Mundelein needs one more winning streak as postseason looms

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MUNDELEIN – Mundelein’s boys soccer season has gone in streaks.

A three-game winning streak Sept. 20-26 thrust the Mustangs to the top of the North Suburban Lake Division. But then came 1-0 losses to Stevenson on Sept. 30 and Lake Zurich on Oct. 2. Warren won the Lake Division, but despite missing the conference championship, Mundelein has much to build on in the October postseason.

“Conference is over,” coach Ernie Billittier said. “We move onto the playoffs.”

Goalkeeper Donnie Kvien has been the Mustangs’ fastest-improving player. During a September surge with victories over Vernon Hills, Buffalo Grove and Libertyville, Kvien won the bulk of the playing time in goal.

A 5-foot-11, 160-pound junior, Kvien may not be an imposing physical presence, but he is a boisterous one.

“He has a voice out there,” senior Mason Homsey said. “I can hear him, and I play forward.”

Mundelein’s strength is its speedy front line of Homsey and seniors Armando Gomez and Lino Garcia. When the Mustangs are winning, those three are scoring or assisting. Gomez had 15 goals after 17 games, Homsey eight. Much of the team’s offensive scheme is designed around counter attacks, matching up Gomez with a defender one-on-one.

The attack often starts in the Mustangs’ goal box.

“I’ll start out the game aggressively in the air,” Kvien said. “If they play long ball from a free kick, I’ll go up and catch it. As a goalkeeper, if I clean up, it creates less chance. You should set the tone.”

Catches in the box result in quick changes, or possession strikes, for an offense. This philosophy is emphasized often when the Mustangs gather for impromptu huddles, providing a forum for Kvien’s vociferousness.

“In a huddle, Mason will yell, ‘Counter attack! Counter attack!’ ” Kvien said. “I’ll yell, ‘Get up! Get up!’ ”

If he sees Gomez or Homsey get behind a defender, Kvien will either roll a pass to their feet or fire a drop kick. He said a level of patience is needed for counters because they are a high-risk, high-reward strategy.

A poor directional pass or loss of possession can leave the defense outnumbered in the box. Holding a catch and resetting the team’s offense from the back line is often the best approach. This is when Kvien can be heard directing players to the correct spots on the field.

“A [club] coach taught me that if you are a great communicator, it makes you have fewer saves,” Kvien said. “If you organize your defense, you won’t have to make amazing saves because you are in the right position.”

Expect Kvien to continue to receive plenty of minutes in goal once the postseason begins later this month. Mundelein is a No. 7 seed in the Class 3A Palatine Sectional.

“One of our goals is to win regionals,” Homsey said. “We have to focus on that.”

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