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updated: 10/25/2012 2:05 PM

The word's out: BG's Eloiza is a special talent

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  • Buffalo Grove's Irving Eloiza, left, and Barrington all-area forward Kendall Stork make contact as they pursue the ball in an MSL contest this fall.

      Buffalo Grove's Irving Eloiza, left, and Barrington all-area forward Kendall Stork make contact as they pursue the ball in an MSL contest this fall.
    JOE LEWNARD | Staff Photographer

By Mike Garofola
Daily Herald Correspondent

When told that many of his Mid-Suburban League coaching peers were in agreement with the choice of Irving Eloiza as captain of the all-area boys soccer team, his coach, Rick Carlson, responded with a simple nod of the head, and a slight smile before saying: "That's good."

The superb midfielder was only slightly more talkative than his coach.

"It is never about me," Eloiza said. "My team comes first."

Plenty of others, though, have plenty to say about the Mid-Suburban East standout.

Coaches Steve Keller of Fremd, Joe Bush of Elk Grove, Darren Llewelly of Hersey and Scott Steib of Barrington each recognized what a special talent their teams competed against this season.

Said Keller: "Nobody I've seen this year does what Irving does in the middle. He's that calming influence that you rarely see, even when out watching high-level club soccer. He brings the game to him, distributes, gets everyone involved, runs the attack and is a lot of fun to watch.

"He was to me, and obviously to others, the No. 1 player at our all-sectional meeting, and ultimately the top vote-getter for all-state."

Steib, whose team plays in the Rockford Auburn sectional final Friday night, said, "Are you kidding? Irving was the clear choice -- he's the best at what he does."

After beginning his prep career at Wheeling, the Eloiza family moved into the boundaries of Buffalo Grove.. Although he already knew several of his soon-to-be teammates, the thought of leaving friends behind caused plenty of nervous moments for Eloiza.

"I didn't want to go, it was that simple," recalls Eloiza, who after fighting the move, finally settled in and got comfortable in his new surroundings.

Last season, Eloiza helped bring his club within a whisker of advancing to the sectional final; MSL champ Prospect ended the run by prevailing in shootout. Then, this fall, inspired by one final run from Eloiza and three other all-area senior teammates -- Irving Balboa, Demo Drakoulis and Alberto Eloyza -- the Bison outlasted Hersey on the final day of the regular season to advance into the MSL Cup for the first time since 1989.

"One of my goals when I came here was to make it to the MSL Cup, be an all-state player, and considered as the player of the year for the all-area team," Eloiza said. "But I also knew none of that would happen if not for my teammates and friends around me. It makes me very happy to be recognized, but it's really about just going out and playing, and being a good teammate, and even better leader."

"That's Irving," said Carlson. "He takes the role as captain very seriously, and he leads by example, with a high level of play, and with a lot of respect for the game, his teammates, and our opponents."

A technical wizard with a low center of gravity and pace that can break down any defense off the dribble, Eloiza frequently conjures up something out of nothing on the soccer field -- much like his favorite international player, Lionel Messi.

"I like to model my play after Messi. He just goes out and plays, doesn't brag about what he does, and he always makes everyone around him a better player," Eloiza said. "That ... and both he and I are short!

"My father, who still plays in Sunday leagues, always tells me Messi's size and height doesn't get in his way, and that he plays with a big heart, and plays the sport that he loves so much. I try to be the same way."

It didn't begin that way.

Eloiza was an NBA junkie -- a big Shaq and Kobe fan -- until his cousin brought him in to play soccer one day with his team. The resulting 5 goals led Eloiza in a fastbreak to a new favorite sport.

"My dad always wanted me to play because it was his sport, the family sport, and I guess after going out and having so much fun scoring all those goals, it quickly became my sport also," Eloiza said. "Now I don't want to play anything else."

With his electric pace, Eloiza is a lethal dribbler. He seems to have glue on his shoes as he maintains possession and threads passes to Drakoulis, Balboa and others to help unlock the meanest of defenses.

"Irving is at his best when the ball is on his foot, but he is a very skilled defender who isn't afraid to come back and tackle, or win a ball," said Carlson. "And he does it with such ease for a guy as compact as he is."

Eloiza has bee honing his skills on the club level for many years, but his recent move over to the high-profile Chicago Magic Academy appears to be a perfect fit as he looks to take his game onto the collegiate level. Both Loyola and No. 2-ranked Marquette have shown interest.

"Irving is your classic 'game-changer' -- slick, clever and inventive," said former Conant and Neuqua Valley head coach Tony Kees, now on the staff of the Magic Academy. "I liked him from the first time I saw him two years ago watching BG play, and at the next level."

"Going over to the Magic is a good thing for me," said Eloiza, "and I get to play with my good friend Nelson Herrera (an all-stater from Maine West), which is a lot of fun to do. The way club soccer is going, especially if you're on an academy team, you usually have to play club year-round. That's the agreement and commitment you have to make. But because it's my senior year, I've been able to stay to play high school soccer at Buffalo Grove, and coach Carlson, and to be with my friends and teammates. You never get back those days."

The emergence of Eloiza coincided with the rise of the Bison program, and several shining moments for he and his mates along the way, including a 4-0 victory over Highland Park last October fueled by a spectacular 30-yard thunderbolt of a free kick to give the Bison their first regional title since 2004.

"It's been a fantastic two years at Buffalo Grove," said Eloiza, "and there's a lot to be proud of with our team."

The humble Eloiza is excited about finalizing his future in the sport, and taking the first steps toward a career path which may include law enforcement.

"There have been a lot of great memories playing here at Buffalo Grove, including being around a team like this one," Eloiza said. "It's helped me become a better player, and person as well."

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