When Alec Guarino suffered a back injury last season in Marian Catholic’s game vs. Homewood-Flossmoor, he didn’t think it was too serious.
It turned out to cost him a large portion of his season, though.
“I got hit and (the opposing player) might have landed on my back or I just tweaked it a little bit. I ended up getting hematoma, which was like a big bump on my back, and I wasn’t able to walk. I had to miss nine games.”
Guarino’s injury in the middle of the season was a momentum-killer for a Marian team that was 9-2, but struggled without its star.
“It was awful,” Guarino said. “I love the game. I love playing it. I can’t wait to be on the field every day. It was tough not being able to play.”
Guarino, a senior, is healthy and back to doing what he does best: putting the ball in the net. He produced his 17th goal of the season in dramatic fashion Saturday, scoring with eight seconds left in a 1-0 win over St. Patrick on Senior Day.
“I just have a passion for getting to the ball and putting it in the net,” he said. “I’m hungry for goals.”
He’s hungry for a certain number this season. The Marian single-season record for goals is 26.
“Last year, I scored 24 missing nine games,” Guarino said. “I’d really like to get that record this year.”
Guarino’s finishing ability allows Marian coach Nasser Shahtaji to focus on defense, often leaving Guarino alone up top with confidence that he’ll be able to score.
“His dribbling skills, speed and powerful shots make him a unique player in our area,” Shahtaji said. “He does a fantastic job finishing his scoring chances and scores some spectacular goals for us.”
Guarino is a four-year varsity performer who’s played club ball with the Chicago Fire Juniors for the past three years.
“I’ve been playing soccer my whole life,” he said. “I just came out and played one day and loved it.”
All his experience, particularly at the varsity level, is helping him this season.
“Being on varsity my freshman year helped a lot because I was a lot smaller than the guys I was playing against,” he said. “It was a good learning experience. As I’ve gotten older and older, I’ve just tried to get better and better.”
Guarino is a big reason why Marian entered Monday with a 10-5-2 record.
Last season, the Spartans lost to eventual Class 2A state champion Washington in a regional final. Guarino is hoping to lead a much longer playoff march this season.
“I really hope we finish this season strong,” Guarino said. “I hope we can go somewhere in the postseason. All three of my years, we’ve lost in the regional championship game. I want to at least win a regional title this year.”