Photo by Jeff Vorva
Jose Lopez and Oak Lawn’s soccer team have enjoyed a historic season. Here, they celebrate winning the Windy City Classic tournament at Toyota Park in September.
The Oak Lawn Community High School soccer team is having one of the best seasons in school history.
The Spartans aren’t just winning; they’re absolutely rolling over the competition. They outscored their competition, 70-9 through their first 15 games. They posted seven shutouts, including back-to-back 7-0 scores. They won 11 of their 15 contests by more than a goal which is a sizeable advantage in the world of soccer.
After recently forging a 3-3 tie with Lemont and beating Argo, 3-1 Tuesday night to win the South Suburban Conference Red title, the Spartans head into the postseason with a 19-0-1 mark. Regional play in Class 2A and Class 3A opens Friday. Oak Lawn is seeded second behind Bradley Bourbonnais in the Class 3A Lincoln-Way Central Sectional.
They’ve already passed a school record in wins. In 2008, the Spartans went 15-5-1 in the final year of former head coach Kevin Stowe.
“The kids have just grown up,” said Oak Lawn coach, Nate Joiner. “We’ve got almost all seniors this year. Six or seven have been with me since their sophomore year and some have been with us since they were freshman.”
One of those seniors who has grown up is Michal Szaflarski. Szaflarski has been a team captain since his sophomore year. As a junior, Szaflarski was at the forefront of a high powered offense. This year, he’s anchoring one of the stingiest defenses in the state.
How is he adjusting the role change?
“He’s a team player,” said Joiner. “He’s just happy we’re winning. He’s still one of the most important guys on the team. He’s playing the same leadership role; he’s just not scoring as many goals. We want him back in this formation. We have enough firepower.”
That firepower is coming in the tandem of Giovanni Barragan and Mohammad Farraj. Barragan and Farraj are helping the Spartan offense average nearly five goals a game and are having a blast doing it.
“This has been the dream season so far,” said Barragan. “We want to keep it going and be undefeated the whole season. Since we’re seniors that’s why we’re playing every game as if it’s our last. Me and Mo (Farraj) -- I like our combinations.”
“We practice together, we play together and we play like a family,” said Farraj.
With ball rolling their way and the Spartans in the middle of a dream season, it might be easy for a group of teenagers to lose focus on the big picture. Not this group, according to Joiner.
“The boys are focused,” said Joiner. “I think that they do a go job of not letting their heads get big. We’re definitely trying to keep them humble and keep them working. They police themselves.”