Fremd schools young New Trier
There was a time not too long ago when a visit from the New Trier soccer club would strike fear in the hearts of its opponent.
But this is a different Trevians side — one that is in the middle of a rebuilding project, yet still capable of surprising even the best of teams.
Saturday afternoon on a glorious day for soccer, host Fremd denied the Trevians (5-7-1) the chance to register an upset by scoring early, then adding another before intermission in a 2-0 victory in this annual nonconference affair in Palatine.
"It's not too often you see a team from New Trier with just 5, 6 wins this late in the season," said Fremd coach Steve Keller. "But (Trevians coach Craig Fairbairn) has a real young team this year, and one that you can see has some talent. I am sure not too many teams are going to look forward to playing them when the state tournament begins in a few weeks."
Fremd featured some lineup changes Keller hopes will pay dividends down the stretch.
"I think the changes coach (Keller) made were exactly what we needed to get everyone's attention with the playoffs starting soon," said sophomore Eric Leonard, who Keller pushed into midfield roles alongside Brian Hindle and Jeremy Kosacz while installing Spencer Janes, Matt Briars and Eric Scott on the Vikings' new back line. "We've got a good group in the back, and I like the idea of getting more touches (in) the middle, where I can hopefully make more of an impact for us when in our attack and when we go forward."
Leonard made an immediate mark on this day when he provided the hosts with the only goal they'd would need in the third minute. Michael Eschbach was able to keep things alive in the box long enough for Leonard to redirect his shot past freshman keeper Niko Katsinis.
The Vikings (10-4-1) were able to get numbers forward and into the visitors' end right off the opening whistle.
"Not the best start for us today — we just didn't get into the game at all in the early stages," said Fairbairn, who dressed eight sophomores Saturday, something the long-time head coach wouldn't have considered when he guided the Trevians to state titles in 2006 and 2008. "We've been playing very well in the last 4-5 games, and we really feel that the guys are starting to 'get it' and find their form, and we're hoping that as the No. 10 seed in our regional, we can become one of those teams which can become a very dangerous team to play in the postseason."
The Trevians had hoped to target their big 6-foot-3 striker up top, sophomore Jeff Farina, and his running mate, Alex Underwood, in the first half. With a strong wind at his back, Conor Willsey was able provide long serves from out of the back.
But the Vikings defender didn't allow dangerous plays to develop and kept everything in front of them and mostly away from keeper Steve Soltykiewicz, who need to make only 2 saves.
"We played a very good first half today," Keller said. "We came out with a lot of energy, and a desire to compete, and it showed in how we defended in the back and in the middle and how we were able to possess and control the play for 40 minutes."
Tim Lehigh's enterprising run up the left side helped spring Yusuke Kanada free in the center channel, but one too many touches ended the opportunity.
Kanada was put through at 28 minutes, and if not for a sharp tackle by Kevin Sokol, the senior would have easily been in on the Trevs keeper.
Lucas Cholewa, who was just brought up to varsity, doubled the Vikings' lead at the half-hour mark when his header in close finished what Hindle started.
Just after the break, Hindle's inward swinging corner forced Katsinis to punch the serve out of the area. After a patient build-up, Leonard gave the Trevians' fans a scare with his strike from in close.
"At this point of the season, we've got to get better each time that we go out, and today, I felt that we played pretty well from start to finish," said Leonard.
With plenty of high pressure, and hard running from Hindle, Eschbach and Kanada during the first 20 minutes of the second half, New Trier was unable to keep the ball or find its pace. Yet the Trevians managed to come at the Vikings in the final 10 minutes with some regularity.
Farina got free and sailed his shot over the bar at 66 minutes, then used a stutter-step to get space before going wide of the back post.
Soltykiewicz may have not seen Farina's vicious shot from in close until it was upon him, but the junior still made a superb reaction save in the 77th minute to help preserve his shutout.
"We had a few guys who have been playing (decent) of late step-up and play very well today, and others play who have been playing well put in an excellent performance, and that was good to see - and I hope it continues to stay that way from here on out," said Keller.
The Vikings travel to Elk Grove on Tuesday before finishing their regular season at home next Friday against MSL West leader Schaumburg.
On that night, Fremd will honor the program's championship teams and it players from 1984 and 2007. After that, the Vikings will host an alumni game, with many of the players from teams from 1980 and later already committed to participate in the special presentation, which is all part of the school's 50th anniversary festivities.
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