Boys Soccer: Near comeback falls short against LaSalle-Peru

Junior Fernando Diaz challenges for possession during the Rochelle Hub varsity soccer match against LaSalle-Peru on Wednesday. (Photo by Russell Hodges)

Casillas, Orozco score last-minute goals as Cavaliers edge Rochelle 4-3

ROCHELLE — Junior Alberto Casillas and sophomore Kevin Orozco each scored last-minute goals as the Rochelle Hub varsity soccer team fought to pull off a miraculous comeback and avoid an Interstate 8 Conference loss against LaSalle-Peru on Wednesday evening.

Casillas cashed in on a penalty kick during the 54th minute before Orozco maneuvered through the LaSalle-Peru defense and scored in the 60th minute to bring Rochelle within one goal of the Cavaliers. But the Hubs ran out of time and were unable to complete their comeback, falling 4-3 after conceding four consecutive goals midway through the second half. Rochelle (3-5-2, 1-3 Interstate 8) will return home for a nonconference match against Belvidere on Saturday.

“The bottom line for us is that we have to put a solid 80 minutes together,” head coach Brad Male said. “I thought we played a solid first half, but we have to learn how to recover from our mistakes when we make them. I thought we picked our intensity up at the end of the second half, but we came out slow to start the second half and that ultimately hurt us. If we played the match how we played over the last 10 minutes, I think we’ll have more opportunities to win.”

A defensive battle in the first half saw the Hubs strike first, with sophomore midfielder Heilly Zepeda scoring in the 19th minute to give Rochelle a 1-0 advantage, which held at halftime. LaSalle-Peru had chances to threaten throughout the first half, but a stout defensive effort from a short-handed Hubs, who were without junior center back Bryan Garcia, enabled Rochelle to hold its advantage until a corner kick led to a header and a goal for the Cavs in the 34th minute.

“Bryan was injured today so we made some changes to our defense and I thought we were looking good at first,” Male said. “They were able to get some balls through on us during the second half… We’ve worked with Heilly during practice on getting in the right spots and he knows that he can’t be afraid to take shots. We have to take advantage of our opportunities.”

LaSalle-Peru’s equalizer led to a series of goals for the Cavaliers, who followed with a go-ahead goal on a pass deep inside the Rochelle box during the 35th minute. LaSalle-Peru added two more goals during the 40th and 49th minutes, capitalizing on a pair of through balls that beat the middle of the Rochelle defensive line. Junior Fernando Diaz drew a foul inside the LaSalle-Peru box during the 54th minute, which allowed Casillas to score and cut the Cavalier lead to 4-2.

Casillas found Orozco on a pass in the final minute, with Orozco navigating through two defenders and sending a right-footed shot into the LaSalle-Peru net as the final seconds of the match wound down. But the Hubs ran out of time to tie the score, with the Cavaliers sending the ensuing kickoff back and then deep into the Rochelle end of the field to seal the match. The match was shortened due to a scheduling issue beforehand, with each half consisting of only 30 minutes as opposed to the standard 40 minutes.