PLANO — Jace Whitehead has been on the defense for most of the season, but the talented sophomore earned a chance to showcase his skills up the field Monday evening, when the Rochelle Hub varsity soccer team closed out its conference schedule against Plano.
Looking for his first goal of the season, Whitehead nearly made his mark in the 16th minute, but his shot bounced off the right post and redirected toward senior teammate Zane Walters, who cashed in the deflection for one of his four goals in the match. Whitehead had a second chance at the Plano net later in the first half, however, fielding a through ball from Walters and dribbling toward the Reaper keeper before firing the ball into the goal during the 38th minute.
The score capped off an all-around solid performance from Whitehead, who also had an assist as Rochelle cruised over Plano 9-2 and won its second straight match. The Hubs (4-4-1) will face Oregon on the road Saturday, April 10 at 10 a.m. for its regular-season finale. Rochelle will then kick off the Interstate 8 Conference varsity tournament on Monday, April 12.
“We’re a lot more experienced than we were earlier in the season,” Whitehead said. “We’ve been playing some weaker defenses recently, which has helped us have more freedom on offense. I think we’re getting to know each other better and we’re becoming more familiar with how everybody plays. It was nice to move up to my preferred position and score a goal. We need to keep doing what we’re doing recently and hopefully we’ll be ready next week.”
The Hubs struck first when Walters connected with freshman Eli Luxton for the first goal of the match in the early minutes. Another freshman stepped up for the Hubs shortly after, when Diego Salazar beat an outside defender near the sideline and sent a left-footed boot into the Reaper net during the 10th minute. Rochelle took a 3-0 lead in the 15th minute, when Salazar crossed the ball into the Plano box for Walters, who also finished Whitehead’s deflected shot.
Leading 4-0, Rochelle continued to attack on the offensive end. Luxton utilized a through ball from Walters to take the ball down the middle and score in the 25th minute. Senior Juan Cincire entered the action in the 33rd minute, floating a right-footed pass into the Reaper box that Walters cashed to make it a 6-0 match. Whitehead’s goal put the Hubs ahead 7-0 at halftime.
Plano avoided the shutout in the 42nd minute, capitalizing on a Rochelle penalty in the box and scoring on a penalty kick. The Reapers also took advantage of a defensive miscommunication from the Hubs in the 57th minute, scoring with only a few minutes left on the clock. But it was too little, too late for Plano, who conceded goals to Walters on a Whitehead assist in the 50th minute and Cincire on a Walters assist in the 55th minute. Walters finished with four assists.