Boys soccer/Scouting the Fox Valley postseason
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Dundee-Crown's Eduardo Arellano sends a header toward the net as Huntley's Reyman Solis holds him earlier this season.
John Starks | Staff Photographer
Class 3A Streamwood regional
Pairings: Game 2) No. 1 Streamwood vs. No. 5 South Elgin Wednesday, 4:30 p.m.; Game 3) No. 2 Larkin vs. No. 3 Dundee-Crown Wednesday, 6:30 p.m.; Game 4) Winner of Game 2 plays winner of Game 3 Saturday, 3 p.m.
Outlook: Whoever wins this regional will have worked for it. Dundee-Crown hasn't lost a game this season and the other three teams are very familiar with each other.
Top-seeded Streamwood (15-2-3) during its last 8 games had a string of 7 consecutive shutouts, including blanks to perennial powerhouse St. Charles East twice within 5 days and the likes of Larkin, St. Charles North, Wheaton Warrenville South and Oak Park-River Forest.
To get to goalie Sergio Blanco, who allowed 10 goals in 20 games (0.5 goals allowed avg.) and has 13 shutouts to boot, you must get past his shield of Mike Delaney, Erie Ortiz, Christian Balbino, Alex Moreno and Ivan Gonzalez on defense. But really, stopping the Sabres comes down to controlling one player first.
"Nestor Ascencio," said Sabres' coach Matt Polovins, who was at the all-state meeting where Ascencio was rated the top player in Illinois. "To do what we're doing, a huge part of it is Nestor. He just pushes every single kid that much harder every single game, every practice. It's like these kids don't want to disappoint him."
But as a coach on the field Ascencio who is a candidate to play in the Choice Hotels International all-American Game, has 19 assists and 5 goals (29 points) and seemingly gets an array of Sabres involved by spreading the ball around. It also doesn't hurt that Polovin has one of the best conditioned teams in the area. The Sabres will run on you for 80 minutes. Thier speed, defense, and a scoring by committee, which includes Christian Vences, makes Streamwood a tough out and a favorite to defend its only regional title in school history won last season.
"We defend as a unit and are confident in our ability to shut teams down," Polovin said. "The target's on our back. When you're the number one seed, everyone wants to knock you off."
South Elgin (8-9-2) is first up to attempt an upset. The Storm defeated Elgin 3-1 in the play-in game on Saturday with 2 unanswered goals from Jose Gomez and JC Lujan in the second half. The Sabres beat South Elgin 4-2 in the first game of the season for both teams. Playing on the Millennium Field turf might help South Elgin in regards to how it handles possession. The Storm has scored 10 goals in their last 3 games.
On the other side, since Dundee-Crown (19-0-1) and Larkin (8-10-4) gave the area a semifinal preview in Carpentersville on October 12, you may as well just throw the seeding out the window for Wednesday. D-C won a 3-2 decision with Eduardo Arellano (10 goals, 3 assists) scoring the game-winner just 22 seconds after Larkin rallied with 2 goals to tie in the second half. But as far as what it does for the two teams in a game with a lot on the line, it really differs based on who you talk to.
"(Dundee-Crown's Ben Stone) didn't play in that game and we had a couple of guys out," Royals coach Ken Hall said. "I think it's a little bit of an indicator but not a major indication. The game plan (on Wednesday) will not be the game plan when we played them the last time."
Chargers coach Rey Vargas sees it differently saying, "it helps us. We've seen what kind of team they are so we have an idea of what we're going to go up against. Larkin is a good team and it won't be an easy task regardless."
For the first time in school history, D-C went undefeated and garnered its first Fox Valley Conference title since 2005. The Chargers' only blemish came in a 0-0 tie against Hononegah in the Indian Cup Tournament. But now the Chargers will focus their attention to their postseason goals.
"They know the significance of it but they also understand it really means nothing if you lose in the first round of the playoffs," Vargas said of the unbeaten regular season. "They have it in their back of their minds: yes we went undefeated … season's over. They realize there's more to be done."
Although Vargas admits D-C may have deserved higher than a No. 3 seed, when you're stuck in a 5-team regional there's not a lot you can do and you just have to control the things you can control and just have to win. That's where forward Ben Stone (11 goals, 7 assists, 29 points) comes in. Stone has been the heart and soul of the Chargers. They greatly rely on his leadership and along with midfielder William Campos (8 goals, 4 assists 20 points), D-C doesn't just have one scorer. But a lot like Ascencio at Streamwood, Stone's leadership is greatly appreciated on the field by his teammates and it's one reason why D-C has had success in Stone's third varsity season.
"The team kind of feeds off him when he's on his game and playing at a high level he brings everyone up with him," Vargas said. "He expects that out of the guys and if he's doing it, he expects that they're going to be doing it. He's not a selfish player, always looking for his teammates."
