ROCHELLE — Two tough losses to conclude the Interstate 8 Conference Championship tournament could have diminished the spirits of players on the Rochelle boys soccer team. But the Hubs returned home Monday in celebration of Senior Night, and with their fans behind them, the purple and white shined against Big Northern Conference leader Mendota.
Three Rochelle players scored two goals, and a three-goal surge in the second half propelled the Hubs to an 8-5 nonconference win over the Trojans, who entered with a 7-0 record in the BNC and an overall record of 14-3-1. Rochelle snapped a two-game losing streak with the victory while improving to 12-6 overall. Seniors Austin Brown, Max Torres, Alexis Quintanilla, Carlos Nambo and Gyvanziel Quinonez were all honored after the game.
“We’ve appreciated all the effort they’ve given us and it’s a time of the year I never look forward to,” head coach Brad Male said. “Saying goodbye to these guys is tough but it’s been a pleasure being a part of their lives and it’s been a pleasure to see them grow into the players they are right now.”
It may have been Senior Night, but two juniors connected for Rochelle’s first goal in the 19th minute, when midfielder Zane Walters led forward Brayan Orozco through the middle for the score. Rochelle took a 2-0 lead shortly after, when the senior midfielder Nambo scored after a Hub corner kick in the 22nd minute.
The Trojans were silent for most of the opening half, but back-to-back lapses by the Rochelle defense led to two quick scores for Mendota in the 33rd and 34th minutes. The game wasn’t tied for long, however, with the Hubs surging ahead after junior forward Juan Cincire powered a right-footed shot into the net during the 38th minute.
“When we’re at our best, we can play really good soccer,” Male said. “There were a few times during the game where we had some miscommunications and those cost us some goals. But those are things we can improve on, and I think the boys have learned something today that they can carry into the next game.”
Rochelle and Mendota combined for eight goals in the second half, beginning with Orozco’s second of the game in the 48th minute after the senior midfielder Brown ignited a Rochelle fastbreak through the middle of the field. Mendota countered with a goal in the 50th minute, but two quick responses from sophomore forward Josue Orozco, who capitalized on two Mendota defensive mistakes in the 54th and 55th minutes, gave the Hubs a 6-3 advantage.
Rochelle took its largest lead of the game after Brown found the senior forward Torres for a curling left-footed goal in the 55th minute, capping off a three-goal spurt in less than two minutes of play that put the Hubs up 7-3. Mendota continued fighting, though, rebounding with goals in the 64th and 66th minutes to keep some pressure on the Rochelle side.
But the hole was too deep for the Trojans to emerge from, and the Hubs iced the Senior Night victory with a goal from their senior captain Torres in the 76th minute. Walters sent a shot off the side of the right post, leading to an easy follow-up conversion by Torres. Rochelle will close the regular season out at Dixon before beginning the IHSA Class 2A Wheaton Academy Regional on Tuesday, Oct. 22 against the Kaneland Knights.
“I won’t discount any team but we’re playing good soccer right now,” Male said. “We’re progressing well and we’re right about where we want to be.”
Rochelle faced the Ottawa Pirates for third place in the Interstate 8 Conference Championship tournament this past Saturday, falling 3-2 in a penalty-kick shootout. The Hubs went ahead 1-0 when Max Torres assisted Juan Cincire in the 29th minute, and after Ottawa tied the game in the 35th minute, Torres scored in the 39th minute to make it a 2-1 game. The Pirates equalized with a score in the 69th minute before winning the shootout after regulation.