After stringing together a late five-match win streak last season that broke an 11-year regional drought and produced the first 10-win campaign since 2016 a year ago, Wheaton Warrenville South hopes to annex more success in 2023.
With a large group of players back from last season's 10-7-3 squad that beat Oswego 2-1 for the IHSA Class 3A Plainfield North Regional title match, the Tigers hope to post back-to-back regional championships for the first time since winning three titles in a row from 2005-2007. They also hope to post three-consecutive campaigns with .500 or better records, something that they last accomplished on an impressive run 2001 through 2009.
“Coming off a winning season, it’s very important to keep that momentum going and kind of keep that mindset,” senior defender and captain Brooks Becker said. “Winning a regional, it was kind of a relief. It felt really good to finally have that win under our belt. But also, the loss at the end kind of sticks with you too.”
Guy Callipari, a 2012 Illinois High School Soccer Coaches Association Hall of Fame inductee who recently started his 33rd season of leading the Tigers' boys program, is upbeat about what his squad might be able to achieve this season.
"We have 13 returning players," Callipari said. "We finished second in the DuKane Conference last season and will look to use that success going forward.
"We had 10 wins last season in a difficult schedule, so that will help us navigate in 2023. The large question is who can provide the opportunities in the offensive third of the field."
Callipari, who is assisted by Josh Bacheller, Eric Stajduhar, Malinda Holmer-Puc and Fabian Aranda, has also led Wheaton Warrenville South's girls program since 1995. He joins 2009 IHSSCA Hall of Famer Brian Papa and Lemont's Rick Prangen as the lone coaches in IHSA history to win 400-or-more matches in girls soccer and 300-or-more victories in boys soccer.
He's also one of only eight individuals who has collected 300 or more victories in both sports, joining IHSSCA Hall of Famers Andy Bitta, Tom Bower, Tim Dailey and Chris Phillips as well as Waterloo's Chad Holden in that elite company.
Repeating as a regional champion is a big deal to a program that won nine regionals from 1991-2012 and five in seven seasons between 2003 and 2009. It would also be another feather in the cap for the veteran Tigers coach, who began his boys career during the final season at the district's original school, Wheaton Central.
“I just look forward to every outing, because every outing has its own script, and its own outcome,” Callipari said. “We don’t know how it’s gonna play out, so I’m excited at the opening whistle to see what we need to work through. How do we respond to certain difficulties, and what’s our equation on the other side of the ball to answer problems that exist in the game?”
Wheaton Warrenville South graduated DuKane Conference and All-Sectional selections: midfielder and captain Gael Alfaro; midfielder and captain Chase Kedzior; and defender Nikhil Bawa. Former team captains, defender Jerry Cuatzo and forward Marco Gonzalez, also graduated.
There are several top returning players from the Tigers DuKane Conference runner-up to undefeated St. Charles East (6-0-1). Wheaton Warrenville South finished with a 4-1-2 league record and also won the Wheaton Cup by a 2-0 score over rival Wheaton North.
Players who led the way in the back are junior goalkeeper Jared Ferreyra (62 saves, 79.4 save percentage, 4.5 shutouts), Becker (3 goals) and junior defender Aaron Escareno (2 goals, 1 assist).
“I feel very confident in my defense,” Becker said. “I’ve got some good chemistry in the backline. We’ve all played together for at least two years now, so we kind of are familiar and we know where to be.”
Among the top returners in the midfield and at forward are senior midfielder and captain Edgar Guzman (3 assists), senior forward and captain Erik Crisostomo (1 goal, 2 assists),
junior forward Jet Oehrlein (4 goals, 4 assists), sophomore forward Semin Razman (3 goals, 2 assists), junior midfielder Diego Bautista (2 goals, assist) and junior midfielder Liam Smeir (goal).
“We’re feeling good,” Guzman said. “We have a couple players we also had last year, so we have that connection. We’re just thinking positive, going forward to the ball.”
“It’s a good feeling,” Crisostomo said. “You’re the one they count on to score most of the goals, the tap-ins, but also I think it’s a big role to fill. Last season, definitely with the players that we’ve had, it’s big shoes to fill up.”
Senior defender Matthew Boyle, senior goalkeeper Carroll Dunn, junior defender Quentin Oker and junior midfielder Rob Redlich return to help the cause.
The top newcomers include a trio of sophomores: defender Jay Weber; and midfielder Noah Giannasi and Leo Kise.
Fellow varsity rookies who aim to make an impact are junior defenders Nick Girup and Santiago Mosca and sophomore midfielders Max Barg, Am Za Lian and Nathan Vassios.
The Tigers are off to a 1-2-1 start. They opened the season with a 2-1 loss at Glenbard West on Aug. 21.
“I think that loss hit us, but I definitely think it had its benefits to show that it’s not gonna be easy,” Becker said.
Wheaton Warrenville South is 1-1-1 in its last three games. The Tigers lost 1-0 at home in a nonconference match against 2022 Upstate Eight Conference runnerup Glenbard East on Sept. 2 and tied Glenbard North 0-0 at home in its 2023 DuKane Conference opener on Aug. 31.
The club’s lone victory came via a 3-1 score victory at Schaumburg on Aug. 26.
Crisostomo scored twice, Razman added a goal and Girup had an assist in the Tigers' victory. In the team's opener, Oehrlein scored the goal off a Razman assist.
Wheaton Warrrenville South was unable to play its scheduled home opener against Oswego on Aug. 24 due to the excessive heat and saw its game Monday (Aug. 28) with Willowbrook posted to Sept. 30 due to a conflict with the Warriors rescheduled match for the Joe Novy Classic at Addison Trail.
The team used that extra time to put in added work.
“The more that we practice together, the chemistry that we have, we can build off of,” Crisostomo said.
After playing at Geneva tonight (Sept. 5) in their first DuKane Conference road match, the Tigers begin competition with a match against Carmel in the Body Armor event at 8 a.m. Saturday (Sept. 9) at Olympic Park in Schaumburg.
After finishing pool play in the event vs. Addison Trail at 4:45 p.m. at Metea Valley on September 11, the Tigers hope to take the group and earn a berth in the championship day Sept. 17.
Afterward, the team faces one of its toughest weeks when it hosts currently 11th-ranked St. Charles North on Sept. 19, entertains league rival Wheaton North in the Wheaton Cup two days later and plays at no. 4 York on Sept. 23.
“I think there’s sound leadership,” Callipari said. “I think we’re grounded in our perception of reality and what we’re capable of doing and playing within a system that allows them to flourish and develop and be confident in what they do.”
The Wheaton Warrenville South roster is: goalkeepers, Carroll Dunn, Jared Ferreyra; defenders, Aaron Escareño, captain Brooks Becker, Jay Weber, Matthew Boyle, Nick Girup, Quentin Oker, Santiago Mosca, midfielders, Am Za Lian, Diego Bautista, captain Edgar Guzman, Leo Kise, Liam Smeir, Max Barg, Nathan Vassios, Noah Gianassi, Rob Redlich, and forwards, captain Erik Crisostomo, Jet Oehrlein and Semin Razman.