Coach: Steve Szymanski
Assistant coaches:
Bruce Conrad, Sean Kelleher
Patrick Molinari, Aaron Kolkay
and Juan Leal
Luis Alday Jr., GK
Nick Huerter So., M
Arnold Arevalo So., D
Danny Madrigal * Sr., D
Josh Walter Sr., D
Nathaniel Paisley * Sr., M
Christian Vazquez Sr., M
Saul Silva Sr., M
Sean Phetchanpheng * Jr., GK/F
Alex Esquivel Sr., F
Ricardo Ventura Sr., F
Nick Karasch Sr., M
Jesus Cepeda Jr., M
Jesus Esquivel So., M/F
Josue Blanco Sr., D
Alex Santillan So., F/M
Victor Cuevas Fr., M
Anthony Padilla           Sr., D/M
* denotes captain

Wolves play well in loss to Plainfield North



By Jeff Davis

It’s officially a banner season for Plainfield North.

The Tigers beat host Oswego East 2-1 Tuesday to clinch their first Southwest Prairie Conference championship in school history. And after seven-time defending conference champion Plainfield Central lost to Oswego 2-1 Tuesday, Plainfield North (15-2-3, 6-1 in SPC) was guaranteed to not have to share the title with the Wildcats (4-2 in SPC).

Now all that is left for the Tigers to do to make their achievement official is to alter their soccer banner in the school gymnasium.

“We have banners hung in our gymnasium of all the sports and who wins conference and what year, sectionals, regionals, stuff like that,” Plainfield North senior defender Garrett Gathman explained. “And it got us kind of mad that they put those up there because we have nothing ever.

“(Coach Jim) O’Hara kept talking about this for the last four years, let’s put something up because then every time you come back to the school you’ll see it. And now we’ve got something up, the first thing ever.”

O’Hara couldn’t wait to mark the conference title feat after the Tigers had extended their single-season school record for wins to 15 and their unbeaten streak to nine games since losing to Romeoville 2-1 in the conference opener Sept. 17.

“I felt like so defeated as a coach,” O’Hara admitted. “Every single team has something up there (on their banners) and we don’t have anything up there, it’s completely blank. That will be my first conversation with (athletic director Ron Lear). Let’s get that changed as soon as possible. Hopefully we can put more than just that up there this year.

“I’m so proud of (our players), all the hard work, all the conditioning, all the hills, all the running, the summer work, waking up bright and early, it’s been something that I told them doesn’t come around very often. It’s something you need to enjoy, you need to keep your head up high because it’s something you need to celebrate. Only one team can win a conference championship. Nobody in this program before today has been a part of that.”

After Plainfield North had held off a spirited charge by Oswego East (3-11-3, 2-5) in the final 18 minutes, the Tigers celebrated by mobbing each other and jumping up and down in unison on their end of the field, then dousing O’Hara with a Gatorade bucket of ice water.

Ten minutes later, they ran to midfield and celebrated again when learning Plainfield Central had lost, with senior Manny Bofah running jubilantly down the sideline. Plainfield North beat Plainfield Central 3-0 two weeks ago, giving each team one conference loss.

“If we would have tied (Plainfield Central for the conference title), I don’t think we would have been as happy,” Gathman said. “I think we deserved it anyway because we beat them out. But now that they lost it’s so much better.”

“We had a 'One Heart' motto all year so even though we lost the first (conference) game (to Romeoville), we knew we just had to pick ourselves up,” Plainfield North senior forward Logan Wright added. “We knew we were fine, we knew we were a talented team and we knew we could do it. We had confidence in ourselves.”

Wright, who will play at Western Michigan next fall, scored both Plainfield North goals Tuesday to give him 19 goals for the season, as all the scoring occurred in a first half in which the Tigers outshot the Wolves 14-2 (5-1 on goal).

After Oswego East’s attempt to put the ball into Plainfield North territory was kicked back, Wright got in a footrace with two defenders up the left side of the field before being taken down in the box with a slide tackle. Wright converted the penalty kick for a 1-0 lead with 23 minutes 44 seconds left in the first half.

But the Wolves answered by taking advantage of their only dangerous chance of the half. Oswego East junior Jesus Cepeda beat a defender in the left corner and crossed the ball toward the net where freshman Jackson Frazier deflected it toward Nate Paisley all alone from 10 yards out of the right post, from where he scored to tie the game with 20:55 left in the half.

