In the fall of 2011 Iven Hernandez began his soccer career with a bang. The Antioch forward notched his first goal playing in a tournament at IMSA.
“It was against one of the Glenbard schools,” he said.
So began one of the great individual and prolific scoring careers. The Sequoits’ star scored twice and registered his 100th career goal in Antioch’s victory over Zion-Benton last Thursday. He also established a new school record for goals in a season with 33.
Hernandez broke his own mark of 32 that he set last year in leading his team to a Class 2A supersectional. He was named first team to the Sun-Times’ All-Area team last year.
The first one remains etched in his memory, but the most meaningful one was his 67th career goal, a game-winner to beat Lakes in a Class 2A regional final last year. The personal achievements are fine, he said, but the accomplishment of the team takes precedence.
“Really, I wasn’t caring that much about the record,” Hernandez said. “All I want to do is score and help my team win. Losing in the supersectional last year got me more hungry to get even farther in the state playoffs this year.”
By his own account, his introduction to the game was less than successful.
“I hated soccer when I was younger,” Hernandez said. “I was three years old and my older brother Andy was nine, and I’d play on his team, but I didn’t like soccer, so much so I’d even cry every time I had to play it.”
His uncle was his first coach, and he deliberately played him against older boys in a trial by fire. It paid off as Hernandez developed footwork, dribbling and passing abilities that were startling for somebody so young.
The skill set also proved crucial for getting an edge against bigger and more physical players. He has always been driven by a need to prove himself.
“I’m a small guy, just 5-7, but that doesn’t mean I can’t do what the bigger people can do,” Hernandez said.
Hernandez has led the Sequoits in goals scored in each of his four years. He showcased a combination of agility, speed and shotmaking. He scored 18 goals as a freshman and 17 as a sophomore.
“He’s always had the flair, the speed, the ability to go one versus one, and he has gotten better every year, which is what you want,” Antioch coach Marni Polakow said.
Polakow praises Hernandez’s work ethic and said in context, his personal achievements are even more impressive given the attention he demands from opposing teams.
“Once teams find out about him, they double-team him or man mark him, but Iven has done a lot to continually work on his game in other ways,” Polakow said.
Family, soccer and school are all intertwined. Hernandez changed his number from No. 14 to No. 11 to honor his brother Andy after he was deployed in Afghanistan. Antioch is 14-7 and earned the No. 1 seed in the Class 2A Grayslake Central Sectional. He knows his storied career is nearing its end.
“These four years have been great, because I’ve grown up as a person and met a lot of new people and learned about playing with heart and not letting the little things get the best of me,” Hernandez said.