My drive to work every day down Lakeshore Drive is one of the best commutes in Chicagoland. Whether it’s the sunrise in the morning or the sunset at night, my journey to and from school is framed by the beauty of Lake Michigan. This particular day in August is hot, the sunrise over the lake is tempered by the humidity in the air. I think to myself that this is going to be another hot and humid week with fall sports beginning their practices. Usually, when the football team and the soccer team begin their season, the days are long, steamy and brutal.
As I enter Mount Carmel, the athletic department is busy with coaches and some students getting the football equipment sorted and ready to distribute the following day. Helmets are hung in order along the wall, shoulder pads are piled in rows along the gym floor. Half the Cacciatore Center is covered with football equipment, ready to be picked up by eager players the next day. I leave the gym and head down the hallway by the locker rooms.I see a soccer player with two boxes of soccer balls and a pump. It was Josiah Ash, a junior on the soccer team, sitting alone along the wall airing up the balls for soccer. After stopping to say hi, I made my way to my office. I sat down, fired up my computer and thought to myself: what a difference between the two sports, soccer and football. It takes a gym full of equipment for football, and it only takes an air pump, one person, and a box of balls to get ready for the soccer season. What a difference.
For most of us working in education the start of a new school year is tempered by one of the greatest sports seasons in our athletic cycle. Fall sports give us something to smile about as the summer comes to a close and classes begin. At Mount Carmel, when most people think fall sports they think football. They should. After all, the Caravan have the best program in Chicago and the winningest coach in state history. But this year something is different. When the local newspapers attended our fall practices, they asked to speak to not only football coaches and players, but they asked to interview our soccer coach and players, too. There was definitely something in the humid air of the fall of 2016.
As the season began the football team headed to Soldier Field for their annual first game and the soccer team played in the Reavis soccer tournament. Early success, coupled with a successful trip to St. Louis for the Gateway Classic, provided a great start for the Caravan soccer team, rolling up victories over rivals in the Chicago Catholic League. Great senior leadership with seniors Jalen Anderson, Manny Cerritos, Victor Valencia, and a junior class led by Cesar Cosio and Josiah Ash, Coach Antonio Godinez and the team had something special.
As the months passed and the humid warm air gave way to the crisp, cold air of October, it was apparent that the soccer program was setting the stage for an exciting post-season. Winning regular season games are great, but a run in the playoffs is what the team had on their minds - and a run they had. The Caravan defeated Solorio 2-1 in double overtime for the first regional championship a decade. They continued their good fortune rolling through the sectional, and a 2-1 sectional championship victory over the Noble/Bulls Academy. The only team standing in their way was a showdown with Washington High School. Earlier in the fall sports season, the Caravan lost a close game at home against their eastside opponent. This time they squared off for the super-sectional championship at Lewis University. The game ended in a 0-0 tie. It was in overtime that the Caravan realized their dream of going to state. In the first overtime Cesar Cosio scored a goal and the Caravan held on for a heart-stopping 1-0 victory over Washington and a trip to the state finals. The drama continued for the team in the state semifinal game as they defeated Jacksonville 2-1 on penalty kicks. In the state championship game against Latin, the Caravan fell short losing to the Romans in double-overtime 3-1. For the first time in Mount Carmel history, the soccer team finished second in the state.
Fall proved to be a pretty special season once again for Caravan fans, but this time it was the soccer team who carried the banner for the Caravan. The football team struggled through the regular season failing to make the playoffs, but in the city playoffs, the football team was seeing much better success. Late in the season, facing the reality of not making the playoffs, Coach Frank Lenti, called Coach Godinez into his office and said, “You’ve got to help us out. We can’t do it every year. It’s your turn.”
Little did I know on that hot and humid day in August, when Josiah Ash was airing up the soccer balls in a dark hallway, that the fall season would belong to the Caravan soccer team. It was their turn indeed, and they made us all very proud.
Caravan Soccer place second in the State Championship!
Caravan Football win the 2016 Prep Bowl!
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