Round Lake's much more than a longshot
- Photos (1)
Jordi Rubio, left, and Mauricio Salgado led Round Lake's soccer team to the championship of Richmond-Burton's 10th annual Dennis Louis invitational Saturday.
Joe Aguilar | Staff Photographer
The Buc stopped there, cleats planted on the goal line, gloved hands extended. He timed his leap perfectly and snatched Mauricio Salgado's shot from half the length of the soccer field just before it landed in the net.
Belvidere Bucs keeper Zac Bolin made the save on Round Lake's young star, who launched his shot seconds after teammate Jordi Rubio rolled the opening kickoff to him.
Earlier this season, after an opponent's goal, Salgado scored on a similar play. The junior forward has made like Devin Hester and made kickoffs fun to watch.
Round Lake is entertaining and talented, and anything the Panthers do, including Salgado's 60-yard strikes and bicycle kicks, won't surprise anyone.
After upsetting defending Class 3A state runner-up Libertyville 3-1 in the Wildcats' own stadium Thursday night, the talented Panthers (11-2-2) kept their momentum going in Richmond-Burton's 10th annual Dennis Louis invitational. They won twice Friday and wrapped up their championship Saturday with an 8-1 over Belvidere, as Salgado scored 4 goals, including his first this season on a bicycle kick, and assisted on another.
"Mauricio is a special player," Round Lake coach Hugo Tellez said. "He creates for everybody."
Stars need help, though. Against Belvidere, Lorenzo Cortez, Rubio, sophomore call-up Fermin Martinez and Jose Portilla also scored. Junior Martinez has 3 assists, as Round Lake overcame a 1-0 deficit to lead 2-1 at intermission.
Salgado and Rubio, a senior forward, are dynamic together, playing and reading off each other as if they've been doing so all their young lives.
Salgado has 18 goals and 16 assists. Rubio counts 16 goals and 14 assists.
"I look for him, and he looks for me," Rubio said. "If you add up our goals, my assists go to him. His assists go to me."
They get plenty of help from their fellow Spanish-speaking teammates. And in Tellez, a former Panthers soccer player who graduated from Round Lake in 1999, the team has a second-year head coach who understands them and speaks their own language.
"When we came out against Libertyville, we came out as a team," Tellez said. "We realized that we all have to play. It's not just one player that needs to take over a game."
Tied 1-1 at halftime, Round Lake got goals from Edgar Rodriguez and Balam Mena four minutes apart in the second half and pulled off something the Panthers rarely do in any sport — beat Libertyville.
"For me, it was good because it's my senior year," Rubio said. "I thought we all went in scared for that game. We told (the team), we had to step it up to win. Second half, we got them."
"It boosted up our confidence," Salgado said of the victory.
Against Belvidere, Salgado converted his bicycle kick after Rubio floated a short cross into the box, snapping a 1-1 tie with 11:33 left in the opening half.
"He's had one every year," Tellez said of Salgado, his three-year varsity forward.
"I just saw it there and I had to take it," said Salgado, whose smile is as bright as his soccer future.
Round Lake was having a special season last year, too, until it got to the Barrington sectional final. Rockford Boylan blitzed the Panthers 5-0 and eventually beat Libertyville in overtime of the state championship game.
"We played really bad," Rubio said. "I don't know what happened to us."
Round Lake hasn't forgotten about their final defeat of last season.
"It left a sour taste in all these guys' mouths," Tellez said. "They came in (this season) and said, 'We're done with this. We're going to take it out on every team and play to the max.' "
Round Lake's only losses are to North Suburban Prairie Division rival Lakes and McHenry. Neither Salgado nor Rubio played against Lakes, although Tellez makes no excuses. Round Lake scored an own goal against McHenry, and it proved to be the game's only tally.
The Panthers aren't lamenting it.
They're aiming high.
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