ROCHELLE — While the Rochelle varsity girls soccer team didn’t record many victories this season, first-year head coach Brad Male and the Lady Hubs are confident that more experience and a move to the Interstate Eight Conference next year will allow the group to be more competitive.
“We weren’t expecting a lot at the beginning of this season, but the girls progressed nicely and I think they started looking for each other more and communicating more toward the end of the season,” Male said. “We definitely looked better as a program.”
Rochelle finished 2-14-2 overall, picking up nonconference wins over Oregon and Indian Creek, and 0-8 in the Northern Illinois Big 12 West. The Lady Hubs qualified two players for the All-Conference roster, with senior forward Olivia Piloni making the First Team and senior Sarah Craven earning an Honorable Mention.
Piloni accounted for over 60 percent of Rochelle’s 39 goals this season, totaling 24 while adding four assists. Craven (six assists) and sophomore Flor Becerra (three assists) each scored four goals, while three girls including sophomores Ayah Sbeih (six assists), Vianey Perusquia (four assists) and freshman Madison Ost recorded two goals. Freshman Lizbeth Milan scored once with two assists.
“We had a lot of freshmen who started and we’ll be looking for bigger things out of them,” Male said. “I wasn’t expecting to have the talent we had at that level this year. Ayah and Flor had a lot of nice plays this year and they showed what they can do with some more time playing together.”
Piloni and Craven headlined Rochelle’s departing seniors on the offensive end, and the Lady Hubs will lose several senior defenders including Cora Martinez, Keelyn Sarmiento and Andrea Lopez. Junior Viviana Belmonte will look to headline the defense next year after recording 205 saves in goal this season. Milan and junior Jaderi Ibarra will also play significant roles in 2020.
“We’ll be looking for somebody to take the leadership role,” Male said. “Jaderi really came around and impressed us toward the end of the season. We’re hoping our defenders can continue on the path they’ve been going on.”