ROCHELLE — Senior members of the Rochelle Hub varsity soccer team wanted to make the most of their shortened spring season this year. That journey came to a conclusion Saturday, when Rochelle faced Morris for third place in the Interstate 8 Conference tournament.
After drawing the Redskins 0-0 earlier this season, Rochelle came out with more firepower during the rematch, scoring two second-half goals and holding off a late surge to defeat Morris 3-1 and take third in the conference tournament. The Hubs finished 6-5-1 overall for the year.
“I thought we did an excellent job today and I thought we executed our strategy that we worked on during practice,” senior Josh Hurtado said. “We communicated well and moved the ball around. We did a better job of finding the open spaces, which we struggled with earlier in the season… We all said before the season started that a shortened season was better than nothing, so we came out here and the seniors wanted to make the most of this because it was going to be our last time playing here. I thought that we ended our season pretty well.”
The Hubs possessed the ball well during the first half, breaking the scoreless tie during the 13th minute on a free kick that senior Zane Walters booted through the Morris defensive wall. Although the Hubs led 1-0 at halftime, Rochelle was forced to retreat on multiple second-half possessions as the Redskins began working the ball around and putting several shots on goal.
Morris was unable to convert on its chances, however, allowing Rochelle to extend its lead during the 64th minute, when senior Juan Cincire rolled a right-footed pass to freshman Eli Luxton, who smashed the ball into the Redskin net to put Rochelle ahead 2-0. But Morris capitalized on a breakaway shortly after, scoring in the 69th minute to cut the Hub lead.
As the final minutes approached, Rochelle netted a much-needed insurance goal, with Luxton finding fellow freshman Diego Salazar in the 79th minute to effectively seal the Hub victory. The win provided a sense of closure for the Hubs, who lost in the third-place match last season.
“We definitely came out and passed the ball better than we did the first time we faced them,” Cincire said. “I’m really proud of how well we communicated and this season definitely was a blast. We had so much fun and it’s sad that this was my last season, but it was awesome that we ended it with a win. We were motivated to win and we didn’t want our season to end with a loss. We wanted that third-place finish and I thought we played an awesome match.”