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updated: 9/1/2011 11:37 PM

Primed for a big year

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  • Laura Stoecker/  Batavia's Anthony Torres kicks the ball past West Aurora's Dany (cq) Flores in the first half on Wednesday, September 1.

      Laura Stoecker/ Batavia's Anthony Torres kicks the ball past West Aurora's Dany (cq) Flores in the first half on Wednesday, September 1.

  • Laura Stoecker/  Batavia's Nick Barstatis in match on Wednesday, September 1.

      Laura Stoecker/ Batavia's Nick Barstatis in match on Wednesday, September 1.

By Chris Walker
Daily Herald Correspondent

It's not uncommon for a high school boys soccer team to have a senior-heavy roster.

But rarely do you see a program run through it's normal cycle of welcoming freshmen in the fall, saying goodbye to graduates every spring, and producing a team loaded with talented and experienced seniors.

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Boasting a roster of 15 seniors, including fourth-year players Calvin Baez, Lalo Cuautle, Anthony Torres and Cody Witkowski, the cycle appears to be pedaling perfectly for the Bulldogs. In an area where St. Charles North and Geneva have been the biggest names in boys soccer, Batavia appears ready to add its name to the discussion.

"On paper it looks great but you have to come out and actually do something," Batavia coach Mark Gianfrancesco said. "I wouldn't know who is talking about us or who is not. As far as I'm concerned, we've done nothing and accomplished nothing."

Perhaps not yet, but it shouldn't take very long. The Bulldogs opened with a 6-0 victory over Oswego last Tuesday, and followed with a 6-1 win against St. Charles East on Tuesday.

"Last year we were all juniors and I thought we played well against a lot of big teams," Torres said. "We showed we could hang with a lot of teams and now it's our year to make some noise and show what we can do."

Batavia finished 8-8-5 last year and only lost three players to graduation. While its record wasn't impressive, the team showed flashes of brilliance at times, while at others struggled for consistency. It was all part of the maturation process, but how much better can a team get in 12 months?

"It was very inconsistent," Gianfrancesco said. "It was peaks and valleys that that time and that was one of the things we focused on at the end of the year."

Baez, Cuautle, Torres and Nick Barstatis will control the midfield and should allow Batavia to win the possession game against most opponents. The players can create scoring chances and finish themselves, as well as work well with the forwards, including Witkowski, Cody Balogh and Aaron McNamara. It's worth noting that the all of the aforementioned players are seniors.

"We've got so many guys who can step up and do different things so teams can't just stop one guy," Torres said. "They have a whole bunch to stop."

Not to be overlooked is the Batavia defense which kept the team in most of its matches a year ago, and features the return of senior keeper Ben Steskal, along with Cam Callipari, Justin Carey and Peter O'Brien. Sophomore Nick Samperi will also look to contribute.

From a team that was expected to be a year away, to one that will be donning the Batavia uniform for the last time, the Bulldogs know the window of opportunity is open for a limited time.

"I think our plan last year was we'd have these guys for two years and we're on a nice cycle," Gianfrancesco said. "We only really had four varsity players with experience last year so we needed to bring along some other people and we did that."

The team spent a great deal of time bonding during the off-season and begin the new year with a solid combination of talent, experience and chemistry.

"We really bonded and hung out together which got the team really strong," Torres said. "Once preseason and camp came along everyone was willing to put in the hard work for each other because of the chemistry."

They also realize that in only a few months, their high school careers will be over. The time and effort has been put in, so they'll look to finish with a flourish.

"Before our first game we told each other that this is our last season so let's go out there and get it done," Balogh said. "We're ready to get the wins and get it done this year."

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