AT boys soccer secured the Joe Novy tournament title on Saturday after winning four straight contests and beating Sycamore 2-1 in a lopsided scuffle involving several cards and numerous injuries.
AT’s new title came after the defeat of Proviso West (2-3-0), defending state champion West Chicago (4-1-0), Glenbard North (2-2-1), and finally the Spartans of Sycamore (3-1-0) during the championship game. This marked the first AT victory in the Joe Novy tournament since 2016.
It also kept AT’s flawless record alive, boosting them to a 4-0-0 start on the season.
“There’s a lot of things coming boys,” co-captain David Peters told his team after their fourth win of the season.
Taking down Sycamore was no appealing assignment. The Blazers were vertically challenged by the six foot tall Spartants, who were unafraid to play rough, racking up a whopping seven cards throughout the game.
Nevertheless, the Blazers dominated in the first half, keeping the ball away from their own starting goalie Mateo Gómez for much of the first 40 minutes’ duration.
The first goal of the game came with about 11 minutes left in the first half.
Midfielder Alex Sandoval looks for the ball near the sideline. Sandoval later scored the first goal of the game.
Co-captain Alex Sandoval managed to elude Spartans goalie Kevin Munoz on a penalty kick to put the Blazers up 1-0 and pump up the crazy crowd of fans.
The energy came to a screeching halt as the first half ended with a bloody collision between AT midfielder Frank Ruggieri and a Spartan, who both left the field with a wound to the head. The play resulted in a red card for AT.
In addition to strategy, these emotions were an emphasis during the huddle at halftime.
“This is what high school soccer is all about,” said assistant coach Angel Vega. “Let the emotions in.”
“They [Sycamore] are tired after one sprint,” said Sandoval. “They don’t want to play. We need to bring the intensity up. We want this more than them.”
The team ran back out ready to put away the game.
The Blazers’ plan was foiled instantly. After breaking through the Blazer defense, all that goalie Joey Dionne could do was dive as the Spartans shook the Blazers’ confidence with a game tying goal.
The game flew further out of hand as players were clobbered and yellow cards thrown and withheld without pattern.
“I don’t know what’s a yellow and what’s not,” said head coach Ryan Dini regarding the game’s card chaos.
After a collision near the box took out Munoz, AT capitalized. Forward Christian Alcaraz delivered an assist to Forward Peter Savinos, who scored on Sycamore’s replacement.
“I don’t know how it happened,” said Savinos. “I just stuck my leg out and it went in.”
AT played strong defense for the remainder of the game. Frustration seethed through the Spartans, who had managed to pick up more cards in the single game alone than the entire past season. Down to only 8 players in the final minutes due to fouls, there was nothing more that Sycamore could do. AT’s bench breathed a collective sigh of relief as the clock ran down and ran onto the field spraying gatorade and cheering. Fans ran to the field to celebrate with the rapturous team.
“Enjoy it right now,” Dini told his team. “Monday we go back to work.”
“Today, you guys are champions,” added Vega.
The 2-1 final score locked up AT’s first Joe Novy title since 2016. Fans ran to the field to celebrate with the rapturous team.
Dini said the next focus for the team is succeeding in conference.
“Conference is a different animal,” he said. “We’ll put this one behind us.”
AT is now ranked number 20 in the Chicagoland Soccer State Rankings.