Junior Tomas Kunickas and his Riverside Brookfield High School boys soccer teammates couldn’t get a break the past three weeks.
So the Bulldogs created their own, Sept. 20.
Kunickas’ free kick into the crease near forward Kenzo DeLemos was deflected by an opposing defender into the goal with just 10:45 left to give the Bulldogs a key 2-1 Metro Suburban Conference victory over Ridgewood.
His free kick was near the 20-yard line near the right sideline.
“I just tried to put it in the box, put something dangerous in there and luck just happened and it went in,” Kunickas said. “I think the defender hit it in. He tried to clear it and he tipped it a little bit.”
The Bulldogs (4-7-1, 1-1-0 in MSC) snapped a six-game losing streak and earned their first September victory.
RBHS hadn’t won since Aug. 29 and had endured a 2-1 overtime loss to Andrew, Aug. 31, for the Reavis Tournament title, a last-minute 2-1 loss to rival Morton, and two 1-0 defeats.
Against Ridgewood, the Bulldogs led 17-9 in shots (8-4 in first half). They especially had momentum after Kunickas scored first with 29:28 left in the first half after Diego Castillo intercepted a clear and quickly passed.
Surging Ridgewood tied the game with 30:07 to go. The Rebels (7-5-1, 1-1-0) were riding a five-game winning streak.
“I’m very pleased with the team’s composure, even giving up that [tying] goal. We stayed disciplined, continued our game,” RBHS coach Ivek Halic said. “It got chippy at the end but a good game all the way around against a good opponent. They played very, very well.”
This year’s revamped MSC has home-and-away matches among all four teams. RBHS lost at Elmwood Park 1-0, Sept. 7, but play host to the Tigers on Thursday.
The Bulldogs were last year’s co-champions. They last won back-to-back MSC titles in 2011-12.
“It’s definitely our main goal this year,” Kunickas said. “Losing our first game kind of set us back a little bit, but we’re going to bounce back in every game of conference.”
Standout midfielder Max Swicionis suffered a hip injury on the foul that resulted in Kunickas’ winning free kick and sat out the rest of the game.
“I didn’t see [the winning goal]. I heard it and I saw the end,” Swicionis said. “A little bit of a pick-me-up even though I was in pain.”
Defensively, the Bulldogs remain hopeful for the return of co-captain Liam Hickey, who has yet to return from a stress fracture in his hip.
Hickey was slated to play center back with junior Massimo Franceschina.
He and the Bulldogs were elated by their first home victory in only their second home game.
“It’s great, especially seeing our fans are here screaming our names, giving us their support, seeing our parents,” Franceschina said.
“These past couple of games, where we’ve been losing, we haven’t been possessing well. We have worked on this in practice a lot and it definitely showed. We were able to possess, play some simple passes to build up to the front, creating more chances for our strikers and midfielders to score.”
On Saturday, the Bulldogs tied Solorio 2-2 with a second-half goal. Kunickas again scored twice, with an assist from Will Sessler, following a first-half penalty kick.