The Kishwaukee College men’s soccer program was dormant for many years, but the arrival of four Rochelle Township High School players has helped bring new life to the team after the Kougars struggled to find success during the 2018 season.
Former Hub standouts Jessee Infante, Ruben Herrera, Josue Almaraz and Juan Montemayor wanted to stick together after leading Rochelle to its first-ever IHSA 2A Sectional Championship appearance in 2018. The foursome signed with Kishwaukee College earlier this year, and the boys made an immediate impact with the Kougars, helping the program finish 10-7-1 this season. Kishwaukee started the 2019 campaign with eight wins over the team’s first 10 games.
Infante emerged as one of the NJCAA’s top scorers during the stretch, ranking as high as second in the nation in goals. The RTHS single-season scoring champion ended his freshman campaign with a team-high 19 goals and seven assists. Infante scored a season-best four goals in the team’s 7-0 win over Richard J. Daley College on Sept. 14.
“What I enjoyed most about playing with my Rochelle teammates was that we had a brotherhood that was nearly unbreakable,” Infante said. “We know each other’s backgrounds and we all have the hunger to win… I feel like I improved by becoming more physical and scoring goals in big moments for my team.”
Almaraz started 16 games on defense for the Kougars, while Herrera started in 14 games. The two center backs combined to help Kishwaukee hold opponents to only 1.96 goals per game this season. Almaraz added one goal and one assist to aid the Kishwaukee offense. Montemayor started in 10 games for the Kougars, totaling two assists in the midfield.
“My first season with Kishwaukee went better than expected,” Almaraz said. “I enjoyed playing against other colleges because the competition was much high than it was in high school. I feel like I improved my overall defensive skills and my decision-making with the ball… What I enjoyed most about playing with my Rochelle teammates was the chemistry we already have.”
“Josue and I always had that bond on the back line,” Herrera added. “I have improved on becoming more of a leader and always trying to get everybody pressuring the ball. I want to improve my conditioning. I felt comfortable in the back since I had someone on the line that I knew really well.”
“It was exciting to be with a whole new team because we had new coaches and players to work with,” Montemayor said. “It was a whole different experience when it came to our training, our games and the competition we faced… I really liked playing with my Rochelle teammates. We pushed each other through training sessions and games, and they’re like my brothers so it was nice to be with them to experience soccer at the college level.”