Boys soccer: Lake County all-area team
Danny Brito Antioch Brito set a school record with 26 assists to go with 13 goals playing in the midfield, and up top. His long throw-ins were a key, as he also set a school mark of 49 assists over four years. "He was the heart and soul of this team," Antioch coach Marni Polakow said. "He had the ability to take over games, and this season he has carried this team on his back. Building off the last two seasons, he has truly become the best player on this team. This season he has proven to be a complete soccer player; winning every 50/50 ball, dispossessing opponents, 1v1 defending, 1v1 attacking, communication and leadership."
Jack Critzer Grayslake NorthKnown as a quiet leader, Critzer's actions spoke volumes for Grayslake North, especially defensively. He worked hard at whatever the Knights needed him to do and finished with 2 goals and 2 assists. "He sacrificed his attacking qualities after we needed him to adjust positions and drop in the back four for us from his central midfielder position," Grayslake North coach Adam DeCaluwe said. "He was dominant in the air, strong defensively, can play with both feet, and he leads the team through his hard work and determination to succeed."
Scott Cloe Carmel CatholicCloe is one of several players crucial to the Corsairs' run to the Class 2A final four. He plays a role in the midfield and up top, and he's been productive in both roles with 14 goals and 8 assists this fall. "Scott's biggest strength is his work ethic," Carmel Catholic coach Ray Krawzak said. "There's no one that works as hard as him to constantly improve his play. He has molded himself into an extremely fit, hard-working player. His speed allows him to cover a good amount of the field. As a forward he plays great defense and often forces the opponent to cough up the ball."
Nate Edmunds Libertyville "Skillful" and "dangerous" both fit quite well in a description of Edmunds. The Wildcats midfielder, who scored 19 goals and had 2 assists, will be taking his well-rounded game next school year at Butler University. They'll be getting a player with a real knack for scoring big goals, such as the one that propelled Libertyville into the Class 3A final four. "Nathan is our most skilled player and was our leading scorer," Liberyville coach Andy Bitta said. "He can make great runs out of the midfield with or without the ball. What is so good about Nathan he wants to get better and loves to play the game."
Zach Espinosa LakesEspinosa picked a good time to produce his best season at Lakes. The midfielder led the team with 12 goals and 9 assists and always had a knack for producing a timely goal. "When the team scored in a game during the season, he scored in all but two of those games," Lakes coach Kevin Kullby said. "He had a hand directly scoring goal or assisting a goal in 21 out of the 40 goals compiled by the team and probably was instrumental in several more goals. He had the knack for getting past defenders on the run and on the dribble to score or set up his teammates." Espinosa had a goal and an assist against No. 1 seed Marian Central in the Lakes 2A regional, and his tying goal and penalty kick help propel Lakes to its sixth regional title in 8 years in the Eagles' penalty kick decision over Grayslake Central in the regional championship.
Ivan Esquivel Warren With creativity on the touch and a real talent for controlling the ball in the midfield, Esquivel excelled at his position. He contributed a team-best 11 goals along with 12 assists while appearing in all 24 games for the Blue Devils this season. "Ivan was very creative," said Warren coach Jason Ahonen. "He has a very good feel for he game and does extremely well in tight spaces. He has grown so much in his four years at Warren, as a soccer player and as a man."
Alex Fratila Warren
Where would you look to find Fratila? All over the field, that's where. His well-rounded efforts were a key for Warren, as he finished with 7 goals and 14 assists on his way to earning all-state recognition. "Alex was a jack of all trades for the Warren soccer team this season," Warren coach Jason Ahonen said. "His ability to play multiple positions allowed Warren to have flexibility in their gameday line up. Alex's ability to shield the ball and his composure on the ball is second to none. He was our team leader in assists this season."
Tucker Goebeler LiberyvilleGoebeler occupied a multitude of key roles this season, as he was moved from defender to defensive midfielder this season. His efforts added considerably to the Wildcats' defensive effort, yet he was still a significant part of the attack and finished with 8 goals and 4 assists. He'll be in the Ivy league next year, playing for Cornell. "He has great knowledge of the game, he could play anywhere," Libertyville coach Andy Bitta said. "When the team needs someone to step up and win a head ball or to score a goal the team looks for Tucker."
