Boys soccer preview '09: A young team is dreaming big
Published: Wednesday, August 26, 2009 - 9:33am
Head Coach: Philip Anders (third season)
2008 Record: 12-7-1 overall, 4-0 East Central Illinois Conference (ECIC champs), reached Class 1A regional semifinals, losing to Judah Christian 2-1
Key Losses: Holden Bucher, Carter Hutchens, Noel Knox, Carl Pearson, Russell Prochaska, Stephen Prochaska
Key Returnees: Seniors Dan Lilly, Eddie Diazmunoz, Nile Hamer, Neil Pearson
Outlook: Senior veterans will provide excellent core for this otherwise young team to build around. If underclassmen such as freshmen Patrick Wong, Tarik Koric, Freddie Stavins, and sophomores Conrad Schloer and Brandon Lin have the breakthrough years they're capable of, look for the Illineks to go deep into the Class 1A postseason.
Dates to Remember: Aug. 27 (season begins at St. Joseph-Ogden), Aug. 29 (Uni High Soccer Shoot Out), Sept. 1 (away game against rival Judah Christian), Oct. 8 (final home game of regular season vs. St. Thomas More), Oct. 13 (Class 1A regionals begin)
Eddie Diazmunoz, shown in action during last year's playoff win over Oakwood, will join fellow senior Dan Lilly as one of the team's offensive leaders this season. Gargoyle photo by Sindha Agha (click to enlarge)
URBANA — As far as soccer seasons go, last year was definitely one to remember for the Uni High boys squad.
Who could forget the junior sensation, Dan Lilly, as he scored his way to an area-best 30 goals for the season? Or the stifling defense that recorded six shutouts?
“What was frustrating about it was that we broke down a little bit,” says head coach Phil Anders of that defeat. “We had the better team, but we didn’t look like it on that night. And so, consistency is something that we need to develop.”
With the Illineks set to begin their season Thursday at St. Joseph-Ogden followed by Saturday’s ninth annual Uni High Soccer Shoot Out, Anders is looking for his players to do just that, though he has a much younger team to work with this time.
Following the 2008 campaign, in which they compiled a 12-7-1 record and went 4-0 in the East Central Illinois Conference, the Illineks lost a good portion of their defense to graduation, including key contributors Carl Pearson, Holden Bucher, and Carter Hutchens.
Though the losses were great, Anders has been surprised by some of the freshman talent that has emerged on both the offensive and defensive sides of the field.
“Tarik [Koric] has a good sense for the game. He’s going to be someone to watch,” he says. “Patrick Wong is another one who we’ll see in the attack, feeding into corners. Freddie [Stavins] is another one who I think will get broken in quickly into our defensive line.”
The newcomers have shown a desire to work hard and improve their game. Though he already shows promise, Wong has had to make a few adjustments to play at the high school level.
“The players are obviously a lot bigger. Usually, they’re a lot faster, too,” says Wong. “You have to play quicker with your passes and you have to be a lot more dependent on your teammates.”
The Uni head coach talks about his team's upcoming season.
Click to listen (1:39)
Helping the freshmen ease their transition are Lilly and fellow seniors Eddie Diazmunoz, Neil Pearson, and Nile Hamer, all veterans of extensive varsity play.
Pearson, who along with Lilly is listed on The News-Gazette's preseason poll as one of the top 50 players in the area for 2009, provides some much-needed experience and leadership on the defensive end, which will be anchored again by Hamer in goal. Despite the heavy losses on defense, he is optimistic about the team’s defensive prospects.
“[Sophomore] Brandon Lin is a defensive powerhouse,” he says. “Freddie is a talented and hard-working guy, and [junior] Chris [Mathy] can drop back and help us out. Despite his small stature, [senior] Jasper [Maniates-Selvin] is a skilled left-footer we are lucky to have.”
As far as how well the defense will hold up, fans will just have to wait and see. As Anders says, “We’re not game tested yet.”
While there are some question marks for the Uni defense, the offense promises to build off of last year’s success by adding more threats to an already potent attack. Diazmunoz and Lilly, now with another year’s worth of experience, look forward to leading the team and helping everyone improve.
“We have a young team this year,” says Diazmunoz. “I think we’re just going to have to work a lot harder, not doing a lot of running, but working more on ball skills and off-the-ball skills.”
One person who doesn't need much polishing on his game is Lilly. Last year’s area-leading scorer spent the summer playing at Northwestern University’s soccer camp and at the Illinois Olympic Development Program. Now entering his final year of high school, Lilly is looking to make 2009 one of Uni soccer’s most successful seasons ever.