D-C goalie Jose Gonzalez has a goals-against average of 0.45. He's made 97 saves, allowed 9 goals and recorded 13 shutouts.
Hall will rely on solid scouting as one way to plan for the Chargers.
"We believe we do a pretty good job of scouting teams throughout the year and especially opponents we're going to see in the playoffs. We've gone out and seen Dundee-Crown three times now," Hall said. "It is tough. I think there's a couple other good teams in the sectional but definitely it's the toughest (regional)," Hall said.
The Royals (8-10-4) have looked forward to postseason play after they let a 2-goal lead to disappear to St. Charles North, which ended their conference race.
Forward Pancho Garcia and midfielder Hector Mendoza will have to carry the scoring load and if Larkin can upset D-C and repeat as regional champion, there's a shot goaltender Leo Perez could return. Perez suffered a broken arm after he collided with a player from Oak Park-River Forest on Sept. 28 during a save that caused his right arm to bend backward.
Advancement: The winner of the Streamwood regional plays the winner of the Rockford Auburn regional in the Huntley sectional semifinal on Wednesday, Oct. 30 at 5 p.m.
Class 3A Crystal Lake South regional
Pairings: Game 1) No. 1 McHenry vs. No. 4 Jacobs Tuesday, 4:30 p.m.; Game 2) No. 2 Cary-Grove vs. No. 3 Crystal Lake South Wednesday, 4:30 p.m.; Game 3) winner of Game 1 vs. winner of Game 2, Saturday, 3 p.m.
Outlook: McHenry is the top-seed of the four Fox Valley Conference Valley Division teams participating but the marquee matchup comes on Wednesday between Cary-Grove and Crystal Lake South. The Trojans (11-7) needed penalty kicks to oust CLS on Oct. 1.
"Every time we play it's a battle," Trojans coach Mark Olson said. "We always match up extremely well. It's one where all the kids come out and play. (Gators coach Brian Allen) has done a really nice job with them. It's never mattered record-wise. Every time we play each other it's always been a battle."
Midfielder Kevin Wilde leads the Trojans in goals and assists and he's surrounded by forwards Dale Opasser, Patrick McKune, Joey Klawitter, Matt Schuerg and Kevin Cooke, who can do damage as well. During C-G's 8-game win streak, keeper Ethan Csoka allowed just 5 goals. C-G's record may not be indicative of its season. After an 0-3 start the Trojans have won 11 of 14. Five of their 7 losses has been decided by 1 goal, which includes a loss to McHenry.
South (8-11-3) has lost 4 of its last 6 but finished strong with 5 goals in a regular season-ending win over Prairie Ridge. The silver lining for the Gators is that they have beaten Jacobs 6-0 and McHenry 2-0 this season.
Jacobs (6-13-1) would like to put the regular season behind it and will open against the Warriors, who defeated the Golden Eagles 3-1 on Oct. 10. Jacobs had quality chances in that game and will have to find a way to get past a very organized Warrior defensive front. Konrad Wasilewski has 5 goals and senior Tim Hübner has 5 goals and 4 assists for Jacobs.
Advancement: The winner of the CL South regional plays the winner of the DeKalb regional in the Huntley sectional semifinal Wednesday, Oct. 30 at 7 p.m.
Class 3A DeKalb regional
Pairings: Game 1) No. 1 Huntley vs. No. 4 Rockford East Wednesday, 4:30 p.m.; Game 2) No. 2 Rockford Jefferson vs. No. 3 DeKalb Wednesday, 6:30 p.m.; Game 3) winner of Game 1 vs. winner of Game 2 Saturday, 3 p.m.
Outlook: The Red Raiders enter the fray on a 5-game win streak, winning 14 of 15. If they get past Rockford East they should meet DeKalb in the regional final, a team Huntley defeated on the road 3-1 earlier this season.
"(DeKalb's) a very good team who has some dangerous players," Huntley coach Kris Grabner said. "My feeling is that they should have had the second seed."
Huntley's 20-2-1 overall record was led by the scoring of senior Niko Mihalopoulos, who had 25 goals and 9 assists. Eduardo Gonzalez is another weapon with 12 goals and 14 assists. Keeper Austen Emery has a goals-against average of 0.65 and Huntley has shutouts in 15 games. Barrington ended Huntley's season in the sectional semis last year and the Red Raiders host this year's sectional on their new turf, a round they want to participate in.
"We think we have the team to go further this season. We just have to take it one game at a time, respect every team as dangerous and play smart soccer," Grabner said. "We are very proud of our new stadium. Having a chance to play at home in a sectional would be amazing. Our boys will be very pumped up with that opportunity if we can get there."
Advancement: The winner of the DeKalb regional plays the winner of the Crystal Lake South regional in the Huntley sectional semifinal Wednesday, Oct. 30 at 7 p.m.
