ROCHELLE — The battle for the Interstate 8 Conference Championship has kicked off, and the Rochelle boys soccer team will look to make its claim for the title after a dominant performance against Sandwich in the opening round Tuesday evening.
Behind four goals from junior Brayan Orozco and three more from senior Max Torres, the third-seeded Hubs had no trouble with the sixth-seeded Indians, winning 7-0 and improving to 11-4 on the season. Rochelle will face the second-seeded Kaneland Knights on the road Thursday in the semifinal round.
“Two-touch soccer and getting rid of the ball quickly was important for us,” said senior midfielder Carlos Nambo, who recorded two assists in the win. “We trusted our teammates… We need to keep our intensity up against Kaneland and we need to play as a team. We need to keep our cool and we can’t let anything affect us.”
While the Indians pushed the ball deep into Rochelle territory to open the game, the Hubs wound up striking first. Nambo brought the ball up from the defense and sent in a pass to Orozco, who scored in the first minute to give Rochelle a 1-0 lead. The Hubs extended their advantage after junior midfielder Zane Walters played Torres for a goal in the 10th minute.
“We played an excellent game,” junior midfielder Josh Hurtado said. “We need to keep our intensity up throughout the game and we need to be constructive with each other and spread positivity.”
Freshman forward Jared Montano went back and forth with Orozco near the right sideline in the 37th minute, with Orozco booting in a pass from Montano to make it a 3-0 game. The Hubs continued pressuring Sandwich in the second half, as senior defender Gyvanziel Quinonez went down on a foul in the Indian penalty box in the 52nd minute, leading to a penalty kick conversion by Torres.
The goal was Rochelle’s first of three over the next three minutes of play. Orozco, Nambo and Torres connected with two consecutive passes for a goal in the 54th minute, and Orozco took a breakaway in for another score in the 55th minute. Walters put the finishing touches on the victory, sending in an assist from the middle to Orozco for Rochelle’s final goal in the 62nd minute.
Thursday’s semifinal contest will be a rematch from Sept. 10, when Kaneland fell down early but rallied to knock down Rochelle 7-2. The Hubs are cruising on offense, however, totaling 31 goals over their last four games while allowing only three scores despite senior keeper Alexis Quintanilla and freshman keeper Jarret Milan out with injuries.
“We all put our heads down during that game, but we’ve tried bouncing back and taking a positive outlook from it,” Hurtado said. “I like to remind my teammates that we don’t lose, we learn. If it was a tough match, but we’re looking forward to proving ourselves and showing what we’re made of.”