Midseason turnaround inspired Carmel run

SHARE Midseason turnaround inspired Carmel run

MUNDELEIN — The Carmel boys soccer season ended with a 2-1 loss to Buffalo Grove in an Oct. 29 sectional semifinal. But the end could have come much sooner.

In the middle of September, the Corsairs lost back-to-back games by a combined score of 15-2, including an 8-0 disaster against ESCC-rival St. Viator. Problems were both tactical and relational.

“In the beginning, we were a divided team,” senior midfielder Evan Potter said.

Something had to be done, or the season would be lost. Tactically, the Corsairs were not defending or generating chances offensively. In addition, there were individual factions within the group. Coach Ray Krawzak approached seniors Potter, Adam Cloe and Timmy Karich.

“We would talk to each other during practice, that was our tendency,” Potter said of he, Cloe and Karich, longtime friends who have played together since elementary school. “(Krawzak) brought it to our attention. He said, ‘I noticed you guys hang a lot together. I’m starting to notice the other players don’t see that as a good thing.’ We realized we have to start involving the team.”

Chemistry improved immediately. Krawzak then made two lineup changes: He called up freshman Jacob Spheeris to take over goalkeeping duties and moved Potter from the back line to the left midfield position.

The team started to click. Carmel lost only two of its next seven games.

“We went back to the old ways. We were creating chances,” Potter said.

A 2-1 defeat to Marist on Oct. 2 would be the Corsairs’ final regular season loss. But when the postseason pairings were announced, Carmel could not run away from its early season problems. It was awarded a No. 14 seed.

When Cloe looked at the bracket, all he saw was the potential regional semifinal opponent.

“I saw (St.) Viator. I was like, ‘That’s rough,’ ” Cloe said. “Senior year, I couldn’t imagine going out on another 8-0 game. That would be awful.”

After Carmel defeated Grant 3-0 on Oct. 21, it got its rematch with the Lions the next day. Potter scored the Corsairs’ first goal, only to have the Lions answer. In the second half, Carmel played like a team not ready for its season to end. Cloe and senior Keenan Walsh netted goals and Spheeris, playing well beyond his years, shut down the St. Viator attack.

On its home field, Carmel defeated St. Viator 3-1. Though the Corsairs would beat Fremd 1-0 to win the regional crown, the St. Viator game might be more memorable for the Carmel players and coaches. By winning, the Corsairs showed how much a team can improve within a season.

“We got this crazy energy. We had all these kids in the stands watching the game,” Potter said. “It was like we won the World Cup.”

Krawzak added: “These guys have a lot to be proud of. It’s an incredible story.”

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