West Chicago soccer team 'brought a whole community together'
West Chicago Mayor Ruben Pineda had a good one.
"We're keeping pace as far as shutting out teams in the final game," he said.
He cited West Chicago's state championships 45 years apart -- the Wildcats' 32-0 win over Mt. Carmel in the inaugural 1974 Class 3A football championship, and the boys soccer team's 2-0 win over Morton in the Class 3A final last Saturday.
A 1978 West Chicago graduate and the third of four brothers to attend the school, Pineda said he "knew everyone" on that 1974 team.
On Saturday he boarded the bus that arrived from Hoffman Estates, led by police escort, to congratulate the soccer players.
"The fact that the boys all were saying they were doing it for the town, that's admirable," said the mayor, who proudly noted that not only is coach Jose Villa a West Chicago graduate, Class of 2006, so too are assistant coaches Dorian Carrasco, Daniel Ballines, Paul Reyes and Victor Lopez. Fellow assistant Roberto Hurtado lives in town.
"It's incredible," Pineda said. "The teams they beat and the way they played, you've got to take your hat off to them, they're really a fantastic team. Right now I can tell the entire community is very proud of them."
West Chicago's social calendar just got flooded.
Pineda will invite the Wildcats to a city council meeting to offer public congratulations on the state title. He said the Carol Stream Village Board is likely to follow suit.
On Wednesday, Villa said, team members were taking a bus downtown to be interviewed by Univision Chicago.
Friday is an all-school pep assembly.
At 4 p.m. Sunday a community assembly for students, staff, families and residents will be held in the high school's Bishop Gymnasium.
"I'd love everybody to be there," Pineda said.
The Community High School District 94 Board will salute the Wildcats on Nov. 19.
Villa said the soccer team will be the subject of a Nov. 26 proclamation at the DuPage County complex in Wheaton.
Leman Middle School, where Villa teaches sixth grade, has requested an audience with his players.
"This is huge. It's been tough to put into words," he said.
"I think I wrote something down. ... That each one of these boys has his own history, each one has his own story to tell, has his own stuff going on, but on Saturday these boys came together to achieve history for their high school and their community.
"This group of boys brought a whole community together."
Zeros by heroes
Benet's motivation was to win a Class 2A boys soccer championship, not to win nearly every game by shutout.
It just happened that way.
Of the Redwings' 24 games, its 21 victories came via shutout. Benet's 21 shutouts tied three other teams, including Naperville North's 2017 Class 3A champs, for sixth all-time in Illinois High School Association records.
"It wasn't like the main goal," Benet left center back Zach Serafin said Tuesday. "Obviously, the main goal was to protect the goal and limit our goalie to the least number of saves as possible, basically to make our lives easier."
Against Crystal Lake South, Benet goalkeeper Vytautas Staniskis had to make 5 saves in the Redwings' 2-0 title-game win.
But Serafin, right center back Anthony Klos, left back Tom Miskin and right backs Conor Perkins and Evan Frazier did relieve the pressure on keepers Staniskis and Hunter Randolph, who allowed 4 goals all season combined.
Serafin credited on-field communication and the unit's adherence to the "pressure-cover method" in which one defender pressured the ball and three others handled opposing attackers.
Benet's 2-1 loss to Naperville North on Sept. 7 at the Best of the West Tournament helped drive the defense.
"We thought we could win that game, we thought we could compete," Serafin said. "But after that loss we worked super-hard in practice that week and made sure everything was perfect.
"I think it may have brought us to new heights because that loss really disappointed us."