Winning a state championship is the ultimate dream, but first things first for the Riverside-Brookfield soccer team. After dropping a decision to Little Village on penalty kicks during the 2008 playoffs, the Bulldogs’ primary goal this year remains a first-ever regional soccer title for the school.

“Anything less [than a regional championship] would be a disappointment,” said RB defender Tim Hannigan. “We know we have a great chance especially with the team we have this year.”

The host Bulldogs have already advanced to their Class 2A regional championship game this Saturday (1:15 p.m.).

“I found out that the team from Chicago we were scheduled to play [in our regional opener] is going to forfeit,” RB coach Danny Makaric said. “It’s a bit unlucky for us because we would have liked to play, but we will be ready for the championship game. It’s a historic opportunity for RB to win its first-ever soccer regional, and I think this time it will be better than last year.”

Makaric’s optimism stems from an experienced squad that finished 12-3 on the season, including an 8-2 mark to win the Metro Suburban Conference.

The Bulldogs secured their conference title by knocking off Illiana Christian 3-2 in overtime last Thursday (Oct. 15) at RB. The previous night, RB notched a 2-1 victory over rival Nazareth on Senior Night. Tyler Polanski scored a goal and Billy Hansa converted a penalty kick to give the Bulldogs a 2-0 lead. The Roadrunners’ John McLachlan answered with a goal, but the RB defense, anchored by Jerry Brown, Stephen McCroary, Hannigan and goalkeeper Mark Benya, held off Nazareth.

“I think [the Nazareth game] was important to win especially being our Senior Night,” Hannigan said. “The seniors on our team have been playing together even before high school. We all know each other well and our chemistry has really grown through the years.”

While RB’s 10 seniors have been vital to the success of the team, Makaric’s squad also features several talented younger players, particularly on offense.

Junior Alex Amaya and sophomore Ruben Chavez, along with freshmen Cayetano Chavez and Eduardo Marentes are all scoring threats for RB.

“I think we have a real good mix of players on offense and defense,” Amaya said. “In the playoffs, we have to play well in order to win and go as far as we think we can.”

If the Bulldogs win their regional, capturing the St. Francis Sectional will likely be more difficult. Top-seed St. Joseph, No. 2 seed Glenbard South, No. 3 RB, No. 4 Nazareth and No. 5 Chicago U-High are viable contenders for the sectional title.

Makaric hopes defender Charles Suhajda and midfielder Rafeal Romero return from injury in time for the playoffs.

“St. Joe’s is a top team and Glenbard South is awesome, too,” Makaric said. “I hope that we have our full squad for the playoffs.”