, Julia Kawa, who will play at North Park in the fall, junior Edith Enriquez, and freshman Nicole Schreiner, who volunteered to play between the sticks in the first half, before moving up top after the break to help in the Wildcats attack.
“I am so proud of this group. They played hard all afternoon, and did not give up a goal in the second half because of their hard work and effort, and that’s something they should all feel very good about,” said Lennon.
Filian leaves Palatine with five trips to the state tournament, and four state trophies.
“It has been an honor to coach both programs here at Palatine, and to be able to bring with me so many great memories, ending with today, where so many players, Kevin Lennon, Charlie, and others were here to be a part of this day,” said Filian, who was honored prior to the game.