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Elgin seeking some revenge on Larkin
By Jerry Fitzpatrick | Daily Herald Staff

Freddy Alvarez of Larkin, left, battles with Tyler Lake of Bartlett earlier this season. Larkin meets city rival Elgin today at Memorial Field.

 

Rena Naltsas | Staff Photographer

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Published: 10/4/2010 11:17 PM

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Considering recent history, it's a good thing Memorial Field has lights.

The last time the soccer teams from Elgin and Larkin clashed, the result wasn't settled until the final rays of light were hanging on for dear life. Last year, Larkin's Tony Hernandez connected for a goal in the gloaming in the fourth overtime, lifting the Royals to a 4-3 victory in the Class 3A Huntley regional championship match.

Elgin finally gets another crack at rival Larkin in today's Upstate Eight Conference River Division matchup at 4:30 p.m.

"I'm sure they're going to want revenge," Royals coach Ken Hall said of the Maroons. "There are a bunch of players left on their team from last year so it'll be a grudge match, no doubt about it. It'll be a tough game for whoever wins it."

Going by records, Larkin (12-5-1, 0-3) would seem to have the edge on Elgin (3-13-1, 1-2). However, recent trends say otherwise.

Prior to defeating Geneva 4-2 Monday, the Royals dropped outings to Batavia (7-2) and Streamwood (1-0).

Meanwhile, Elgin enters on the heels of consecutive impressive outings, a 3-1 victory over Streamwood and a 4-2 loss to Fox Valley Conference power Crystal Lake South (16-1-1), a team with 14 shutouts to its credit.

"It seems like something just clicked for us," Elgin coach Dave Borg said of his team's improved play. "We've been asking things of our players all season, and I think the frustration level got really high right before Streamwood. We decided we were going to go back to fundamentals. It was just the little things like movement and spacing. Sometimes things just get away from you when you're in a slump, so we kind of started over."

Two personnel moves also had an effect. Borg elevated junior varsity goalkeeper Omar Villafuerte to varsity starter before the Streamwood game. On the same day the Maroons welcomed defensive stopper Carlos Moreno back to the lineup. The junior had missed the bulk of the season with a broken bone in his foot.

The Elgin defense is tasked with stopping Larkin playmaker Erik Rodriguez. The sophomore forward leads the Royals with 18 goals and 9 assists.

Today's match could serve as a preview to a more important collision in the postseason. According to pairings released last week by the IHSA, the Royals and Maroons could meet in a regional semifinal at Rockford Guilford on Oct. 19. Elgin would first have to win a play-in game against the host school. Guilford defeated Elgin 3-0 on Sept. 18

"We definitely want to have a little momentum going into the playoffs," Hall said. "Elgin's in our regional again this year so we definitely want to send a message as we get ready for the playoffs, and it starts with this game."

These Gators cut deep: Crystal Lake South striker Charlie Oliver has deservedly earned headlines this season, but there's a lot more behind the Gators' 16-1-2 record than just their dynamic junior scorer.

Oliver leads the Fox Valley area with 24 goals to go with 7 assists, but goalkeeper Dave Walsh and the defense have posted some impressive statistics of their own. Walsh and defenders Matt Biederwolf, Jacob Stock, Adam Gatza and Alex Anderl have teamed up for 14 shutouts, breaking the previous school record of 12.

"It's been a total team effort," Gators coach Brian Allen said. "They bail each other out. When Dave's having an off day, the guys pick up the slack and limit shots. And occasionally the defense has an off day, and Dave's made some big saves to keep it at zero. It's a nice tandem. This is their second year together so it's good to see them taking priding in keeping a zero up there."

Oliver got off to a slow start but recently posted 4 hat tricks in a week. He scored another hat trick last week in a 4-2 victory over Elgin.

"He's so fast. It's like boom!" Elgin coach Dave Borg said. "He's got an extra gear and he just flew by my guys. I don't know if we've seen a player like him all season."

