Mundelein focused on going from good to great

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Mundelein boys soccer coach Ernie Billittier believes his team can be great this season.

A roster of 13 seniors gives the Mustangs as much experience as any team in Billittier’s four seasons as coach. But through the first few weeks of the season, good has yet to become great.

“Guys are jelling, they are coming together,” he said of the Mustangs 2-1-1 start. “The biggest thing is we when we face adversity, how do we handle it? Everybody has talent. What separates teams from winning and losing is dealing with adversity.”

A test came against Carmel on Sept. 2. Mundelein jumped to a 2-0 lead against the rebuilding Corsairs. At halftime, Billittier gave his team a simple message: “Stay focused. Pick up that third goal. Don’t let your overmatched opponent back in the game.”

So what happened? Carmel scored twice in the first seven minutes of the second half and tied the game.

“We weren’t attacking as much,” senior midfielder Armando Gomez said.

With the game still tied at 2-2, senior forward Mason Homsey had the ball near the right sideline. He dribbled past two defenders and adjacent to the 18-yard box, launched a right-footed pass toward the left post. Gomez was waiting and fired a quick shot past the Carmel goalkeeper for a 3-2 lead.

Club teammates for four years on Libertyville FC 74, forward Homsey and attacking midfielder Gomez have demonstrated their proficiency in that situation dozens of times.

“We have this kind of sense for each other,” Homsey said. “If I have the ball, he’s running off of it or vice versa.”

Just a few minutes later, the Mustangs struck again. Awarded a free kick at midfield after a yellow card was issued to a Carmel player, senior defender Jesus Alba launched a near-perfect entry pass toward the goal. Using his powerful 6-foot, 185-pound frame to leverage off defenders, Homsey easily won the ensuing 50/50 ball. At the top of the 18-yard box, he snapped off a header toward the left side of the goal.

Gomez was waiting.

“There were two defenders,” Gomez said. “One to my right and one to my left. I had to react right away.”

Off one bounce he fired a right-footed shot into the back of the Carmel net. Mundelein added two more goals for a decisive 6-2 victory.

For 70 minutes of the 80-minute game, Mundelein was very good. But the 10-minute stretch to open the second half was worrisome for Billittier and his seniors. How well the Mustangs limit complacent stretches of play could be the difference between a satisfactory season and a superior one.

“We have a lot of guys with varsity experience,” Homsey said. “We count on each other. That can be a positive, but it can also be a negative.”

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