Heading into this season, the Minooka soccer team would seem to have the largest shoes to fill of any team in the area. After all, Mo Esquivel and his 20 goals graduated.
“We have a lot of offensive mindset to the team this year, we just don’t have Mo,” Minooka coach Chris Brolley said at a recent practice. “We’re going to have to pick up goals in other places, but we have to tighten the defense up first.”
Despite the goals, who picks up the slack for the Indians this fall?
“We have talented guys on the team,” Brolley said. “And guys who can put some goals into the back of the net. You can’t predict a season like Mo’s, but if I could get five or six goals from each of them, that’s how you do it.”
Minooka senior captain Giacomo Raimondi thinks the Indians will be fine this season.
“We all have to work together. We have been scoring goals in the summer league, we just have to transition that into the season,” he said. “I don’t think scoring goals will be a problem.”
Fellow senior captain Griffith Messina said Esquivel’s success last year was not just because of Esquivel.
“For us it was not just Mo. It was the whole team. He was attacking the ball offensively, but someone was stealing the ball and getting it to him,” he said. “For this year, we have to do the same thing by looking for Giacomo up top so we can score. But it’s not just about him. It has to be about the whole team.”
In addition to compensating for the loss of Esquivel, the Indians are trying to learn a new defensive formation.
“We’ve changed it up a little bit this year. We’re playing a different defense. It’s a whole team defense that we are trying to teach,” Brolley said. “The flat-back four. ... It’s more of a zone defense instead of a man-to-man defense.”
Last year Minooka tied for second place in the Southwest Prairie Conference and a lot of that positive energy has spilled over to the current team.
“We’ve had a lot of excitement surrounding this team. We have a lot of younger kids who are talented and I can’t wait to see them develop against other teams,” Brolley said. “Practices have been great and competitive. The seniors have been great. They are leading the team and doing things the right way.”
And the conference?
“Last year we went 4-3 in the conference and every game was close again. We finished tied for second, but we’d like to get a better record,” Brolley said. “We’d like to bounce back and have a 5-2 or a 6-1 record this year.”
Raimondi thinks the team can also do one better.
“Like last year, we want to compete at the top of the conference, and I feel like we have the chance to go into the regional and winning a title,” he said.
Minooka kicks off the season today at 4:30 p.m. in Lockport.