Warriors prepare for Saints following win over ACC
By Bill Stone
Early in the first half Saturday, Wheaton Academy starting outside defender Zeb Lewis found himself with the ball along the left sideline, 30 yards from the goal but with plenty of open space.
Lewis decided to shoot.
“I saw the back post and saw the keeper off his line so I decided to take a swing at it,” Lewis said.
Aurora Central Catholic goalie Andy Czerak leaped and got his hands on the shot, but the ball trickled off his hands and into the net.
It was the second of what turned out to be several goals for the Warriors in their 8-0 Suburban Christian Conference victory in West Chicago.
The Warriors (3-0, 2-0 in SCC) hope to continue the momentum with a good test at home Monday afternoon against St. Charles East (2-0-1) in a game rescheduled from Aug. 30.
Senior central defender Marshall West scored twice for Wheaton Academy while other goals came from Michael Carver, Sam Hardy, Jacob Hoepner, Casey Zimmerman and Reid Culberson. Zimmerman had two assists, and Hardy, Carver, Grant Rougas, Matthew Ruff, Ty Seager and Hoepner each had one.
For Lewis, a four-year varsity player, this was his first goal since the final game of his sophomore year. He also scored in the 2011 season opener and had one or two goals as a freshman.
“I didn’t score all of my junior year so this is exciting because I don’t score a lot of goals,” Lewis said. “Most of the time last year I would not go that high (up the field), so even if I was, I was looking to serve to our wingers.”
The Warriors led 6-0 at halftime. When Zimmerman scored off a cross by Seager just 2:03 into the second half, under IHSA rules the seven-goal margin resulted in a game-time reduction by 20 minutes.
Goalie Drew Sezonov handled two long-range shots on goal by the Chargers (3-5) in the first half before Jon Cantey saw action in the second half.
“(Lewis) didn’t (score) last year. That’s why I called him over. I thought it might have been his first – and only (of his career),” Wheaton Academy coach Jeff Brooke said with a smile.
“The guys are always giving him a hard time when he gets one so I’m proud of him. He’s been on varsity since his freshman year so it was a big deal for him.”
Lewis isn’t just trying to do more this season offensively. He’s part of a veteran group hoping to build upon the Warriors’ fourth-place Class 2A state finish in 2012.
This season’s roster has 19 underclassmen and nine returning starters of players who saw action in basically every game last season.
Lewis and West are this year’s co-captains and among three returning starters on the four-player defensive line.
“It’s a privilege to co-captain with Zeb. He’s one of my best friends. He’s a great player. I’ve always admired his game,” West said.
“Zeb and I hope to set the standard for lots of things for our team, whether it’s how hard we play in every single game or just our work ethic and heart in every game and practice.”
Lewis and West have been soccer teammates, and nearby neighbors, ever since Lewis’ family moved from Indiana to Wheaton around the start of seventh grade.
They were classmates at Wheaton Christian Grammar School and became club soccer teammates for Campton United in St. Charles. Lewis and West both were central defenders.
“Ever since then, we’ve been really good friends,” Lewis said.
Lewis and West understand the standard they need to set after being selected team captains.
At the end of each season, the entire team votes on candidates, including the graduating seniors. That season’s captains and the program’s three coaches then discuss the results before the final decision is made.
“It’s weird because you dream of it as a freshman. I want to get that, and you work all three years to get there,” Lewis said. “It’s great to have the feel of coach is acknowledging that I worked hard and I worked hard for this team, not for myself.
“It’s a great feeling to know that I have the coach’s confidence in me and I put my best effort for the team. That’s what that (captain) band means, is that I’m here for the team.”
The captains also hope to bring leadership to the playing field. Last season’s defense was among the key components to the Warriors’ great postseason run.
They allowed just 10 goals in their final 15 matches to reach the state semifinals behind a revamped lineup with Lewis, West, senior Daniel Bergquist and graduated Andrew Luetkehans. The season began with a 5-4 record and three-to-five goals scored upon them four times.
“To bring three back is, obviously, a gift at the high school level because you’re always losing great center backs or marking backs,” Brooke said. “We feel confident that we’re further along than we were last year at this point, and that’s freed us up to work on some other things.”
Even better, West and Bergquist return at central backs. Lewis has switched this season from outside right to outside left with junior Parker Setran now at outside right.
So far, the team has allowed just one goal and shut out its other SCC opponent, Montini, 7-0 in the opener.
“We really think we should build from the back every game,” West said. “That’s where we’re founded on, with our defense and that’s where we get our attack from on transitions, with strong defense, but not just from the back four but also from our center mids and our wingers. It’s a whole team defensive thing.”
There’s been plenty of teamwork on the offensive end as well. Even though the Warriors entered Saturday already with 10 goals among seven players, all five players who scored in the first half (Carver, Lewis, West, Hardy and Hoepner) previously had not scored this season.
“In terms of depth, we feel great, and the goal scoring points to that, the fact that it’s not just one or two guys,” Brooke said.
Center midfielder Carver scored the initial goal with 35:40 left in the first half as he headed home Zimmerman’s right-side corner kick off one bounce.
The 6-foot-3 West, the Warriors’ tallest player, had some scoring fun as well. He took advantage of his height in the crease for the third and fifth goals.
When Zimmerman delivered another potent corner kick, West headed it in just off the inside part of the right post with 21:31 left in the half. West also scored with 16:09 to go in the half off a cross by Rougas after the Chargers were unable to clear out following Lucas Hoepner’s corner kick.
“I do like to get up on corner kicks, but I usually don’t have multi-goal games like I did,” said West, who had 13 goals in 2012. “Again, an honor for me to score that so that was fun.”
Monday’s game with St. Charles East was rescheduled because of bad weather during the first meeting. Monday’s previously scheduled SCC game with Guerin has been moved, but that new date has not yet been set.
”There are a lot of relationships (with St. Charles East),” Brooke said. “We’ve never played them in season and it feels like we have this built-in crosstown rivalry, which is great. It’s good for their guys, good for our guys.”