By the end of the year, Streamwood senior center midfielder Nestor Ascencio will rack up accolades reserved only for those in the high upper-crust of the prep soccer game.
Ascencio, who helped lead the Sabres to their best season in program history at 15-3-3, already has earned all-Midwest, all-state and all-conference honors and is likely to pick up his second all-American award in as many seasons.
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But for Streamwood's unquestioned leader, all of it ranks a distant second to what truly matters most to him.
"What meant the most to me was being able to spend time with my brothers on the field," said Ascencio, referring to his teammates. "All I tried to do was do my part and do what I had to do to make this team win whether that was giving out an assist or scoring a goal. All that mattered at the end of the day is that we came out with the win."
Ascencio's top-shelf play this year has earned him an additional honor in the form of being named the honorary co-captain of the Daily Herald's All-Area boys' soccer team. Dundee-Crown senior Ben Stone, who helped lead his team to an undefeated regular season and a Fox Valley Conference Valley Division title, also was strongly considered for the prestigious honor.
While Ascencio racked up strong statistical numbers (5 goals and 19 assists), it was the things that do not show up in the newspaper or coach's tally sheet that were immeasurable.
"He's the best box-to-box midfielder in the state," said Streamwood coach Matt Polovin. "He was able to receive the ball in our box and then go set up our attack. He's quick with the ball and has good foot skills. His tackling ability is as perfect as it gets for a player that plays defense. Last year he was more of a holding midfielder and this year he had a little more freedom to attack. He always was looking for teammates to get the ball to. He dominated games. Nestor was not the prototypical 50-goal scorer. He wanted the ball, but wanted to get everybody else involved."
And much of the time Ascencio had to deal with the repeated headaches of facing double- and triple-teams from the opposition. Rather than grouse about the inconvenience, Ascencio, a repeat Daily HeraldAll-Area selection, took the attention as a badge of honor.
"I wouldn't say it was frustrating," said Ascencio, who was named Streamwood's athlete of the year in 2012. "I always knew there would be one guy who wouldn't leave me alone. They knew of my ability as a player. It's very humbling knowing I was being targeted. I didn't mind it. That meant the rest of my teammates would be given more space and then they would have to worry about the other 10 guys on our team. Our other guys are just as good. We had a lot of good players this year."
Streamwood junior defender Christian Balbino said one of Ascencio's greatest strengths this season was the leadership he provided on and off the field.
"He kept us working hard on the field and he kept us working hard over the summer," said Balbino. "He always was pushing every player. He always knew what to say. If we were losing in a game he had a way to bring us back up. It was just the way he talked to us."
Balbino said he learned a lot from the Streamwood three-time team captain.
"I learned how to be more responsible and how to take action on the field," he said. "Nestor taught me how to keep control of the game when things are not going the way they are supposed to. He was a great teammate and a great friend. He's like a brother who will support you. He made a great impact on this team."
Polovin marveled at how Ascencio brought a group of players together that lacked in overall varsity experience. Polovin noted Streamwood had 15 players on the 19-man roster this season who had no previous varsity experience. Eight occupied positions in the starting 11.
"What Nestor did this year with the team we had is amazing," said Polovin. "Ninety percent of the kids on the team this year had no varsity experience. We came into the season kind of like, 'We'll see what happens.' He did what he's done all four years here and especially this year. He was another coach on the field. This is a kid who gives 110 percent on the field no matter the circumstance. The other players on the team didn't want to let him down. They had so much respect for him."
Ascencio, a three-time all-conference selection who finished his run on Schaumburg Road with career numbers of 22 goals and 56 assists, was challenged throughout the season against a variety of top-tier teams. The Sabres played to a pair of 0-0 ties with fellow UEC River entrant St. Charles East (which as of press time advanced to a sectional final) within a five-day span.
"When I have seen him play previously he is extremely quick and has fantastic movement," said St. Charles East coach Paul Jennison. "He is very good on set pieces and can distribute the ball all around the pitch."
Streamwood also tangled with perennial powerhouse Morton this season. Morton coach Mike Caruso came away impressedwith Ascencio's abilities on a number of fronts.
"Nestor on the ball is as talented as I've seen," Caruso said. "He controls the pace of the game. He's the quarterback. His technical game and vision is second to none. As an opposing coach, you need to game plan by trying to disrupt his game as much as possible by defending him with multiple players. That's not as easy as it sounds because if you let him get the ball, it is extremely difficult to take it from him. If you look in the dictionary for playmaker, center-mid, Nestor is it. He's an outstanding player who is fun to watch as long as you are not coaching against him."
Longtime Larkin coach Ken Hall, whose team also advanced to the sectional round of the state playoffs, added: "Nestor is very quick and changes directions well. To me, his best quality is his passing ability. He seems to pick out the best pass all the time. He is difficult to defend with just one man."
Ascencio would love to play the game at the next level. He said he's been in contact with the coach at Division I Coastal Carolina.
"My hope is to play at the next level," he said. "I want to be able to go to school and pursue my career and play at the highest level possible."
Ascencio said he would like to be remembered in the halls of Streamwood for more than just his soccer prowess.
"I want to be remembered outside of all the recognition," he said. "I want to be remembered as a humble person and a person who was good to those around him. Outside of being good at soccer, I want to be remembered as a better person. That's all that's important, being a good person."
Ascencio said that while Streamwood's early exit from the state playoffs in the regional semifinals was tough, he is able to think about the larger picture and the wonderful year the team had.
"This year is the most fun I've ever had," he said. "This year we had the best record ever at Streamwood. There was something special about this team. Unfortunately, the season got cut short. Sometimes that's what soccer gives you. All you can do is leave your heart out on the field."
Polovin wishes Ascencio had some more years left on the high-school eligibility clock.
"A lot of programs have one player they wish they could have around for 8 to 10 more years," he said. "Nestor is like that. He's definitely the best player I've coached. So many times people have come up to me and said, 'That No. 10 is unbelievable and a pleasure to watch.' I had the pleasure of coaching him the last four years. He's one of those players you hope and pray you will be able to coach. I don't think there will be somebody like him again in terms of what he does."