Warriors edged in regular season finale by Sabres
By Anthony Zilis
Streamwood isn't used to playing from behind, especially of late, when it had shut out opponents in seven straight heading into Tuesday's Upstate Eight Conference crossover against Waubonsie Valley.
So while the Sabres certainly weren't happy the streak came to an end when they fell behind in the first half, Waubonsie Valley senior Casey Bucz's 18th minute goal gave them a chance to deal with adversity for the first time in a long while.
In their last regular season game of the season, the Sabres handled the deficit well, knocking in two unanswered goals early in the second half for a 2-1 win in Aurora.
“It just showed how well we can play against adversity,” Streamwood senior Nestor Ascencio said. “We haven't been down in several games this season. To come back and get the win, 2-1, it was something new for us.
“It shows the type of team that we are. It's always great to have a challenge and to come out on top right before regionals. It gives us that motivation that we can play against any team.
“Going into regionals, we're not going to be too comfortable. We're confident in our style of play, our game, and we've just got to go strong.”
Waubonsie (7-7-2) put up a fight but it couldn't find the tying goal despite several late chances. Still, coach Angelo DiBernardo was content with his team's performance.
“I'm happy with the way we played today,” DiBernardo said. “I thought we played a very good game. Probably one of the best games of the season if not the best.
“So from that standpoint I was happy. We were lacking in finishing our opportunities tonight. I thought that was the difference.”
Streamwood (15-2-3) created the first few chances of the day early on, when Christian Campos and Christian Vences took shots in the first few minutes that were saved by Waubonsie goalkeeper Jordan Ward.
Ascencio had a chance to put the Sabres up 10 minutes in when he dribbled into the box and around a defender, but his shot went just wide.
Then, the Warriors began creating chances. In the 13th minute, Noah Griffith played a through ball to Bucz, who sent his breakaway shot just wide.
Bucz put Waubonsie on the board in the 18th minute, when he was on the receiving end of a cross from Benjamin Zoet, which he nodded into the lower corner.
Zoet had a chance of his own six minutes later, when his volley went screaming just wide of the goal.
Streamwood had chances to pull one back late in the half but Ivan Levya's 30th minute shot was saved and Ascencio's looping attempt on goal just minutes before the break went just over.
Waubonsie's Kevin Canfield could have given his team insurance, but couldn't connect after William Motluck found him just after the second half kickoff.
Streamwood tied the game 10 minutes into the half when Vences' low cross found Ascencio, who cut back a few times before firing his shot into the lower corner.
“When you've got Nestor Ascencio, who's the best player in the state, hands down, no matter what anyone might think or say, he is, he'll put the team on his shoulders and make sure we do what it takes to win,” Streamwood coach Matt Polovin said. “To have a player like that is awesome.”
Two minutes later Streamwood's Juan Munoz cut through the defense and dished off a pass to Donnie Sosa, who scored the game-winning goal.
“It's a big challenge right before regionals to really test us and see what type of team we are,” Polovin said.
“Are we a team that, 'Oh my God, we're down 1-0, we give up, game's over?' Or do we come out fighting hard and want that win.
“The guys took the challenge. Right when we got the first goal, it seemed like Waubonsie backed down a little bit. I thought we had the run of the game.”
Waubonsie had a few chances as time wound down but just couldn't finish.
With 10 minutes remaining, Bucz found Michael Miller in the penalty area, but his shot was high.
Bucz had a chance for his second score with seven minutes remaining but his header from just outside the six-yard box went wide.
The Warriors will play West Aurora in the first round of their own regional next week and they feel good heading into the postseason, despite the loss.
“I liked how we finished there,” Bucz said. “We had a couple of really good chances there. Obviously this isn't the way we wanted to go into the playoffs … We just take into the playoffs that we played well there.
“The first half, I thought we played well, we did the things we wanted to do, ended up scoring from it. We can take that into the playoffs and hope that we can do that in playoff games.”
The Sabres found out they can face a one-goal deficit and come back. That's very valuable heading into the playoffs.
“I can't ask for anything more at this point of the season,” said Polovin, whose squad plays either South Elgin or Elgin in the opener of their own regional.
“I won't say I'm glad we got scored on, but if we're going to get scored on, I'm glad to have it happen now than next week when it really matters and God forbid, we can't come back or something happens.
“The guys were relentless tonight. Every person I subbed in had that much more energy.”