OPRF soccer not about to hit panic button yet

Injuries don't exactly impede gutsy (and classy) team

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By BRAD SPENCER

Soccer Playoffs
There is no reason to panic. There is no reason to call it a season. There is no reason to hang your head and mope about like a bereft Charlie Brown. According to OPRF head soccer coach Paul Wright his injury plagued team is ready for the IHSA State playoffs.

The Huskies (12-4-3, 3-2) may not be fully healed going into next week's first round regional match-up against Orr but the bulk of those bruised and battered?#34;up to five injured at one time?#34;have already returned to action. Assuming they get past Orr, the No. 3 seeded Huskies are expected to take on St. Joseph on the following Friday (Oct. 21) for the Oak Park Regional title game (3:30 p.m.).

But for this team, there's bigger fish to fry than St. Joe. Wright made it abundantly clear in an e-mail interview last week that it's West Suburban (Silver) Conference foe Lyons Township the Huskies are gunning for. They could face the Lions (13-1-3, 6-0) in the LaGrange Sectional title game on Oct. 27 if all goes as planned.

"I am not worried and neither are my men. Lyons escaped with a 1-0 victory [on Sept. 29] during a pretty evenly matched game ? Our team has a ton of depth and that will take us places," wrote Wright. "I and my players have not forgotten [reporter] Joe Trost's poor word choice in the Chicago Sun-Times about the Lyons game."

Wright did not elaborate on the wording of the story in the Sun-Times, though the headline did state: "Lyons sensing big things after stuffing Oak Park 1-0."

It'll take depth and more of OPRF's gusty play for the Huskies to possibly see No. 1 seeded Lyons, who won the WSC outright with a perfect 6-0 record. OPRF may face such foes as Fenwick, a 15th seed who has struggled in its first year transitioning from Class A to Class AA, or Morton, the No. 2 seed.

The problem for OPRF is key injuries may still be a factor. Defensive stopper Aaron Press is expected to be out another week with an ankle injury, and Wright was considering resting leading scorer Robin Hargadon and his pulled leg muscle through the regional. Two other members of OPRF's walking wounded, Hilel Ehrman and Liam Bird, are healing as well. Bird played sparingly in OPRF's 0-0 tie against Wheaton-Warrenville South on Oct. 5. And Ehrman, Wright said, should be ready for the late rounds of the playoffs.

The Huskies will need to be at full strength against Lyons (13-1-3), who boast such players as Kyle Luetkehans (15 assists on the year) and Pat Magnesen. But Wright isn't exaggerating about his team's depth. It seems Hargadon's absence hasn't been too detrimental to the offense. Mark Rosenberg has stepped up play. Rosenberg scored two goals in the Huskies' 3-0 shutout of Glenbard West on Oct. 4. And then there's always the defense. Goalkeeper Jim Gullo has 10 shutouts under his belt this season.

Wright and his players haven't let a few injuries set them back. It seems the chemistry remains intact, not to mention the good humor. Wright ended the e-mail interview with this: "Derek Baron and Mark Olsen were voted classiest looking team managers by the varsity soccer team (please include in article)."

It seems this team is having fun despite the setbacks.

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