Tuesday’s Upstate Eight Conference crossover finale hosted by Waubonsie Valley turned into a close shave for Streamwood.
Indeed, the Warriors’ highlight-reel first-half header by senior standout Casey Bucz put an end to 808 consecutive minutes of shutout soccer by Streamwood goalkeeper Sergio Blanco and put the newly rated Sabres in the somewhat unfamiliar role of having to come from behind.
However, two second-half goals enabled Streamwood to head into the Class 3A playoffs with a nine-match unbeaten streak (7-0-2) thanks to the 2-1 triumph. Staying on a successful track makes it easier for Matt Polovin to not mind finally getting to shave his scratchy beard that the team made him keep since the beginning of the defensive run.
The last time Streamwood (15-2-3) trailed was after a first-half goal yielded to Elgin on Sept. 25 as part of the St. Charles East Invitationl. The Sabres rallied for a 3-1 triumph and, led by Blanco, blanked seven consecutive foes until Waubonsie’s goal just 18:31 into the first half.
“Ben (Zoet) made a great run down the side for his cross and when their defenders split the box, I cut into position and luckily the ball came right to my head so I could finish it,” Bucz said. “That’s been working for us all season.”
The loss particularly dampened Senior Night for the Warriors (7-7-2) since it marked not only their first home loss for 2013, but the initial home setback in two years.
Streamwood’s Nestor Ascencio used Christian Vences’ pass for a virtual empty-net goal 9:29 into the second half for his seventh of the year to go with a phenomenal 18 assists.
“We needed to start the second half strong to get the momentum in our favor,” Ascencio said. “It doesn’t matter to me if it’s a goal or an assist, as long as I help us score and win.”
With the Sabres’ amped-up pressure, it took just 2:30 for what became the winner when Ascencio touched the ball toward Donnie Sosa for an 11-yard blast that Waubonsie goalkeeper Jordan Ward could only partially block before the ball continued into the net.
“I saw Nestor give me a great ball and I just turned quickly to get a strike and made up mind to go right,” Sosa said of his third goal of the year. “It always feels good to score but it’s that much better to help us get a win. And this was a big win against a good team.”
Despite the setback, only the second in the last six matches for the Warriors, coach Angelo DiBernardo saw enough positives from his squad heading into post-season play.
“I’m happy with the way we playede — it may be one of our best efforts of the season.,” DiBernardo said. “I thought we created some good chances in the first half. It could’ve been a two- or three-goal lead for us if we had finished them.”
Waubonsie serves as a regional host and welcomes West Aurora for a 6:30 pm first-round match on Tuesday, while Streamwood also serves as a regional site but the Sabres’ next Wednesday game will be a rematch against either South Elgin or Elgin. Streamwood beat the former in the season opener in August and topped the Maroons twice.
“At halftime I had to challenge them to figure out how to come from behind since we hadn’t been scored on in seven matches,” Polovin noted. “They had to fight hard for this win but when we got the first goal, Waubonsie looked like they backed down a little and we had to continue with high energy.
“They’re a scrappy team and their goalie made a ton of saves and played lights out, and that make the win better.”