Well, nobody said repeating would be easy.
One year after running cleanly through the Mid-Suburban League on its way to a conference title, the reigning champs from Prospect find themselves without a victory in their first four matches of the season.
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Tuesday night in Mt. Prospect, the Knights (0-3-1, 0-2-0) allowed a brilliant goal at 40 minutes by Rolling Meadows' Noe Zarate, then chased the lead for the next 40 only to fall short to the Mustangs 2-1 in an MSL East match.
"It's a whole new year, with almost an entirely new roster, so it's going to take us awhile to get it together," said Prospect senior Matt Burikas, who was a key figure along the back for the Knights last year. That edition of Prospect soccer allowed just 14 goals in 24 games, ultimately falling one match short of reaching the supersectional final.
"We haven't started one of our matches on a high note, and coach reminded us of that at the intermission," said Prospect senior Avi Chitman, "so until we do that and put two good halves together, we're going to struggle for awhile."
The visiting Mustangs (1-2-1, 1-0-1), who'd led against both of their first two opponents before falling to Glenbrook North and drawing 1-1 with Elk Grove, once again started well. Enrique Avellaneda followed the flight of Noe Zarate's well-paced corner before meeting the serve and thumping his header high into the right corner.
Meadows continued to cause problems for the hosts, with Noe Zarate running the show at midfield and teammates Freddy Zarate, Arthur Giedrojc and David Zarate becoming more influential with each passing minute.
"Noe has been playing at a very high level for us thus far," said Rolling Meadows coach Peter Mikulak. "Not only was his goal before the half sensational, so was his play on both sides of the ball -- especially in the second half, when he came back time after time to tackle, win balls and defend."
Burikas came to Prospect's rescue at 38 minutes. The sequence started when Bryan Velazquez found Curtis Glennon, who was allowed to get to the end line. From there, Glennon served a superb long ball to Burikas, whose header beat Mustangs keeper Alejandro Camarillo.
Noe Zarate broke the hearts of the Knights faithful less than 80 seconds later when he unleashed a brilliant, bending strike to send the visitors into the break with a 1-goal advantage.
"I told the boys at the half, in no uncertain terms, just how poorly they played," said Prospect coach Kurt Trenkle. "Certainly not at the level of what varsity players should be at. But to their credit, they responded well and stayed in (Meadows') end almost the entire second half. They created a bunch of chances, but just couldn't put any of them away."
Chitman, Matt Wruskyj, Brett Abraham and Kennedy McNamara all helped trigger the Knights' second-half revival. Glennon and Burikas also tested the Mustangs' back line and allowed Camarillo little rest.
Camarillo made two goal-saving stops after the hour mark. The first came on a retrieving mission to push a Burikas header up and over the bar off a Glennon throw at 60 minutes. Later, in a crowd, the Mustangs keeper somehow was able to stay with a low drive at the back post from Abraham.
"They must have had a sequence where No. 31 (Glennon) had five long throws in a row on us, but somehow we defended those and hung on for the win," said Mikulak. "I thought we played a very good first half of soccer, but in the second, we got away from holding and passing the ball, and just defended for 40 minutes."
"It really was a tale of two halves tonight," said Trenkle, "but credit (Meadows) for their 2 goals, both very good, and for defending us well enough in that second half to get their victory."
The Knights will host Palatine at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, while Mikulak's team welcomes Conant to Rolling Meadows.
Fremd 1, Buffalo Grove 0: Demo Drakoulis' goal, with an assist from Irving Eloiza, carried the Bison in MSL play in Palatine.
Palatine 1, Schaumburg 0: The host Pirates made a first-half goal hold up as junior goalkeeper Kyle Leber made 4 saves on his way to a shutout victory.
Maine West 1, Waukegan 0: Alonso Guerrero's set piece goal turned out to be the only one the host Warriors needed as goalkeeper Jecsan Torres made 4 saves in earning the shutout.
Wheeling 2, Hoffman Estates 1: Jose Garcia assisted on a pair of second-half goals -- one from Fabian Acosta, the other from Luis Herrera -- to help the host Wildcats to an MSL win. Javier Ocampo made 7 saves for the Wildcats.
Elk Grove 1, Conant 0 (OT): Conor Murphy's goal, assisted by Gio Garcia, lifted the host Grens in the extra period.