In making the switch from Burlington Central to Streamwood, Alan Camarena understood it would require some adjustments.
Yes, he’d have to navigate through a new school, with hallways filled with nearly 1,000 more students, and athletically he’d no longer be a big fish in a little pond.
Yes, Camarena finished his junior year at Burlington with team highs of 20 goals and nine game-winners and seven assists in 25 games as the Rockets advanced to the sectional championship game.
But the Big Northern, with its mix of Class 1A and 2A programs, was different than the 3A Upstate Eight. Unlike at Burlintgton, there would be no North Boone, which Camarena took part in blasting 9-0, 6-0, 8-0, 9-0, 8-0 and 10-0 over three years.
Instead, the Sabres had Waubonsie Valley, West Chicago, Batavia, Wheaton Warrenville South, Geneva, St. Charles East and West, programs with pedigrees measured by sectional and supersectional titles.
“Although I was confident in my abilities, some doubts crept into my mind when others told me the competition wouldn’t just be better, but faster, stronger and more skilled — starting with an always tough Waubonsie Valley,” Camarena said. “After I scored in the second half (of a 3-2 loss to the Warriors), I knew I could play that level, I just needed to get my teammates to pass me the ball, earn their respect and see that I would score or help them score.”
Streamwood coach Matt Polovin has no trouble refuting the notion of “the big fish in a little pond” even without mentioning Camarena’s team-leading numbers: 15 goals, five game-winners and 10 assists — all double the nearest Sabre.
“He’s proven he is one of the top players in this area, period,” Polovin said. “We lost a lot of talented seniors and some figured this to be a big rebuilding year for us, but here we are 10-3-2 (prior to the Oct. 7 date at Elgin) and there’s no question he’s a huge part of that.
“He loves the game. He has speed, good footwork, is willing to take people on 1-vs.-1, and like any goal scorer, he knows how to make himself available to his teammates, and yet also knows when to make a pass.”
Yes his family moved to a new home just down the street from Streamwood High School, but the transitiion was eased by friendships dating back to youth days with the Grand FC Mustangs or the Elgin Pumas.
“I thank my teammates, especially Christian (Balbino) for all his assists, we’re in sync like Sergio Ramos and Cristiano,” Camarena said. “Coach Polovin always motivates me on and off the field with his confidence, but my parents are my biggest motivators. I want to make them proud and be the first in my family to do something big. I’m looking forward to playing college soccer, but first we want Streamwood to have a great postseason.”
“His teammates have confidence in him, see his work ethic, like when Larkin triple-teamed him, and they realize how he makes the team and players around him better,” Polovin said. “They’d like to win and they see he expects to win and follow that lead.”