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Game story: Rolling Meadows fights back, but falls in title match

By Kyle Garmes, 08/27/23, 3:15PM CDT


Mustangs drop 4-1 decision to Plainfield East at Bradley-Bourbonnais Invitational

In a broader sense of things, Rolling Meadows has a lot to be excited about after the first week of the season.

In winning their first three games, the Mustangs didn't give up a goal.

The fourth game, however, left some things to work on.

Rolling Meadows fell to Plainfield East 4-1 in the title game of the Bradley-Bourbonnais Invitational on Aug. 26. While the match was closer than the final score indicated, the Mustangs were still on their heels for large stretches of the afternoon.

Coach Brett Olson acknowledged Plainfield East was the best team his squad has seen thus far and lamented some things going wrong that didn't necessarily have to go wrong.

"They were a lot more ready to go than we were," Olson said. "Whether you want to call it tired legs after playing [the semifinals in the morning], they played a game this morning, too. We came out very flat. We played into their strengths as opposed to doing what we want to do."

Rolling Meadows (3-1-0) opened the tournament with a 2-0 victory over Rock Island on Aug. 25, then defeated Bradley-Bourbonnais 3-0 Saturday morning.

Throw in a 4-0 victory over Crystal Lake Central earlier in the week to start the season, and the Mustangs were pitching a three-match shutout.

But Plainfield East (3-0-0) made it clear from the get-go that that streak would be in danger.

The Bengals were dangerous off set pieces all afternoon. After they connected on one to start the scoring, Rolling Meadows responded.

Junior midfielder Kalvin Lagunas, an all-tournament selection, found the equalizer for the Mustangs in the final seconds of the first half. After the lefty had already sent in two dangerous curling corner kicks, he apparently decided he would just get the job done himself.

On his third corner kick from the right side, he sent in a ball that tucked inside the far post to make it 1-1.

"I know that I have a left foot, and I'm able to create those chances. I try my best to get it there," Lagunas said. "We also have other teammates that are there to support the shot if it doesn't go in."

He was pleased with the first week of the season, but, like his coach, knew there were many things to work on.

"I think we did good. Obviously, we had some mistakes," Lagunas said. "We had unlucky chances, too. We were pretty tired. Maybe we were lacking a little bit in defense."

Plainfield East had its own good fortune on corner kicks.

The Bengals opened the scoring in the 14th minute when J.P. Escobar finished off a corner kick taken by Yandel Reyes. Xander Wettergren deflected the ball over to Escobar near the far post, and he hammered it home.

Wettergren gave Plainfield East the lead for good with just less than 20 minutes left in the 60-minute match. On another Reyes corner kick, the Chicagoland Soccer Man of the Match squarely headed in a goal to make it 2-1.

Reyes handles all the corners for Plainfield East. And his aggressive approach is essential, he said.

"Finding that perfect technique, kind of whipping it in, to throw the defenders off," he said. "Instead of lofting it in. Trying to get a good whip on it is the key."

Olson, meanwhile, said his team needs to work on defending such plays.

"That's just a lack of marking," Olson said. "They put two great balls in and made us pay for not staying with them and making good runs. We know we're an undersized team. They got some size on [those plays], but we've got to do a much better job of just holding our own responsibilities.

"Hopefully that's something we're able to shore up, because we know that that possibly could be a shortcoming for us, just with the nature of our roster."

Plainfield East put the match away with two late goals by Ben Basta, one right after the other.

With 4 minutes left, he put in a rebound goal in front of the net after Rolling Meadows goalkeeper Marceli Okonski stopped a hard shot but couldn't corral it.

A minute later, a low punt near the ground found its way to Basta. He calmly slid home his second.

Plainfield East coach Jake Lysik played in the Bradley-Bourbonnais tournament less than 10 years ago as a student-athlete at Lincoln-Way Central. He preached the importance of playing with energy. His team had its first match of the season called off, so the tourney was the Bengals' debut for 2023.

They defeated Class A Peotone on Aug. 25, then edged Washington (Ill.) in a shootout the next day to advance.

"Coming into it, we knew it was going to be a battle," Lysik said. "I felt comfortable in the sense that all week, I preached that if we come here and we work, especially off the ball, our talent on the ball was going to shine through. 

“I think today, especially this last game, we played our best brand of soccer. This was the best team we played this weekend. The boys generally just got better throughout the three games."

Rolling Meadows regrouped after its slow start to create a few dangerous chances midway through the first half.

Alex Kociubinski had a good look from about 10 yards on the left side after a deep entry found its way to him. But he blasted his shot over the net.

With just under 8 minutes left in the match, and Rolling Meadows still down just one goal, Lagunas sent a free kick on target that Plainfield East goalkeeper Michael Parent punched over the net.

Olson knows Lagunas is a valuable weapon, and he was grateful he was able to find the net on the corner kick that evened the score.

"Kalvin's going to open a lot of eyes in the area with what he's able to do with the ball on his foot," Olson said. "He just missed two of them earlier, and to be able to put it to a spot like that, it gave us a little bit of a jump there."

The tournament featured a wide array of teams, from smaller schools not far from Bradley-Bourbonnais. But teams like Rock Island, East Peoria, Washington (Ill.) and even Rolling Meadows had to make a bit of a road trip.

Olson said the long bus ride and staying at a hotel allowed for good team bonding. 

On the field, he knew Plainfield East was legit but didn't know what else to expect.

"To come down here and go 2-1-0, I'm not going to complain too much," Olson said. "It wasn't all perfect. We were able to learn a lot about our roster. It was our first bit of adversity through four games -- a lot of adversity -- and we didn't handle it very well. So, it's something that we're going to have to address."

The Mustangs face Huntley, a Class 3A regional finalist last year, on Tuesday (Aug. 29).

Olson knows the road will get tougher.

"They're going to have a pretty nice season, from what I hear and what I've heard from last year," Olson said. "I still don't have the answers, but I'll be able to go back and watch a little bit of film and see a couple things. But [it's important] as far as understanding some spots and really being able to focus and show the boys: 'Hey, we're telling you this; now we can see it. We're doing this in the game. This has got to be better, or we're going to be in this situation a lot more than we want to be.'"

Starting lineups

Rolling Meadows
GK: Marceli Okonski
D: Alex Chlopek
D: Christian Jablonski
D: Patryk Grzybowski
D: Rolando Carillo
MF: Brian Diaz
MF: Kalvin Lagunas
MF: Eltayeb Mahmoud
MF: Christian Sanchez
F: Jona San Roman
F: Alex Kociubinski

Plainfield East
GK: Michael Parent
D: Andres Vega
D: Joseph Dicosimo
D: Xander Wettergren
D: Nick Emrick
MF: J.P. Escobar
MF: Yandel Reyes
MF: Justin Fuernstahl
MF: Logan Saunder
F: Ben Basta
F: Trey Atkin

Chicagoland Soccer Man of the Match: Xander Wettergren, sr., D, Plainfield East

Scoring summary

First half
PE: J.P. Escobar (Wettergren), 14'
RM: Lagunas (CK), 30'

Second half
PE: Wettergren (Escobar CK), 41'
PE: Basta (UA), 56'
PE: Basta (UA), 57'