ROCHELLE — A scoreless first half evolved into an offensive battle between the Rochelle Hub varsity soccer team and LaSalle-Peru to kick off the Interstate 8 tournament Monday evening.
Senior Josue Orozco and freshman Alberto Casillas provided the firepower for the third-seeded Hubs, combining for six goals and two assists as Rochelle pulled away from the sixth-seeded Cavaliers, winning 7-2 and improving to 8-7 on the season. Casillas scored a team-high four goals, while Orozco finished with two goals for the Hubs, who face Kaneland on the road Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. in the semifinal round. Sophomore Eli Luxton added one goal.
“I thought both teams were very aggressive during the first half,” head coach Brad Male said. “We were pretty evenly matched in that half, but I thought we moved the ball better and we were able to put more pressure on them with our through balls during the second half.”
LaSalle-Peru struck first in the second half, capitalizing on a defensive breakdown from Rochelle to score in the 45th minute. The Hubs bounced right back with two unanswered goals, with junior midfielder Jace Whitehead finding Casillas for a goal in the 47th minute before Luxton rolled a through ball to Casillas for the go-ahead goal during the 52nd minute.
The back-and-forth scoring frenzy continued shortly after, with the Cavaliers taking advantage of more defensive miscommunication from the Hubs and finding the net in the 54th minute to even the match at 2-2. LaSalle-Peru would be unable to score for the remainder of the match, however, with Rochelle converting five unanswered goals in a row to seal the first-round win. Luxton and Orozco connected for a goal in the 55th minute to put the Hubs in the lead again.
“Josue has really stepped up over our last few matches,” Male said. “He’s learning how to give the ball up more as opposed to taking on every defender on his own. Having Josue and Alberto up top has worked really well for our offense. We just need to work with them on giving the ball up a bit quicker on the dribble and continuing to work the ball toward the goal.”
Leading 3-2, Rochelle extended its lead in the 64th minute, when sophomore Diego Salazar sent a left-footed cross into the box for Casillas to finish. Casillas and Orozco worked in tandem for the next two Hub goals, with the freshman assisting the senior during the 71st minute before Orozco returned the favor, feeding Casillas for his fourth goal in the 72nd minute. Freshman Luis Milan assisted Luxton during the 73rd minute to cap off the home victory.
“I think Alberto and Josue have continued to improve their chemistry as they’ve spent more time on the field together,” Male said. “They’re learning to read each other and they’re executing better passes between each other. That’s allowed them to get quality shots on goal.”