After a deflating start this season with three straight losses by a combined score of 12-2, the Riverside-Brookfield High School boys soccer team has rebounded beautifully.
The Bulldogs have rattled off six consecutive wins, with the team clicking in a way that seemed implausible earlier this season. In stark contrast to the opening trio of games, RBHS has outscored its opponents 17-1 over the past six.
"This was a new group of players who had played with different club teams around the community," RBHS coach Ivek Halicsaid. "It took time for these players to build chemistry and adjust to different formations and schemes."
The team opened up with a lopsided loss to Oak Park and River Forest, 7-1. That defeat was excusable considering the Huskies are a talented team that shared a title last year in the West Suburban Conference Silver Division. The Bulldogs were then shut out by Larkin, 3-0, and narrowly beaten by Leyden 2-1. All of the losses came during the Leyden Invite.
Since then, the Bulldogs have ripped through a slew of teams. In the first half of the streak, RBHS shut out all opponents. First, Chicago Christian went down 2-0, then Kennedy 1-0, then Evergreen Park 4-0. The next three victories came against Ridgewood, Kelly on Senior Night, and Back of the Yards College Prep.
"The players have since adjusted very well since the start of the season and are working as a team," Halicsaid. "I am very pleased with the leadership on this team."
Indeed, team captains Aaron Palmer and Daniel Sessler have played integral roles during the team's turnaround.
Fellow leaders Daniel Villegas, Oscar Rojas and Kyle Paeth comprise the rest of the senior group on the team.
Juniors Garrett Foy and Trace Haage have also made an impact on the field, as well as talented sophomore Xander Sanchez.
RBHS started off slowly last year as well, dropping an identical slate of its first three games. Although the Bulldogs won a couple games after their sluggish start in 2017, the team never fully recovered and finished the season below .500.
Sessler, a good athlete who also plays basketball at RBHS, has been a vital part of the team's success. He's an instinctive, rangy goalkeeper. Sessler's ability to collect clean sheets during the Bulldogs' winning streak has taken some pressure off the other players.
Offensively, Villegas is the Bulldogs' top playmaker and goal scorer.
Perhaps even more important than the six-game winning streak is the fact that the Bulldogs are now 2-0 in Metro Suburban Conference play. The most recent victory for the red-hot squad came in the first game of the PepsiCo Tournament.
Best of all, the players are winning together.
"It's been a great group of players that has been very supportive and encouraging to each other," Halic said. "The team dynamic has definitely contributed to our success so far this season."
RBHS looks to extend its win streak to seven in a row in the second round of the PepsiCo Tournament against St. Edward. If the Bulldogs beat the Green Wave, they'll have a real shot at competing in the Metro Suburban Conference and easily eclipsing their win total from last season.
Along with more matches at the PepsiCo Tournament, the Bulldogs host Timothy Christian (Sept. 20/6:30 p.m.) and Argo (Sept. 22/noon).