Season over for Cyclones men’s soccer team
After regulation and two overtime periods, it came down to penalty kicks.
And then Moraine Valley College got kicked out of the Region IV playoffs.
The Cyclones men’s soccer team battled McHenry College on even terms for as long as it could, but the latter used an edge in penalty kicks to knock off Moraine last Wednesday. The Cyclones had defeated McHenry 2-1 during the regular season.
While the 2013 campaign ended earlier than Moraine players and coaches had wished, it was a successful one for the most part. The Cyclones went 9-6-1 a year after posting a sub-.500 ledger, and their 4-3 mark within the Illinois Skyway Collegiate Conference gave them a second-place finish there.
“Coming in second was good,” Moraine head coach Chuck Bales said. “This year, my main goal was to erase the trauma of last season, get back to winning in the correct way and play good soccer.
“Our focus was on playing a good passing game [and] moving around a lot. I recruited well, and many returners were hungry because of last year’s disappointment. It all came together quite well.”
Lutth Tchitembo and Jordy Padilla represented the Cyclones on the All-Region IV squad, and they joined sophomore Greg Healy (Stagg) and team captain Joe Mastej on the All-ISCC first team. Earning second-team all-conference honors were Steve Henry (Oak Lawn), Ranulfo Pantaleon, Patryk Paprocki and goalkeeper Chris Vidos (Brother Rice).
Mastej and co-captain Jorge Martinez (Reavis) were key figures in helping the squad come together not only through a strong work ethic, but also with positive attitudes. Bales chalked up some of Moraine’s success to that high team morale and player bonding.
“Overall it was a good season — we found our home base again in terms of how we should play,” Bales said. “There were ups and downs, but the downs were in little pockets, which are to be expected and almost desirable. You have to be careful with an undefeated team because you wonder when the shoe is going to drop.
“If we played these games again, we could get a totally different outcome. All the teams in Region IV are so equal, but we didn’t capitulate. After that last loss of the season, the guys were [ticked] off, but they can hold their heads up.”
Assuming this year’s freshmen return, the Cyclones will have a solid foundation off which to build their 2014 squad. Bales also wants Moraine’s new Health, Fitness & Recreation Center — scheduled to open in the spring — to be a springboard to help raise the Cyclones’ status.
Last Saturday was a good day to be a Cyclone, especially if you were Aileen Gorman.
The Marist alumnus became only the third female runner from Moraine to ever capture an ISCC title when she set the pace at this year’s conference meet. Gorman clocked a winning time of 20 minutes, 10 seconds on the hilly 5K course at Pioneer Woods Forest Preserve in Willow Springs to earn the Most Valuable Runner honor and get named as the premier member of the all-conference team.
“We are thrilled for Aileen,” Cyclones coach Mark Horstmeyer said. “She was outstanding. She ran a smart race on a tough, tough course. She had a game plan and she stuck to it.”
Behind Gorman’s leadership, Moraine wound up second overall in the team standings. It trailed only Waubonsee College. The College of Lake County, Morton College and Oakton occupied the 3-4-5 positions.
On the men’s side, the Cyclones placed third.
Reaching the chute for Moraine shortly after Gorman in the women’s event was Jessica Flores, who took 13th in 22:19. Tiffany Huntley finished directly behind Flores after completing the race in 22:22, Lex Mindock was 18th (23:24) and Sandburg grad Amy Johnson wrapped up the Cyclones’ scoring by running a 23:54, which secured for her the No. 22 position.
Miranda Reyes (23rd, 24:06), Maritza Najera (24th, 24:27) and Stagg product Amanda Gerzon (32nd, 27:25) rounded out Moraine’s list of competitors.
“We are pleased with how the team responded, too,” Horstmeyer said. “We have a lot of injuries that couldn’t come at a worse time than now, but the girls just dug in and did what they had to do. We’re proud of the effort.”
The Cyclones men couldn’t quite keep up with the College of Lake County, which gained its first conference championship since 2000, and Morton College, which was runner-up, on Saturday. Waubonsee and Oakton were fourth and fifth, respectively.
Dawid Palac led the way for Moraine as he was second individually after running a 27:46 in the 8K race. Both Palac and Thomas Cira (10th in 29:06) garnered all-conference recognition.
The Cyclones’ other three point producers were gathered in a pack, as Brandon Ceh, Anton Thauer and Zach Butera landed in the 17th, 19th and 21st spots after clocking respective times of 30:02, 30:21 and 30:31. Anthony Briante (23rd in 30:34), Justin Briante (25th, 31:31), Alejandro Montes (29th, 32:02) and Larry Byrd (35th, 33:20) also represented Moraine in the event.
“Dawid had his best performance of the season, and it certainly came at the right time,” Horstmeyer said. “We are really pleased with his second-place showing. The course is very demanding, and you had to run a smart race — Dawid did just that.
“Thomas really came on and got that spot on the all-conference team. We couldn’t be happier for him. It was a nice job by both guys.
“We also have to give some props to the other guys. We’re not particularly healthy, and they have had to fight through some adversity. Saturday, they showed what they’re made of [and] it was a solid finish for them.”
The Cyclones now prepare for the National Junior College Athletic Association Region IV Division I Championship on Saturday at Community Park in Channahon.
“This will be an entirely different race, with the teams and individuals trying to qualify for the national championship the following week,” Horstmeyer said. “We can’t back off now. We’ll just have to bear down and get it done.
“It will definitely test their mettle, [but] we are up to the challenge.”
The Cyclones earned their second consecutive ISCC title last Tuesday by completing a perfect 7-0 conference season with a 25-20, 25-10, 25-13 triumph over Morton College. Not only did Moraine go unbeaten within the ISCC, it never was pushed into a fourth set by any opponent.
Once again, Kara Kentner was a standout for the Cyclones, as she delivered 12 kills and nine service areas. Taylor Serrano did her share with 10 kills, three blocks and three aces, and Alex Bojan pitched in with eight kills and two blocks. Also lending a hand was Joanna Curtis, who distributed 20 assists.
The NJCAA Division II No. 17-ranked Cyclones concluded their regular schedule last Thursday by defeating Elmhurst College’s JV team, 25-18, 25-14, 25-16.
In addition to the win, the day was made special by recognition for Gina Ryan. Ryan was presented a game ball after registering her 1,000th career dig in an Oct. 19 match versus Rock Valley College. She became the third Moraine player this season to surpass the 1,000 level in a career category, joining Kentner and Curtis, both of whom have dished out more than 1,000 assists while playing for the Cyclones.
Ryan provided Moraine with seven kills and a solo block in its win over Elmhurst, which ably backed Kentner’s nine-kill, 17-assist performance. Serrano, Bojan and Seiler all added six kills. Serrano also blocked four shots and scored three points, while Seiler served an ace.
Rounding out the Cyclones’ list of contributors was Curtis, who passed out a team-best 19 assists.
Moraine began postseason play this past Tuesday.