NORTHFIELD — As first-year New Trier coach Wes Molyneaux and his staff prepared for the Trevians’ Class 3A boys soccer regional championship matchup against third-seeded Lane, the key to winning became obvious.
“We identified the two Fuentes as their top offensive players,” Molyneaux said. “They’re great players. Lane Tech kind of runs everything through them. We figured if you can take away the other team’s style from them, you’ll have a good chance to win.”
To try to neutralize Lane’s top offensive threat, New Trier’s coaches decided to have their defenders shadow the Fuentes brothers all over the field.
“We decided to man mark them, especially No. 9 (senior forward Sergio Fuentes),” Molyneaux said. “We made them work harder to get the ball so that they spent so much energy just trying to get open.”
Defenders Sam Boyd and Dylan Gunther drew the assignment of shadowing Sergio Fuentes, while senior midfielder Kyle Berglund marked his twin José Fuentes, a senior midfielder.
“Sam is a really good one-v-one defender who’s got a quick first step and is fast,” Molyneaux said of how he chose the shadows. “Dylan is extraordinarily fast, so we knew he could run with No. 9. And Kyle is our best defensive midfielder.”
While sixth-seeded New Trier exploded for four goals, including two from senior midfielder Jack Cornelo, Molyneaux credited the defense with the 4-2 victory Friday. He said the key was the guys buying in to the game plan.
“Regardless if we’re right or wrong with our game plan, there’s less opportunity for success if the team doesn’t buy in,” Molyneaux said. “They bought in.”
Gunther, a senior, said it wasn’t hard to buy in once they saw the Fuentes brothers play.
“We had a lot of respect for the Fuenteses,” Gunther said. “They’re two of the top offensive players in the state, and the best way to take them out of the game was to man mark.”
The strategy worked perfectly for the Trevians, especially in building a 3-0 lead. Lane Tech cut it to 3-2 after José Fuentes scored off of a rebound and New Trier had an own goal, but it came too late for the Indians.
“Those bounces are going to go that way some times,” Molyneaux said of the two goals.
Even after the Lane goals, the frustration got to Sergio Fuentes, who picked up a yellow card after mouthing off to an official.
“It’s not only a physical battle,” said Boyd, a junior, “but it’s mental as well.”
“His yellow card was definitely frustration,” Gunther added.
Molyneaux, Boyd and Gunther all said the shadowing strategy would never have worked without the play of the rest of the defense. The other defenders had to adjust to having just three on the back line instead of four.
“The other guys adapted very well,” Boyd said.
“The communication, starting with (senior goalkeeper) Andrew (Gjertsen), was great,” Molyneaux said.
Molyneaux, who used 17 players, kept rotating Boyd and Gunther to keep them fresh. He credited the players with not being selfish and for asking out when they were tired. For their part, Boyd and Gunther said the home field support helped them a lot.
“It was an incredible game, especially with the fans we had,” Gunther said. “It was a special night.”