Class 3A Conant regional
Pairings: Game 2) No. 2 Lake Park vs. No. 14 Bartlett Tuesday, 4:30 p.m.; Game 3) No. 7 Conant vs. No. 10 Wheaton Warrenville South Tuesday, 6:30 p.m.; Game 4) Winner of Game 2 vs. Winner of Game 3 Saturday, 6 p.m.
Outlook: Bartlett (5-12-4) has a mountain to climb with the likes of St. Charles East and Lake Park in this regional. The Hawks disposed of Willowbrook Saturday to play Lake Park and know the role they have to play.
"We are clearly the underdog in this regional, but that is a title that we embrace," Hawks coach Ben Beary said. "We have won two regional titles in the last four years, and not once were we considered the favorite."
Bartlett has come on since its 0-8-1 start. The Hawks sport a 5-4-3 record in their past 12 games to erase a torrid start and have had solid play from sophomore AJ Santori, who has 8 goals and tied a school record by scoring in 4-consecutive games.
"We have had success with our attacking side all season, only being shutout twice and not since September 14," Beary said. "The key to our success in this regional is our defense. We need to play 80 minutes of mistake-free soccer in our defensive third. We know this won't be easy, but that is why it is a worthy goal."
Advancement: The winner of the Conant regional plays the winner of the Elk Grove regional in the Schaumburg sectional semifinal Wednesday, Oct. 30 at 6:30 p.m.
Class 2A Sycamore regional
Pairings: Game 1) No. Burlington Central vs. No. 4 Sandwich Tuesday, 4 p.m.; Game 2) No. 2 Kaneland vs. No. 3 Sycamore Wednesday, 4 p.m.; Game 3) winner of Game 1 vs. winner of Game 2 Friday, 4 p.m.
Outlook: Burlington Central repeated as Big Northern East champion, but for the first time it did so in undefeated fashion. But then there's that 2-1 regional loss to Kaneland last year on Rocket Hill still fresh in coach Mike Gecan's mind. He's made it crystal clear on how he wants the regional to play out.
"I'll be honest, I'm a competitor, I want Kaneland," Gecan said. "I don't want Sycamore. I want the team that beat us last year and robbed the last senior class."
Kaneland (9-5-4) beat Sycamore (2-18-1) twice this season Seedings would have to hold for Gecan's coveted matchup to happen. And if the Rockets can earn a regional championship for the first time since 2010, the incentive will also include a homefield sectional round.
Forward Sean Fitzgerald (17 goals, 10 assists), midfielder Alan Camarena (16 goals, 6 assists) and center-mid Matt O'Connor (11 goals and 10 assists), a state runner who broke his foot last spring and missed both the 2013 track season and (soccer) club season, have led BC to a 19-2 season.
Even goalie Brett Rau can step out of the goalie box and score. He's got 8 goals and 1 assist aside from his 8 combined shutouts with Nikola Filipac. Rau has only 9 goals against and 62 saves. Basketball standouts James Raney and Jacob Schutta (both three-sport athletes) patrol the defensive back and as of late Paolo Sespene, who finished with 10 goals and 6 assists, has stepped up.
"It's a good melting pot of chemistry, it's good team chemistry," Gecan said. "I think that's the trick: we don't have one guy that sticks out like a virus, you've got a bunch of a nice guys that make it fun. The boys push themselves and I support whatever decisions they make and I think it's (also) a good attitude."
Kaneland hopes to continue its momentum as of late as the Knights have been playing well defensively according to coach Scott Parillo. Possession and winning 50/50 balls along with Arsim Azemi (11 goals) and Anthony Parillo (18 assists) will give the Knights a chance to repeat.
"We have to get past Sycamore a third time, which is never easy beating a team three times in a season, so we will see what happens," Pariilo said. "(Central is) an excellent team, coached by an excellent coach and we would certainly welcome the challenge. This game will not be easy."
Freshman forward Austin Mereness leads the Spartans with 5 goals and 6 assists.
Advancement: The winner of the Sycamore regional plays the winner of the Rochelle regional in the Burlington Central sectional semifinal Tuesday, Oct. 29 at 5 p.m.
Class 2A Belvidere regional
Pairings: Game 1) No. 4 Belvidere vs. No. 5 Marengo; Game 2) No. 1 Harvard vs. winner of Game 1, Wednesday 4:30 p.m.; Game 3) No. 2 Belvidere North vs. No. 3 Hampshire, Tuesday 6:30 p.m.; Game 4) winner of Game 3 vs. winner of Game 4 Friday, 5 p.m.
Outlook: Hampshire fell to Belvidere North 1-0 in Hampshire on Sept. 16 and again 2-1 in the Hononegah Invite just 5 days later. The Whips have dropped their last 4 games. Jose Hernandez leads the Whips with 9 goals and 4 assists.
Advancement: winner of the Belvidere regional plays the winner of the Glenbard South regional in the Burlington Central sectional semifinal Tuesday, Oct. 29 at 7 p.m.
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