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Game story: New Trier takes the air out of Round Lake

By Patrick Z. McGavin, 09/03/23, 10:00PM CDT


Aidan O’Neill notches 2 PKs, Trevians win own tourney

NORTHFIELD – While the numerical value of a goal never changes, the circumstances and nature vary wildly.

“Whenever you score a goal, the effect on the other team is always very visible,” New Trier midfielder Aidan O’Neill said. 

“You can almost see their spirits fall, especially if it’s an early goal.”

And nothing stings quite like a penalty shot score.

O’Neill scored the first of his two penalty kicks goals in the 13th minute as the Trevians, ranked seventh in the Chicagoland Soccer Top 25, powered to a 3-0 victory over Round Lake in the championship game of the Northside College Showcase on Saturday.

The early goal was created off a bang-bang play that originated out of the New Trier back third.

Defender Liam Myers smashed a high through-ball that turned into a mad dash between O’Neill and Panthers’ keeper Gio Ayala coming off his line.

The explosive O’Neill reached the ball a split second earlier and got the first touch. The referee ruled the resulting collision was a foul inside the box.

“For me, everything is about reading the game, and also reading the other players in their body language,” O’Neill said.

“It’s about checking their shoulders. The big thing is who wants the ball first. It’s all about confidence.”

O’Neill drilled his PK into the upper left-hand corner.

Round Lake (3-2-0) never fully recovered. 

“It’s tough sometimes when you have a call that doesn’t go your way,” Round Lake coach Hugo Tellez said.

“It’s very damaging to the players. I thought it also had an effect on the coaches. It doesn’t help when the game gets out of your reach.”

The Panthers have always seemed to be an under-the-radar team notorious for being insufficiently recognized with a poor seed in the state tournament.

After dropping their first pool play game to no. 6 Lyons 2-1, the team rallied to reach the tournament championship game with victories over Buffalo Grove and Waukegan.

“I thought after our first game against Lyons, we were suffering a little bit. But after that we really picked up our energy,” midfielder Oscar Martinez said.

“Today we didn’t really have our heads on straight. They were obviously the better team, but it feels great to be able to reach the final with basically a brand-new team from last year.”

New Trier's Myers, keeper Thomas Terry and center back Kevin Farina are the only returning starters for New Trier from last season.

With his sixth and seventh goals, O’Neill has picked up the primary scoring burden after the graduation of forwards Matthew Perchikand  Aidan Nicholson, and midfielder Evan Kanellos.

“Maybe it’s because of the turnover of the roster, but with this group there is just a freshness and an optimism,” New Trier coach Matt Ravenscraft said.

“What we have tried to instill with the guys is that as much as we want to keep the ball, we want to be able to attack. We want to be able to put teams under pressure. Today we were able to do that and create the early scoring opportunities.”

In a sharp combination play that preceded the foul in the box, O’Neill worked a great action with forward Ethan Green that illustrated that early aggressiveness and pressure.

“I think the reason for our start is just the leadership of our captains and coaches,” O’Neill said.

“We worked for two or three weeks during the summer, and that definitely helped us connect. The captains have each been together for about two or three years, and that has also helped.”

Terry maintained New Trier’s 1-0 advantage at the break with a terrific diving stop of a left-footed ball that Martinez shot from about 14 yards in the 35th minute.

Myers, who played more in the midfield last year, and Farina are the bulwarks of a skilled, athletic backline that denied Round Lake’s transition attack.

Farina, Myers and midfielder Ian Vichnick are the captains now tasked with leading the team to maintain the program’s lofty status.

“I learned a lot from the captains we had last year,” Farina said of Colin Gottshall, Kanellos and Matthew Perchik.  “They were very influential. Seeing them and how they acted, I have tried to model myself after their behavior.”

Rangy and angular, Farina is great in the air. He brings a physical presence and savvy.

“Our back has been playing together for two or three years, so we didn’t have to work on chemistry,” Farina said. “It was already there.”

Myers helped put the game away at the start of the second half.

In the 45th minute he smashed a beautiful service from the right wing that midfielder Gael Morales finished with a superb header for the crucial follow-up goal.

Just seconds before the actual goal, the two just missed combining for a score.

“I think, especially playing in these conditions, very hot, a Saturday morning, 90-degree heat, you can’t get down on yourself,” Morales said.

“You just have to grind it out, and you have to keep pushing no matter what happens. I think that desire is what helped me get the goal.”

The emotional ramifications always spill out. As exhilarating as the second goal was for the Trevains, it was equally crushing for the Panthers.

“You could just see it on the Round Lake players, and how they got down on themselves,” Morales said. “We just kept pushing.”

Terry finished with four saves for the clean-sheet.

In a bookend action befitting a circular structure, the game closed how it began -- with an O’Neill penalty kick finish. This time it came after he was shoved from behind as he advanced toward the goal.

Round Lake substitute keeper Rames Rodriguez, who replaced Ayala for the final 20 minutes, got a hand on the spot-kick, but the force behind it pushed it past him.

“Wherever I want to go, I hit it,” O’Neill said.

He earned the Chicagoland Soccer Man of the Match distinction for his play.

“‘I thought both of the penalties were deserved,” Ravenscraft said. “It helps to have a guy like Aidan who can put those away.” 

While there are new players at New Trier, it’s still the same old song.

“It has been really fun as a coach to watch this team come together,” Ravenscraft said. “This was a great result against a quality team. As good as it was, there is a lot that we can continue to work on and improve.”

Starting lineups

Round Lake
GK: Gio Ayala
D: Justin Hernandez
D: Luis Salinas
D: Iroel Velazquez 
D: Alex Corona
MF: Oscar Martinez
MF: Victor Botello
MF: Sebastian Herrera
MF: Anthony Acosta
F: Giovanni Bonilla
F: Jorge Morales

New Trier
GK: Thomas Terry 
D: Liam Myers
D: Kevin Farina
D: Harrison Hahner
D: Tony Markus
MF: Aidan O’Neill
MF: Gabe Yoder
MF: Ian Vichnick
MF: Gael Morales
F: Cole Driscoll
F: Ethan Green

Chicagoland Soccer Man of the Match: Aidan O’Neill, sr., MF, New Trier

Scoring summary

First half
New Trier: Aidan O’Neill (penalty kick), 13th minute

Second half
New Trier: Gael Morales (Liam Myers), 45th minute
New Trier: O’Neill (penalty kick), 70th minute