Christian Gomez Round LakeMaturity and growth ended up making all the difference for Gomez. He embraced his role as a midfielder and was a big help for the Panthers, wrapping up his senior season with 13 goals and 12 assists for the NSC Prairie champs. "Playing with Freddie (Ramirez) since they were younger set up for a lot of assists and goals for each other," Round Lake coach Hugo Tellez said. "He has a great shot with either foot from outside the box. He worked hard in working on his shooting and free kicks -- coming in early or staying late from practice, his pressure of pushing his forwards to score and giving through balls."
Matt Hong Vernon Hills The heart and soul of Vernon Hills' team, Hong provided that solid center through tough defense, leadership and consistency. "His technical ability and composure was a huge reason why we were comfortable playing out of the back," Vernon Hills coach Mike McCaulou said. "His service from the flank this year was tremendous, and it created a ton of offensive opportunities for us. He's just an unbelievable young man -- he's the reason why we've reached the sectional finals in Class 2A in two of the last three years."
Jeremy Klaber StevensonLooking for stability and balance in your goalkeeper and/or sweeper? Klaber provided just that for Stevenson this season, finishing with 8 shutouts and a goals-against average under 1. He's been on the varsity for three years and was a key senior leader for the Pats this fall, showing an uncanny ability to come up with the big save when his team needed it most. "An outstanding athlete who could have started on the field," Stevenson coach Mark Schartner said. "Jeremy was the perfect keeper/sweeper. He proved why he is one of the best that has played for us."
Donnie Kvien MundeleinThe story for Kvien was one of steady progress at Mundelein, especially as the team's keeper in his senior year. His goals-against average was just over 1 this year as he ran his career shutout total to 16. "He's has been one of our program's most important players," Mundelein coach Ernie Billittier said. "He has every intangible a coach could want from a keeper, but he also possesses all the leadership qualities that make him stand out from the rest. A vocal leader, and he leads by example. His hard work is equaled in the classroom and he has set a tremendous standard for our young players as a model student-athlete."
Braco Lasso Carmel CatholicThere was no telling what challenge Braco Lasso would try to rope up next, but he always seemed to find a way to corral a key assist for what became a most potent Corsairs offense. He wrangled 11 assists to go with 5 goals from his midfield position. "He's just an amazing player," Carmel Catholic coach Ray Krawzak said. "He controls the midfield, no matter who he's up against. His talent on the ball and ability to move forward out of pressure help him to create many of our most dangerous scoring opportunities."
Joseph Lee Vernon Hills Hard-working, yes -- but there was much more Lee's game this fall at Vernon Hills. He showcased his ability nearly every time he stepped on the field, finishing with 7 goals and 15 assists. The Ivy league will be his home turf next year, as Lee will compete for Brown University next fall after earning all-state prep honors. "Probably one of the quickest and most technical players I have had the opportunity to work with at the high school level," Vernon Hills coach Mike McCaulou said. "At any time he could change a game with his ability to beat people 1 v 1. His vision was at a very high level and he was always thinking about the next pass prior to receiving the ball."
Blair McCormick Warren There'd been a long line of outstanding goalkeepers ahead of McCormick at Warren, and this senior certainly extended the tradition. He had 10 shutouts this fall to go with a goals-against average of .92. "Blair was a true team player that's always looking to make himself and others around him better," said his coach, Jason Ahonen. "He did an amazing job this season in goal, making amazing saves and keeping us in every match. He was a huge piece of the puzzle for us this season."
Ryan McKernan Carmel CatholicA strong back line is always important, and having a take-charge leader back there was crucial for Carmel Catholic. McKernan was a force, setting the tone defensively for the Class 2A final four qualifiers. He helped found a way to help offensively, contributing 8 goals and 4 assists. 'He's extremely fast and dangerous in the air," Carmel Catholic coach Ray Krawzak said. "He moves out of the back into the midfield very well, creating a dangerous offensive threat."
Jun Min StevensonMin found a way to take it to the next level, excelling mainly from his midfield spot but also at times at more forward positioning. In addition, he showed he could help out from time to time on the defensive end of the field. Min finished with 14 goals and 3 assists and was a steady all-around force for the Patriots. "Jun is coming off his best season," Stevenson coach Mark Schartner said. "His ability to play central and wide made him very difficult to defend. His skill and determination made him the heart and soul of our offense this year."
