In addition to dramatic wins and losses, York coach Jordan Stopka will remember his 2023 team for their spirited practices.
“I’ve had a lot of fun with a lot of teams, but this team was the most fun to train with. Every day on the training pitch, you never knew what was going to happen,” Stopka said. “We had little heated rivalries and kids asked to switch (practice) teams. Normally we’d be like ‘No,’ but it increased the competition. They were always fun rivalries, like teasing each other. They were friends.”
The competitive spirit carried over to game days. York, ranked 16th in the state in the Chicagoland Soccer Final 50 poll, ended the season with a 16-5-0 overall record and took second place in the West Suburban League Silver Division with a 4-2-x mark.
The squad knew when to get down to business during practices according to senior co-captain and DePaul commit Jayden Waski.
“Our team had two dynamics, when it was time to get serious, we would train hard with an extra gear. Before and after practice we would goof around and bond as a team. This allowed us to have a strong team dynamic,” the senior said. “There was also a lot of team banter and trash-talking. This brought us together as a team and prepared us for the high school atmosphere.”
In early September the Dukes advanced to the semifinals of the Streamwood Fall Classic on Sept. 15, where they suffered a PK loss after 100 scoreless minutes to Oak Park and River Forest, which ranked fourth in the Final 50. The Huskies had previously handed York its first loss of the season and only home defeat 3-1 Sept. 7 in conference play.
York’s 4-3 road win in one overtime over league rival Hinsdale Central on Oct. 3 was one of the highlights of the season, according to Stopka.
“Rico hit a free kick in overtime. It was a 30-yard missile into the corner, which was awesome,” the Dukes coach said.
Senior midfielder and team co-captain Gustavo Herrera prefers to be called Rico. The dramatic Hinsdale Central win was Herrera’s favorite match.
“It was an amazing game. We were down 3-1 in the second half, and we tied it up with 10 minutes to go.” said the senior. “Then in OT, I had an incredible free kick to win us the game.”
Waski relished York’s Senior Night win over Glenbard North on Sept. 28.
“Last year, we struggled against DGN (Downers Grove North) on Senior Night (albeit in a 3-1 win), and we didn’t want to have the same experience this year,” Waski said. “Glenbard North was a solid team to play on Senior Night, but fortunately we had plenty of supporters there to cheer us on.
“We had what we call ‘TESC Night’ where our local youth club came to the game to support us. We were able to get a 3-0 win and had all of the seniors play,” he continued. “This was a super special occasion to witness and be a part of.”
Although it was a 4-3 loss, the Oct. 10 contest against conference foe Lyons was also unforgettable for Stopka. The Lions went on to finish second at the state tournament.
“Very memorable game. Rico actually had a hat-trick in that game,” he said. “Rico had three of the best goals of the season all in one game, and we still lost.”
Herrera and classmate Damian Glodz provided most of York’s offense. Herrera finished the season with 14 goals while Glodz tallied 18.
“Rico’s 14 goals are a little more impressive, because we moved him all over the place this year. Sometimes he played wing for us, but he also played center mid for us,” the Dukes manager said.
“He also had a plethora of assists (nine). He kind of carried us to the beginning of the season.”
Glodz went from the backline to the front line.
“Damian is a converted outside back. He asked me at the beginning of the year if he could play forward. We didn’t have a de facto no. 1. I told him you have the body for it, you could be.” said Stopka. “Damian played hold-up forward for us, and he did a great job. He improved during the season and was 10 times better in the playoffs than he was in the regular-season.”
Waski scored 10 goals for York.
“Jayden was a big part of our offense as well. He had some highlight goals,” the York coach said. “He was always dangerous with the ball at his feet -- very quick forward, very good dribbling abilities.”
Seniors Mateusz Janowski and Alexander Menolascina were defensive linchpins.
“On the backline, the standout in my opinion was one of our captains, Mateusz Janowski. He had a lot to do with our success,” Stopka said.
“Alexander really picked it up. I think he played his best soccer in the playoffs, scored a goal from a corner.” said the York coach. “I think he was our best defender in that Saint Charles East game.
“Our holding mid Michael Greco is the unsung hero of the team. He does the most amount of work but gets the least amount of recognition,” Stopka said. “That kid just runs everywhere; he gets a lot of cardio out there.”
The West Suburban Conference didn’t miss Greco’s abilities. The senior, along with Herrera, Glodz, Janowski and Waski, were named to the Silver Division All-Conference Team.
Junior goalkeepers Diego Ochoa and Aaron Rivera are two of the six non-seniors on the squad. Ochoa started between the pipes.
“Ochoa played really well. He made some huge saves in both postseason shootouts,” said Stopka. “He played the ball well to our wingers. He can distribute well.”
Rivera started three matches while Ochoa was out with a medical issue. The Dukes won all three contests.
Junior defenders Oliver Connor and Freddie Steen also made contributions.
“Oliver was wonderful. He really slid into the left back for us,” the Dukes coach said. “Freddie played a lot of valuable minutes.”
Stopka sees good things ahead for junior Aaron Jobi, who scored three crucial playoff goals.
“I’m really excited to see how much he develops over the next year,” he said. “He played really well against Glenbard East (a PK win in the Schaumburg Regional final Oct. 20); he scored the game-tying goal.
“Then he scored an overtime goal against Glenbard West the next game (a 4-2 West Chicago Sectional semifinal win in double OT); and then he scored our only goal against St. Charles East in the sectional final game (a shootout loss Oct. 28). Arguably, he scored three of the most important goals of the season.”
The loss that ended the season stopped the Dukes chance to stretch their string of state final appearances to three. After the program's first regional title in 13 years in 2019 and the missed 2020 COVID-19 season, York exploded into the soccer hierarchy with the 3A title in 2021 and a fourth place finish in 2021.
Next fall the team will try to win its fifth-straight regional and more.
Glodz’s younger brother Dom already has already earned his spot on that varsity roster. The sophomore was brought up from junior varsity for the playoffs.
“He actually played the whole second half in both matches at the West Chicago Sectional,” said Stopka. “He was the best attacking midfielder, so he pretty much solidified his spot for next year.”