“[Last fall] I improved my scoring a lot from the year before so I’m not going to catch anyone by surprise this year,” says Lilly. “Teams will have plans to stop me most likely, so I’ll just see how it goes. I don’t need to score that much; I would like to win more games than last year. That would be better.”
Anders is also expecting Lilly improve over last season.
“He’s competitive. That’s his own standard, and I hold him up to that,” says Anders. “I’m going to push him, but I think Dan has got some lofty goals. We’re out here to help him be successful.”
So with a slew of fresh faces built around a group of solid returnees, does this team have what it takes to make a run at state?
“We’ve got a pretty good program, and I think that there’s always a chance, even with the young squad we have,” says Anders. “We don’t usually have big, huge players. We don’t have true seniors, often. So, if we’re going to win state, we’re going to do it with freshmen and sophomores.”
According to Anders, a lot of playoff success depends on a team developing over the course of a season and peaking at the right time. The Illineks will have that in mind as they start their season this week.
As Pearson says, “If you can dream it, you can do it!”
2009 Boys Soccer Team Roster
- Tahar Bowen-Pinto (so)
- James Boyle (fr)
- Juan Chapa (so)
- Eddie Diazmunoz (sr)
- Dax Earl (so)
- John Gillette (fr)
- David Gong (fr)
- Andrew Graham (fr)
- Nile Hamer (sr)
- Edward Hsieh (so)
- Tarik Koric (fr)
- Kevin Kuo (so)
- Benjamin Lee (sr)
- Daniel Lilly (sr)
- Brandon Lin (so)
- Andrew Lumetta (fr)
- Sidanth Madhubalan (so)
- Jasper Maniates-Selvin (sr)
- Chris Mathy (jr)
- Alejandro Mestre (fr)
- Christopher Nguyen (so)
- Arnav Pamidighantam (sr)
- Neil Pearson (sr)
- Edo Roth (fr)
- George Ruan (fr)
- Conrad Schloer (so)
- Paul Seeley (fr)
- John Shapley (so)
- Maxim Sigalov (fr)
- Ian Slauch (jr)
- Christopher Sligar (fr)
- Joseph Song (so)
- Freddie Stavins (fr)
- Aaron Wilson (fr)
- Ezra Winter-Nelson (so)
- Patrick Wong (fr)
- Michael Zhivov (jr)
2009 Boys Soccer Schedule
Note: Homes games are played at DCR Field, Lincoln and Florida avenues, Urbana; in contests involving both varsity and JV, varsity plays first
- Aug. 27: at St. Joseph-Ogden, 4:30 p.m. (V only)
- Aug. 29: vs. Oakwood, 8:30 a.m. (Uni High Shoot Out, V)
- Aug. 29: vs. Blue Ridge, 11:45 a.m. (Uni High Shoot Out, V)
- Aug. 29: vs. Fisher, 4:15 p.m. (Uni High Shoot Out, V)
- Sept. 1: at Judah Christian,* 4:30 p.m. (V/JV)
- Sept. 3: Mahomet-Seymour, 4:30 p.m. (V/JV)
- Sept. 5: Monticello, 10 a.m. (V/JV)
- Sept. 8: at Fisher, 4:30 p.m. (V/JV)
- Sept. 10: Decatur Christian,* 4:30 p.m. (V)
- Sept. 12: Sullivan, 2 p.m. (V/JV)
- Sept. 15: at Oakwood, 4:30 p.m. (V)
- Sept. 15: Danville Baptist, 4:30 p.m. (JV)
- Sept. 17: Danville Schlarman, 4:30 p.m. (V/JV)
- Sept. 22: at Decatur Lutheran,* 4:30 p.m. (V)
- Sept. 24: at Champaign Central, 4:30 p.m. (V/JV)
- Sept. 28: Warrensburg-Latham, 4:30 p.m. (V/JV)
- Oct. 1: Normal Calvary Baptist,* 4:30 p.m. (V)
- Oct. 3: at Urbana, 10 a.m. (V/JV)
- Oct. 6: at Tolono Unity, 4:30 p.m. (V)
- Oct. 6: at Danville Baptist, 4:30 p.m. (JV)
- Oct. 8: St. Thomas More, 4:15 p.m. (V/JV)
- Oct. 12: at Monticello JV Tourney, opponents/times TBA (JV)
- Oct. 13: IHSA Class 1A Regional Playoffs, location/opponent/time TBA (V)
* East Central Illinois Conference opponent