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Preview story: Morton tries for Naperville sweep against North

By Matt LeCren, 08/25/23, 12:30PM CDT


Editor's note: Due to a lack of officials, this game was postponed to Sept. 21.


Morton will try to complete an impressive double when the Mustangs host Naperville North at 1 p.m. Saturday.

A victory would give the Mustangs, who are ranked third in the Chicagoland Soccer First 50 poll, a sweep of the District 203 schools. Morton knocked off defending Class 3A state champion Naperville Central 1-0 at home on Monday, the opening day of the season.

First results suggest success would be in the offing for Morton -- ninth-ranked Naperville North lost to West Chicago 5-2 in its opener.

Of course, neither coach expects an easy game.

“Every year they’re a great team,” Morton coach Jim Bageanis said. “They are well-coached. They’re very disciplined.

“They’re going to be ready to get their first win of the year, and they’ll be hungry after losing their first game. We have to come out with the intensity we did against Naperville Central and hopefully be able to possess the ball a little bit more and be smart with our decisions. We also have to limit their set pieces.”

Naperville North is renowned for scoring on set pieces and tallied one of their goals against West Chicago that way after Hindo Allie conncected on a free kick. Sam Hess had the other goal off an assist from Noah Radeke.

Unfortunately Allie, a senior, will miss the Morton game. The midfielder has a pretty good excuse, though -- he is playing for Sierra Leone in the U-17 African Cup of Nations, which is being held in England due to the extreme heat in Africa.

Chicago's 100-degree-plus temperatures Thursday caused the cancellation of Naperville North’s game with Lyons. It will not be made up, meaning the young Huskies missed out on a chance to match wits with another great team.

“We load the front part of our schedule, because we learn about our team,” Naperville North coach Jim Konrad said. “Morton is always a great test. We’ll know after Saturday how good we are and what we need to do to get better this year.”

The Huskies will sorely miss the leadership of Allie. The lineup is filled with new faces for one of the youngest sides Konrad has coached.

“We’re only starting three seniors this year, which is really rare at North,” Konrad said. “And our first two kids off the bench are underclassmen.”

Morton, on the other hand, has a veteran group led by midfielder Max Aquino and sweeper Ivan Ramirez, both of whom are committed to UIC. Aquino scored the only goal in the Naperville Central game, while Ramirez teamed with another senior, Josh Trujillo, on a lockdown performance in the back.

“We can always depend on Josh,” Bageanis said. “He’s a very intelligent player.

“He doesn’t make many mistakes, and he’s a very good 1-on-1 defender. He locks down that left side for us. We rely on him and Ivan a lot to secure the back.”

Aquino will test North’s green backline which was battered by West Chicago.

“He’s one of the best players in the state, for sure,” Konrad said of Aquino. “He’s a fantastic dude, and I’m sure he’s gong to be a load.”

But don’t expect the Mustangs to put five in on the Huskies.

“It was one of those games where we didn’t play great,” Konrad said of the West Chicago match. “We left some goals on the field.

“The score is in no way indicative of the game, so we’re going to make some adjustments and play better. I think we’ll be OK in the end.”