Kizuki Niimi StevensonWith regular on-field contributions and leadership, Niimi quickly became Stevenson's man in the middle. Opponents were aware of his abilities and tried to game-plan around them, but Niimi still excelled in his role, coming with a pair of game-winning goals and dishing out 6 assists while growing into his prominent team role. "Kizuki is a born leader," Stevenson coach Mark Schartner said. "He has the maturity and intelligence of a much older young man. He simply makes every player on the field better."
Yann Nsoga MundeleinWith a high skill level and a mindset to match, Nsoga's midfield exploits led Mundelein to a memorable season. "Yann had an instant impact on this program from a young age because of his high soccer IQ, his technical ability and his athleticism," Mundelein coach Ernie Billittier said. "He's capable of changing the outcome of a game all on his own. He has played in a few different positions in an attacking role because of his versatility, and when we shift him around the field, often times he can unbalance a team's defense. One of his most impressive qualities is his ability to turn defenders in a tight space, no matter how tight his mark is. He loves to run at defenders and cut in on an angle which allows him to set up a shot for himself or passing lanes for others."
Freddie Ramirez Round LakeAn all-state and all-Midwest selection player, the Lake County all-area team captain led Round Lake in so many ways. He contributed 24 goals and 14 assists this season, helping the Panthers win the NSC Prairie title and thrive against tough competition all season. A leader by example on the field, Ramirez set the standard this fall with his speed, his overall ability and for his finishing flair in the final third of the field.
Kevin Reilly LibertyvilleThis hard-working player was mainly a midfielder, but his versatility also allowed him to thrive in many other roles for Libertyville. Reilly will take that well-rounded resume to Dayton University, where he'll play soccer next fall. He scored 8 goals and had 7 assists, and opposing coaches too notice as Reilly earned all-state honors. "He was elected captain by his teammates junior and senior year," said Libertyville coach Andy Bitta. "The only other player to have that happen here was Marshall Hollingsworth. Kevin works extremely hard at practice and it shows in the games. He never stops attacking or playing defense."
Lucas Semitka AntiochHanding a positional move out of the back and into the midfield with ease, Semitka became a true leader in his senior year, finishing with 19 goals and 5 assists. "This was the season to shine for him," Antioch coach Marni Polakow said. "He was a huge factor in our success this season (15-7-2). His ability to read the game and get up into the attack on almost every possession is amazing. He's deadly from set pieces and the penalty spot. Lucas won us many games this season with his ability to win the ball and start the attack. His energy is one of a kind."
Scott Shadrick Lake ZurichThe Bears needed someone defensively-minded to handle its back line, and Shadrick fit the bill. He managed not only provide Lake Zurich with defense, but also generate action with other way as he finished with 3 goals and 5 assists. "His 1-on-1 defending and ability to read the game helped shut down the opposition's offensive attack on a regular basis," Lake Zurich coach Michael Schmitz said. "His steady play contributed to many shutouts and gave our team a chance to win every game."
Ben Sizelove Grayslake CentralSizelove, a three-year varsity starter, concludes his prep career as one of the most composed defenders in the program's history. "He has tremendous positional sense, excellent close control, and impressive strength," Grayslake Central coach Tom Hamilton said. "He was always the safety valve that would help us to build an attack calmly from the back or prevent a dangerous opportunity for our opponents." Sizelove also contributed 2 goals this season while starting every game and helping the Rams produce 8 shutouts.
Alejandro Sotello Round LakeA complement to teammate Freddie Ramirez, Sotello was a key in Round Lake's tough one-two scoring punch. He finished with 16 goals and 12 assists. "He had the ability to pull defenders and open players up," Round Lake coach Hugo Tellez said. "He had great ball skill, control and vision as a forward. He reminds me of Mauricio (Salgado). He played with a lot of heart. Freddie (Ramirez) and him in the summer would do workouts together, working on touches and runs they would do in a game. He would always ask questions and ask for help on improving his and the team's game.
