As the 19 players and two coaches of the Waubonsie boys hockey team gathered for the final time in the 2013-14 season, the emotions began to unleash faster than a slap shot.
They talked about their achievements, then began laughing about the fun times they had. Soon those laughs turned into tears, as the Warriors realized all they had accomplished since the start of preseason condition more than seven months earlier.
What Waubonsie had done was pretty remarkable. The team won the AHAI West Division regular season and postseason tournament titles, then followed that up with a remarkable run in the state playoffs. That was capped off with a 3-0 win over Glenbard on March 20 at the United Center, giving the team the state championship on the varsity combined level.
“It was awesome, we were all just ecstatic. There were just tears of joy everywhere,” said senior Ben Vierti. “We all had invested so much into this season, so to see it pay off was just outstanding.”
The state championship not only means so much for the players on the team, but for the four schools the program represents. Warriors players hail from not only Waubonsie Valley, but also Metea Valley, Oswego East and Oswego high schools. For each, it is the first hockey title in its history.
Coach Jimmy Frasco knew he had talent on his team when they first met in August, but he wasn’t sure how it would develop. He projected a middle-of-the-pack finish in the West standings, with the hope the Warriors could peak at the right time and make a run in the conference playoffs.
Instead the team gelled immediately, allowing the coach to set even greater goals for the program.
“It’s just phenomenal, how quickly it happened. We came together and just played really well,” Frasco said. “We had long-range goals, but we never lost sight about what was directly in front of us. Everyone stayed on the same page, and that was what made us so good every night.”
Frasco now faces the daunting task of replacing many of the key players from the title-winning team, including forwards Vierti and Tommy Stobart, and goalie Jake Rubenstein. All three seniors were All-Conference players this season for the Warriors, who finished with a record of 43-11-2.
“I think we can keep the success going. It’s going to be tough to replace a lot of those guys, but we can do it,” the coach said. “If the young guys work as hard as these seniors did, we won’t see a drop off.”
Waubonsie will worry about next year when it comes. For now, they want one final chance to soak in the memories.