For the Fenwick boys soccer team to be undefeated in 15 of its 21 games heading into the final week of the regular season shows the Friars are starting to put the pieces together under second-year coach Robert Watson.
But that hasn’t been the easiest thing to do for Watson and Co. Thanks to countless injuries, piecing the Friars together has been like trying to finish a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle.
“Our season has been great considering the amount of injuries and illnesses we’ve had,” said Watson, whose team owns a 13-6-2 overall record. “We started out very well by winning the Willowbrook tourney. But then we ran into some tough times during the Pepsi Showdown with four or five starters on the bench because of injuries. But when we got most of the guys healthy for the Catholic League, we showed what we could do with wins over St. Ignatius and Brother Rice.”
Defense has been the real key to Fenwick’s success this season. The Friars have 11 shutouts in their 13 wins. While goalies Gerald Taglia and Pat McMahon have compiled the shutouts, the defensive backline can’t be overlooked.
“Our goalkeepers and defense are the backbone of our team,” Watson said. “They should be recognized for their heart, effort and resolve.
“Gerald Taglia and Pat McMahon have played extremely well with 11 combined shutouts. Our defenders Will Rigali, Will Darley, John Ziegler and Matt Halm have played almost every minute of every game whether sick or hurt. I can’t say enough about them.”
But to win, you need to score and that’s one area Watson was worried about heading into the 2007 season.
“Our surprise players this year have been our forwards,” said Watson, whose team has only been shutout three times. “Nick Munaretto and Mike Stephany have been outstanding. They’re both seniors, and they have developed into a very good striker tandem. Mike was a walk-on, and Nick played limited minutes last year.
“They have both become leaders on and off the pitch. Their attitudes are amazing regardless of the scoreboard, opponent or situation.”
Fenwick is the No. 8 seed in the Class AA Lyons Sectional. The Friars open the postseason Oct. 17 against Ridgewood in semifinal action of the Downers Grove South Regional.
With a win, Watson’s crew would most likely face the top-seeded Mustangs in Friday’s regional title game. Downers Grove South has been ranked in the Top 10 throughout the Chicago area all season.
“Going into the playoffs, we are trying to get everyone healthy,” Watson said. “We have been resting almost all of our starters trying to get ready for state.
“One of the most interesting things this season has been that I have more guys on the bench than fit to play. But that shows our depth and how hard our guys have worked this year.”