“I thought the momentum had shifted,” Paisley said of his goal. “I thought we were going to respond and hopefully score another one before half, but it didn’t happen obviously.”

Instead, Wright struck again, converting Gathman’s perfectly-placed throw-in from the left sideline with a header from the right side in front of the net to make it 2-1 with 16:13 left in the half. It was Gathman’s 15th assist of the season.

“Even though they scored, we knew we just need to stay calm and we’d get more opportunities,” Wright said. “All year (Gathman’s throw-ins have) been amazing. I just try to time where he’s going to go and just get there. And I was fortunate today and it ended up being the winning goal. His throw-ins and free kicks all year have been a huge weapon for us.”

Plainfield North had two more outstanding scoring chances thwarted later in the half. Gathman and Wright nearly teamed up on another throw-in that caught Oswego East junior goalie Sean Phetchanpheng out of position, but junior Nicholas Huerter sprawled out on his back along the goal line to block Wright’s shot.

Less than three minutes later, Phetchanpheng (8 saves) managed to punch the ball over the net on Plainfield North sophomore midfielder Austin Collier’s header of another throw-in.

“I thought we played really, really well in the first half,” O’Hara said. “We didn’t finish opportunities, but we had a lot of good opportunities. I give (Oswego East) credit for making good saves and being in the right place at the right time.”

The Tigers admittedly felt some pressure to hold on for the title-clinching win in the second half, as they mostly settled for long-range shots and bunched up in the middle at both ends of the field.

Oswego East, meanwhile, stepped up its pressure to start to take control down the stretch. Frazier had a pass through the Plainfield North crease deflect off him in front of the right post with 17:33 left. Alexis Santillan then fed Paisley in front of the goal, but Tigers freshman goalie Cade Fink (3 saves) punched the ball away with 13:00 left. Paisley also couldn’t finish a potential one-on-one chance after beating a defender.

“I think everybody’s energy was just up (in the second half),” Paisley said. “I think we combined passes in the midfield a lot better. We also had a lot better communication through the midfield and that’s what helped us a lot. The freshmen (Frazier, Mike Bozett and Victor Cuevas) stepped up today and they had a good offensive game. We just needed to finish the last opportunities that we had.”

Phetchanpheng, who also is the Wolves’ leading scorer as a forward, was pulled from the goal and took the field with 6:01 left. He beat Gathman with a move and forced Fink to move his position, but Plainfield freshman Jake Farley cleared the ball away with 2:30 left.

“I was surprised how fast he was,” Gathman said of Phetchanpheng. “He’s a really good player.”

Phetchanpheng got off a corner kick in the final minute, but senior defender Jake Novacek booted the ball out of harm’s way as the defense that also was led by senior Sam Puglisi and junior Travis Faust with midfield help from seniors Tyler Petprachan, Grant Smiley and Matt Farley held strong.

“In the second half, I give them credit,” O’Hara said of Oswego East “Especially the last 15 minutes, I thought they had the advantage on us. But we were able to hold our ground, stay composed and made sure we held them out.”

Oswego East coach Steve Szymanski was proud of his team’s effort.

“Honestly it was our best game all year,” Szymanski said. “We played hard the entire time. Our second half was probably the best half we’ve put together. Obviously we didn’t score, but we had chances.

“The two goals they scored, it’s a late tackle, he’s got to tackle earlier. And then we knew their biggest threats were their long throws and we just turned and played the ball out and they score off that. Things that we can’t allow to happen that we just did and they were just two glaring mistakes. Other than that, I thought we played pretty well.”

Szymanski is hoping the Wolves can carry the momentum of their effort into their Senior Night game against Naperville North Thursday and then their playoff opener as the No. 16 seed in the Class 3A Metea Valley Sectional against No. 17 West Chicago at 4:30 p.m. Friday in the Geneva Regional. Plainfield North, the No. 4 seed in the sectional, plays No. 13 Oswego Tuesday at Geneva.

“Hopefully we’ve got one more game to kind of warm up for the playoffs and then see what we can do,” Szymanski said. “We played West Chicago in the playoffs last year. They lost a lot of guys from last year. I welcome the opportunity.”

© 2013 WestSuburbanSports. All Rights Reserved.