By Marty Farmer
In three seasons, Oak Park and River Forest High School boys soccer coach Jason Fried has established a very good program. And with seven returning starters next fall, the Huskies' best might still be to come.
That's a very exciting thought for supporters of the team, which finished 18-4-2 this season. OPRF also earned a share of the West Suburban Conference Silver Division title for the second year in a row, along with winning the Leyden Challenge Cup and Argo Regional.
The Huskies' superb season came to a close with a 1-0 loss against conference rival Lyons Township in the final of the Riverside-Brookfield Sectional. OPRF upset top-seeded Morton 1-0 in a riveting semifinal.
"We played well against LT, particularly in the second half," OPRF coach Jason Fried said. "We did everything well except finish scoring opportunities. LT took advantage of a situation they had and that's all it took.
"It's tough losing to LT after beating Morton, which is obviously a fantastic team," Fried added. "The Morton game was one of our better ones from an IQ standpoint. Our positioning was fantastic, too, and a huge reason why we beat them."
OPRF rolled through the regular season, highlighted by winning streaks of eight and five games.
For a roster loaded with star power, the team played selfless soccer. The results reflected their chemistry as OPRF outscored its opponents 76-21.
All-conference goalie Sam Pecenka had 11 shutouts, while all-sectional pick Jaime Guillen (21 goals, 10 assists) and all-state selection James Maguire (10 goals, 12 assists) led offensively. Guillen is an exchange student from Spain and Maguire a three-year varsity starter.
Brody Bliss and Paul Garcia scored 11 goals apiece.
Defensively, all-conference players Blake Soto and Jai Hsieh-Bailey and Dylan Whitney anchored a formidable backfield.
"We'll lose key guys like James, Brody, Blake and Collin (McKittrick)," Fried said. "I think we'll miss their leadership most of all. We also lose a lot of our scoring. But guys always step up and I really like our group of returning players."
Pecenka, Hsieh-Bailey, Whitney, Garcia, Bram Lebovitz and Zeke Rivera (among others) are back next season.
"The last two seasons we have had great records, won conference twice and met a lot of our goals," Fried said. "With a totally different group of guys, this year was even better than the previous one. We are proud about the status of the program.
"However, we not only want to keep getting to sectional finals but we want to win them, and then go deeper in the playoffs. Until we accomplish those kinds of goals, we won't be completely happy."
Answer Book 2018
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