Nick Walker Grayslake CentralA leader in many ways, Walker was prolific on the attack with 11 goals and 7 assists from his midfield spot. "He's blessed with elite pace and has a great instinct for creating space for our attacks," Grayslake Central coach Tom Hamilton said. "We lost our top three goal-scorers from last season, so Nick was a welcome addition to the program. He has the ability, physical gifts, skill and intelligence to be one of the area's top attackers next season, and he's always eager to improve. He just has a genuine passion for the game, and he's worked to gain his teammates' respect."
Chris White Vernon HillsWhite made it right for the Cougars. With his ever-present effort, Vernon Hills got a winning example from its junior midfielder, who finished with 15 goals and 6 assists. "He covers box to box, and then some," Vernon Hills coach Mike McCaulou said. "He could play two games in a row and not be fazed, with his work ethic and cardiovascular endurance. He just comes to play, game in and game out."
Player School Yr. Pos.
Danny Brito Antioch Sr. MF/F
Scott Cloe Carmel Catholic Sr. MF/F
Jack Critzer Grayslake North Jr. D
Nate Edmunds Libertyville Sr. MF
Zack Espinosa Lakes Sr. MF
Ivan Esquivel Warren Sr. MF
Alex Fratilla Warren Sr. D/MF/F
Tucker Goebeler Libertyville Sr. D/MF
Christian Gomez Round Lake Sr. MF
Matt Hong Vernon Hills Sr. D
Jeremy Klaber Stevenson Sr. GK
Donnie Kvien Mundelein Sr. GK
Braco Lasso Carmel Catholic Sr. MF
Joseph Lee Vernon Hills Sr. MF
Blair McCormick Warren Sr. GK
Ryan McKernan Carmel Catholic Sr. D
Jun Min Stevenson Sr. MF/F
Kizuki Niimi Stevenson Sr. MF
Yann Nsoga Mundelein Sr. MF
*Freddie Ramirez Round Lake Sr. MF/F
Kevin Reilly Libertyville Sr. MF
Alejandro Sotelo Round Lake Jr. F
Lucas Semitka Antioch Sr. D/MF
Scott Shadrick Lake Zurich Sr. D/MF
Ben Sizelove Grayslake Central Sr. D
Nick Walker Grayslake Central Jr. MF
Chris White Vernon Hills Jr. MF
* All-area team captain
Honorable mentionBryan Alba (Mundelein Fr. F), Kody Anderson (Warren Jr. D/MF), Shawn Chervets (Lake Zurich Sr. G), Zach Cooper (Grant Sr. MF), Sean Dameron (Grayslakr North Sr. F), Foster Dore (Lakes Sr. MF), Nick Dydo (Lakes So. MF), Austin Ehren (Carmel Catholci So. F), Richie Flores (Warren Jr. D), Chris Fox (Wauconda So. D), Martin Fuentes (Warren Fr. MF/F), Josh Garcia (Grayslake Central Sr. D), Bryan Gomez (Round Lake Jr. MF), Christofer Gomez (Round Lake So. D), Connor Gosell (Grayslake Central Sr. G), Kyle Hensley (Grayslake North Sr. MF/F), Jordan Keller (Antioch Sr. D), Andrew Kim (Vernon Hills Jr. D), Zach Kovalie (Grant Jr. MF), Paul Kulis (Grayslake Central Sr. MF), Jony Lucio (Mundelein So. MF), Taiga Miyaryo (Wauconda Jr. F), Nathan Munsterman (Grant Sr. G), Marko Novakovic (Lakes Sr. D), Jake Nunez (Stevenson Jr. MF), Gerardo Nunez (Round Lake Sr. G), Liam O'Connell (Libertyville Sr. MF), Robert Rao (Carmel Catholic So. MF), Jacob Rasmussen (Libertyville Sr. D), Nathan Rathe (Lake Zurich Sr. F), Brennan Reback (Vernon Hills Jr. G), Thomas Ricchio (Stevenson Sr. D), Ian Root (Lake Zurich Sr. D), Alex Ruano (Antioch Jr. G), Ozzie Segura (Wauconda So. D), R.J. Vazquez (Antioch So. D), Grant Widmark (Libertyville Sr. D)
Selections and profiles by Rusty Silber