Trust the process.
That’s the message at Wheaton Warrenville South after the 2023 boys’ season. After reaching a regional title in 2022, the Tigers were unable to replicate that success after the highs and lows of an inconsistent season. The Tigers have bright spots to build on as the program seeks to move forward.
The DuKane Conference is one of the most competitive in Illinois. It features perennial heavyweights St. Charles East, St. Charles North and Geneva. Wheaton Warrenville South finished fifth this season in the eight-team league.
The Tigers’ final overall record of 5-10-3 was not what they hoped for before the season, however the future has promise. The team remained a solid unit throughout the season and picked itself up every time it got knocked down.
“I think, most importantly, we had a lot of fun just being with each other,” said senior captain and all-conference defender Brooks Becker. “You just leave the season on a loss, which is never fun. You just kinda think what could’ve been or what maybe you could have done differently to try to get that win, where you’d be right now.”
With only five seniors on the varsity roster, the grand majority of the team will return next year. That includes nine juniors and seven sophomores, an unusual amount of younger players for a varsity squad.
“We have a lot of young guys, a lot of returning starters. I just hope the best for them as I follow them after I graduate,” said Becker. “Pretty proud … I think they did well. I think they’re definitely gonna have bright futures as players and individuals.”
Experience played a major role throughout the season as the Tigers faced foes with more upperclassmen. Wheaton Warrenville South hopes this season becomes a stepping stone for future success. The team used 2023 as an opportunity to develop players and foment team chemistry.
“The teammates that we had, the communication that we had together on and off the field,” said senior captain and forward Erik Crisostomo. “It’s just the team bonding that we had.”
“I think, as I alluded to the senior class, probably their legacy lies in the outcomes in ‘24,” said head coach Guy Callipari. “Them providing a pathway and vision, what the possibilities and potential will be in another year given that a majority of the team is returning. … A year under their belt at this level is always significant and a positive to take away.”
The highest of the Tigers highlights in the 2023 campaign came from the win in the Wheaton Cup/DuKane Conference match Sept. 21 against bitter cross-town rival Wheaton North. It was a night the team won’t forget soon. Sophomore Semin Razman notched a hat-trick, and Crisostomo tallied a goal in what proved to be Wheaton Warrenville South’s best showing of the season. The victory ensured the Tigers’ possession of the Wheaton Cup trophy until the matchup is revisited next year.
“Definitely beating Wheaton North 4-0,” said Becker. “I think there was a lot of self-doubt coming around a few losses in conference that are close, or ties that we could’ve easily won. I think that was definitely a high. 4-0 is definitely a confident win; it wasn’t really shaky at all. We knew in that moment that we were a good team and that we could easily beat teams if we played our soccer and together.”
“We did get the answer to the equation against Wheaton North,” said Callipari. “I’m sure they feel relieved at that and having become Wheaton Cup champions again.”
An unusual evening occurred Oct. 10 at St. Charles East in the final game of the regular-season. The Fighting Saints needed the win to take the DuKane Conference title with a victory. They met tough opposition from the Tigers, and the scored was tied 0-0 in the second half when a penalty was called in favor of St. Charles East. Wheaton Warrenville South goalkeeper Jared Ferreira had already saved a penalty earlier.
Unfortunately a challenge from Callipari, regarding the referee’s decision and his issuance of a card to his keeper, resulted in him receiving two yellow cards/red card. It was only the third time in 33 years of coaching soccer between both the boys’ and girls’ programs that that happened. The Tigers had to forfeit the match, because there wasn’t an assistant on hand to lead the team for the rest of the game. Callipari later sent a letter to the coaches of the DuKane Conference addressing the ordeal.
Nevertheless, the team was able to take away positives from a strong 60-minute performance against the DuKane Conference champion, and regional and sectional winner.
“St. Charles East, the number one (team) in the conference, I think that was a really good game even though we did forfeit the game,” said Crisostomo.
Wheaton Warrenville South’s season ended in the IHSA regional semifinals against Geneva in a 2-1 loss. The 13-seeded Tigers put up a valiant effort, but the fourth-seeded Vikings were able to escape by one goal. It was a disappointing way to end the season, yet showcased the hallmark grittiness of Wheaton Warrenville South.
“For the playoffs, we didn’t get what we wanted, but we headed off the field with a good smile and all the good memories we’ve made,” said senior captain and midfielder Edgar Guzman.
With the final result of the 2023 season in mind, the Tigers already have expectations to climb back up the ranks of the league. The experience that has been gained through a tough overall schedule will prove to be invaluable moving forward.
“I hope the upcoming Tiger team is gonna be good, because we have all of the younger kids that were already on the team,” said Guzman. “I’m expecting high-quality work for the upcoming year.”
“The speed of play is important,” said Callipari. “A year makes a difference, and I think that box can be checked off in our favor next season. There won’t be any excuse in regard to experience, having played at this speed and the physicality that is varsity soccer.”
Wheaton Warrenville South is going through a process, but its objectives are clear. The goal entering the 2024 campaign is to vie for a first-ever DuKane Conference championship and return to the promised land in the IHSA playoffs.
“There are other things that certainly we can shoot for: within the conference; within the state playoff realm. It’s gonna take some work, but it’s promising,” said Callipari.