BURBANK -- In the aftermath of their 3-1 South Suburban Conference Red Division victory over Argo on Thursday at Hanke Stadium, Reavis' players seemed to be joined by nearly everyone from the crowd. Several loud songs accompanied a lot of picture-taking among families and friends; it was a scene you would expect to see from a celebration of a big accomplishment.
While the Senior Night party honored the 14 Rams who were playing in the final home match of their career, the squad's work is not done. If Reavis wants to fulfill one of its regular-season goals by winning a third-straight South Suburban Conference Red Division championship, it must win Tuesday. Eleven of the current seniors were members of last year's title-winner.
After suffering six-straight losses and getting off to a 1-6-1 start, the Rams (7-9-1, 5-4-1) have now won six of their last nine matches and are contending with leader Eisenhower (5-3-1) for the top honor in the Red Division.
Reavis wraps up conference play on Tuesday against Richards in Oak Lawn; the Cardinals host Oak Lawn on Tuesday and Lemont on Wednesday. Eisenhower won 3-2 over coach Konrad Dziedzic's squad on April 27 in Burbank to give it the upper hand, but the Rams can still win the title outright or share the championship as long as they takes care of business against Richards.
Junior Alaina Hernandez sandwiched her brace around sophomore Erica Divizio’s goal. Junior Olivia Smycz assisted on the first two goals, which gave the Rams a 2-0 lead in the 31st minute. Junior Jasmine Juache assisted on the match's lone second half goal, which came in the 43rd minute.
Dziedzic, a goalkeeper who was a graduate of Leyden and member of the Chicago Magic in academy play before competing at Northern Illinois University, is proud of the history that his program has been able to accomplish in three seasons.
"If we win on Tuesday, it could be our third one in a row," Dziedzic said. "If we beat Richards, we could share the conference title with them (Eisenhower) potentially or win it straight up. The girls have built a culture that is going to carry over into next year and the years going forward.
"I want to be able to give them what I had when I was a kid growing up in high school and the academy and college ranks and bring that atmosphere here and make it feel as professional as we can. I think that the girls really enjoy that aspect."
Leading a team that has a lot of seniors and also has great chemistry, the coach likes that his squad is playing its best soccer as the regular-season winds down. Reavis plays at Oak Park and River Forest on Thursday in preparation for its Class 3A Lyons Regional opener against Glenbard West on May 17.
"Our seniors are big leaders of our group, regardless if they play or not," Dziedzic said. "They keep the chemistry together. You can see it since all of the girls are best friends with each other. Making sure that that core is intact makes what happens, like potentially winning conference and getting the results that we have.
"We always overload our schedule before conference play, and we don't care about the results. When they go on the field, there's the expectations for conference play and when it comes to the playoffs, we know what to expect. They are always enthusiastic and ready to play. And regardless of how things are going, they're always finding a way to be happy and actually enjoy the process as it's going."
The Rams moved in front for good in the fifth minute when Hernandez connected after a Smycz assist.
Argo (4-11-1, 2-6-1) came back with one of its best first half threats a bit later, but Reavis senior goalkeeper Jayda Hobson punched away a corner kick that was sent in by Klara Cicha.
Rams senior Yamileth Torres responded with a good attempt shortly after that.
"We started off a little rough but we started connecting more on the field and became stronger together, " Torres said. "We want to win conference back-to-back-back.
"I started playing with our seniors in my freshman year. We lost a lot of key players last year, but we want to win again. We're playing strong and just communicating on the field."
Reavis was particularly busy trying to add to its lead during the final 20 minutes of the opening half. Smycz and Hernandez were thwarted on short attempts. Hernandez was also denied on a long free kick. Divizio sent in a shot that was cleared by a defender, and Juache sent in a threatening liner right after that.
The Rams increased their advantage to 2-0 in the 31st minute when Divizio connected from close range following a pass from Smycz.
Argo responded. Andrea Mendez collected the Argonauts lone goal in the 34th minute.
Mendez tried to tie the match not long after the intermission but was denied by Hobson, who faced few Argonauts threats throughout the remainder of the match.
"We've really been together since middle school, and we've all basically come through the program together," Hobson said. "It's really sad leaving as a senior seeing all of the games that we've played together and how far that we've come as players and as people. I couldn't ask for a better team to be graduating with in my senior year.
"The biggest thing that we have is the connections that we have with each other, on and off the field. I think that has helped us to connect really well with each other. A big part of how far we've come is the coaching that has been really uniting us throughout the season. I think that we've really come a long ways, and we're really showing a lot of strengths at the end of the season."
Hernandez was denied on her first try of the final half, but succeeded on her next attempt. In the 43rd minute, she received a pass from Juache and made a nice run before connecting from close range to complete the scoring.
Reavis tried to add to its advantage with shots-on-goal from Hernandez, senior Jasmine Karim and junior Alyssa Juarez. Smycz was thwarted by a defender on a corner kick and subsequent shot.
As the match approached the hour mark, Smycz and senior Natalie Carriedo Gonzalez threatened and the hosts remained busy over the next few minutes as sophomore Adriana Alcantara, senior Emily Chavez, Smycz and Juarez were all denied.
"We started with a rough patch and a couple of Ls but our coach talked to us to keep our mentality strong and come back as a team," senior defender Jade Guzman said. "We all discussed, and then we came back strong. In the last two games we've picked it up. We need to win one more, the Richards game, to try to win or share conference with Eisenhower.
"I've played with half of these girls since junior high, so we've all pretty much grown up together. There are some new girls, and they've shown their skills. We've won conference back-to-back and are trying to break the record for Reavis High School. When we see a rough path, we lock in and just stay strong as a team."
Seniors Paulina Graca, Emilia Kuca, Alejandrina Lopez Cardoso, Alexandra Mendez, Amina Natour, Yulissa Orozco, Jalina Rodriguez and Natalie Saenz were also spotlighted before the match.
At halftime, members of the 2021 and 2022 league championship teams were recognized for their special accomplishment.
GK - Damari Alcala-Gil
D - Martyna Dudas
D - Kayla Perez
D - Alexa Jimenez
D - Lily Sanchez
MF - Jaylyn Amaro
MF - Giselle Mendez
MF - Maya Perez
MF - Paulina Gallardo
F - Klara Cicha
F - Andrea Mendez
GK - Jayda Hobson
D - Emily Chavez
D - Marlene Gutierrez
D - Jade Guzman
D - Yulissa Orozco
MF - Emilia Kuca
MF - Olivia Smycz
MF - Jasmine Juache
MF - Ruby Ramirez
F - Alaina Hernandez
F - Yamileth Torres
Chicagoland Soccer MVPs of the Match: Alaina Hernandez, jr., F, Reavis;
Olivia Smycz, jr., MF, Reavis
R - Alaina Hernandez (Olivia Smycz), 5'
R - Erica Divizio (Smycz), 31'
A - Andrea Mendez, 34'
R - Hernandez (Jasmine Juache), 43'