Oliver, who plays clubs soccer with the Chicago Fire Academy and has drawn interest from Northern Illinois and Princeton, has 50 career goals in three varsity seasons. He said it took a few matches this fall to regain his scoring touch.

"I think it was just a matter of getting back into the rhythm of things with school and everything," Oliver said. "But it feels good to have finally found it and be back into the groove. We've been cranking it out because we have solid backs and a solid midfield and Walsh is doing a good job."

Adding to the CL South attack have been seniors Trevor Bittenbender (6 goals, 9 assists) and Alex Tapia (6 goals, 7 assists).

CL South will get an up-close look at its first playoff opponent with matches against McHenry today and Prairie Ridge on Thursday. Those two teams will meet in the Jacobs regional on Friday, Oct. 15 with the winner advancing to play the Gators on Oct. 19.

"We need to take away more than just a result from these games but also use it as a learning process for that first-round matchup," Allen said.

Cary-Grove streak has nine lives: Not even a marathon shootout could derail the Cary-Grove winning streak, which reached nine after a 1-0 victory over Grayslake North Saturday.

The Trojans (10-2-1) finally bested the Knights on their ninth attempt of a shootout. Andy Matovina deflected a shot off a post and into the net for the decisive goal. Winning 9 straight matches was the best-possible scenario for Cary-Grove after its 1-2-1 start.

"I think it's just a matter of the chemistry jelling and all of them getting on the same page," Trojans coach Mark Olson said. "We need to make sure that we work for each other. When we do we get things going. When we try to be individualistic we don't do so well."

Olson said it all starts in the back, where keeper Tommy Breen has "done a great job of organizing everybody and being a field captain." He also credited defenders like Ryan Borys, Erik Gustafson, Robbie Perez and Matovina, among others, players he called "versatile" and "interchangeable."

Up top, Jon Guay and Evan Baker have combined to score 15 goals for the Trojans, who will open the Class 3A playoffs with a regional semifinal against Barrington on Oct. 19.

Seniors leading Jacobs: Twelve seniors have helped Jacobs to its 13-4 record. Two of them, central defender Matt Ehrhardt and center midfielder Taylor Pignataro, have been the driving forces behind the team's success, according to coach Anthony Cappello.

"Both of them have shown tremendous leadership," he said. "It's not even what they say but how they play on the field and the work ethic they carry day in and day out."

Ehrhardt is the team's leading scorer with 10 goals and 4 assists; Pignataro has 5 goals and 6 assists. The team's seniors will be saluted Thursday, when the Golden Eagles play Prairie Ridge on Senior Night in Algonquin.

Fixing faults, not fixating on successes: Burlington Central has amassed a record of 12-3-2, but the Rockets are focusing more on their flaws than their press clippings as the season winds down. In recent practices they've concentrated on playing stronger with the lead, which has been a problem.

In matches against St. Charles East, Marmion, Plainfield South and Glenbard North, the Rockets faltered when leading and went 1-1-2 in those contests.

"We have a tendency to play a little more defensive, so we start getting attacked more and (opponents) get more opportunities than we do," Rockets coach Mike Gecan said. "We're working on still playing our game with a cushion there. I wouldn't say we get comfortable, but if we bunker back too much, we give them opportunities to get the tying goal."

Chris Gousios leads Central with 15 goals and 4 assists. Alexis Camarena has 11 goals and 5 assists and Alejandro Nava leads the team with 10 assists.

Whip-Purs rolling: Hampshire's 9-match winning streak came to an end Saturday in a 2-1 loss to Huntley, but the streak put the Whips in position to contend for the Big Northern East title on the heels of last year's third-place finish.

Hampshire (13-5-1, 7-1) has two league games remaining. They play Wednesday at Harvard (5-9-3) and next Tuesday against Burlington Central (12-3-2, 6-1) in a match that could decide the BNE champion.

"We're OK with that if that's what it comes down to," Hampshire coach Jon Goslin said of a rematch against the rival Rockets. "We'll be looking for a little payback." Central won the first meeting 5-2 on a windy day on Rocket Hill.

Ismael Morales leads Hampshire with 22 goals and 10 assists.