Boys soccer notes: West Aurora, Lisle among teams off to hot starts

Pas Ndayishimiye had 42 starts coming into his junior year while the rest of the West Aurora roster had 44 combined.

Despite such inexperience in the starting lineup as well as off the bench, the Blackhawks have found a way to win and to win often, knocking off their first nine opponents this season, including Tri-Cities teams (Batavia and Geneva), Aurora Cup rivals (East Aurora and Waubonsie Valley) and Southwest Prairie Conference foes (Plainfield Central and Yorkville).

In addition, the Blackhawks were crowned Morton Tournament champions.

"With one guy with as many starts as the other 27 (players) combined, you never know what's going to happen," Blackhawks coach Joe Sustersic said. "You are always hopeful, but you don't know if you're going to be rebuilding or having a .500 year with your circumstances."

The year is still young, but the Blackhawks aren't showing any signs of slowing down soon either behind a hungry group, many who are rising into new roles.

"Lo and behold we've exceeded expectations," Sustersic said. "They want to play and sometimes it's lady luck. Maybe we've matched up really well? We've got really good kids who work well together. We saw a little bit in the summer but we're ahead of where we'd thought we'd be."

Freshman Adrian Hernandez has cracked the starting lineup, Emiliano Lopez has stepped up as a starting center back in his third year on the team and teammates are answering the call, such as when Sujan Tiwari went down with an injury.

"He missed two games, got a charley horse so we moved Pas (Ndayishimiye) back and asked Allen Ortiz, a kid who had 200 minutes coming in, to step up as a holding central defensive mid," Sustersic said. "The kids are exceeding expectations and with numbers it's next man up."

And the kids are willing to learn and adapt.

"They're good students of the game," Sustersic said. "We'll do some marking up and man-to-man at times and they're more than willing to approach the coaches and do things to get the job done. They've also been very positive so when a kid screws up, we understand and we work on them not becoming accepted mistakes and doing the right things."

Sabanovic's sizzling:

Streamwood had a pretty good idea of what it would get from junior forward AJ Sabanovic this season, but it didn't even know it was getting Issac Morales and Max Galvan.

Morales transferred from Conant and has taken over as goalkeeper, Galvan came over from Bartlett and is producing in the midfield and Sabanovic has already scored 10 goals and dished 5 assists for Streamwood (7-2) which will battle an undefeated OPRF (7-0) on Tuesday night.

"I feel we could be 9-0 because our first loss was our first game of the season and then we had the same thing against Glenbrook North in Barrington," Streamwood coach Matt Polovin said. "We had chance after chance and just couldn't finish against Libertyville (2-1 loss) and then we went on a nice little run and beat Glenbard West, Rockford Boylan, Taft and Conant."

After dropping another 2-1 decision to Glenbrook North, the Sabres rattled off victories against Larkin, Romeoville and Timothy Christian.

"We came back to beat Larkin for our first conference game and then beat a good Romeoville team that took second in the state last year," Polovin said. "And then we beat Timothy Christian (7-2)."

Things are falling nicely into place.

"AJ's grown up and developed his skills even more, and he's a high-level kid, a great kid and coaches know who he is and you can hear them telling them to double team him," Polovin said. "Max (Galvan) has mixed in well with the kids and is one of the starting center mids as a sophomore and I didn't know who Issac (Morales) was until the end of summer camp because he had just moved, and he's been beautiful for us."

Junior Alex Alcala and senior Andy Mendoza continue to make a difference in back and on the attack, giving the Sabres another option.

"They've played every minute and with their speed they're constantly involved in the offensive side of the play," Polovin said. "That's part of the DNA if you play for me. You have to make runs up top and they do it like it's nothing. One of the goals we scored against Larkin came from Alex (Okala) dribbling down the right side and beating a defender and crossing it to the other size to (Andy) Mendoza. You don't see outside backs getting up the field to score goals like that."

Roaring in Lisle:

When you're a school with only a few hundred students, graduation can leave your roster bare.

There's no doubt that Lisle lost some valuable players from a season ago, but the Lions aren't losing games, blending a mix of the few returning starters it had along with freshmen and sophomore newcomers that have the team off to a sizzling 8-0 start.

"It's a lot of fun," Lisle coach Patrick Graff said. "We only have 4 returning starters so we replaced 7 guys. So we have 3 seniors who start and 2 juniors and the rest are sophomores and freshmen. We've had a lot of stepping stones and have had to go backward a bit with fundamentals on how to play as a team, but it's paid off."

Flynn Cadell, Armin Shirani and Lukas Wilke are the team's lone seniors. Junior Aldo Mora has taken on a center forward role this season after playing as a midfielder while fellow juniors Max Sirovtaka and Brandon Su are teaming up with Wilke on an experienced back line.

"The last three years we had a large senior class," Graff said. "So for the first time with me head coaching we've had to take a step back and move some guys around to fit some positions that are the best positions for the team."

Lisle will learn a great deal more about its team by the end of the week with games scheduled against Joliet Catholic, Herscher and Chicago Hope.

Nine lives:

Some kids rarely take PKs. On Monday, Edwin Librado Granados made two of them to lift Glenbard North to a shootout victory over Round Lake after the teams battled to a 2-2 draw.

The Panthers had to fight through adversity to just put themselves in a position to win.

First, they rallied from a 1-0 deficit and then lost a man and fell behind 2-1. After Andy Rodriguez just missed scoring the equalizer, drawing the post instead, the Panthers tied the game in the 70th minute thanks to Rodrigo Nunez being able to find Jorge Roman, who had scored the team's first goal, in the 70th minute.

The match went straight to the shootout after regulation with Librado Granados, Roman, Nunez, Hugo Lopez Vargas, Ayan Sheikh, Gabriel Castillo, Marcos Hernandez and Keith Thumutok all converting their chances before Librado Granados scored again and goalkeeper Danny Noval's denied Round Lake's final attempt.

Save the date, Sept. 21:

The annual Tri-Cities Night is scheduled for Sept. 21 at St. Charles North. Batavia and Geneva will battle at 5 p.m. and be followed by St. Charles East versus St. Charles North. Like it has in former years, this special event will raise money for a good cause, the Harlands. Jane recently began treatment for breast cancer. Her husband Mike, who was Judson College's 1969-1970 Male Athlete of the Year, passed away from pancreatic cancer in December 2022.

All eighth grade soccer players that they are invited to play in a scrimmage for their future high school teams during halftime of each game. Players also will receive a complimentary T-shirt for playing. Be sure to reach out to the current head coach at any of the four schools to reserve your spot.

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