Kaneland soccer coach Scott Parillo gathered his team into his classroom a few days after the Knights lost to DeKalb in late September, eliminating the Knights from Northern Illinois Big 12 East title contention with four matches remaining.
The loss was Kaneland’s second in three matches, snapping a 10-match unbeaten run, and not much seemed to be going well on the field. Personnel wasn’t an issue, Parillo said, but in terms of fundamentals, his players simply weren’t in sync.
“In all of those games, we weren’t passing very well, we weren’t shooting very well, we weren’t communicating very well,” Parillo said. “We weren’t doing many things well. We kind of sat back, we talked, we said, ‘If we want to go far in the playoffs, we need to start doing those things that we were doing [early in the season.]’ ”
The pep talk worked.
The very next practice, Parillo saw a new team.
“We came out, we were talking, we were laughing, we were passing the ball better when we were doing our possession drills,” he said. “Everything just started clicking again.”
Come game time, that change manifested.
The Knights won their last four matches of the conference season, and today, they’ll play Freeport in a Class 2A Sterling Sectional semifinal for a chance at their eighth-straight win.
Kaneland hasn’t been the offensive juggernaut it has been in years past, so blowouts have been few and far in between.
But in a way, Parillo said that has made his team more prepared for wins like the Knights’ 2-1 regional final win over Burlington Central, in which the Rockets tested goalkeeper Marshall Farthing several times down the stretch. Farthing finished the match with seven saves.
“We’ve had a lot of close [matches], and I think that’s why the kids don’t get rattled,” Parillo said. “We have very few [matches] where we blow out teams. We’re not scoring like we were last year, so games are going to be a little more close. That’s perfect for the playoffs.
To win today, Parillo knows the Knights will have to play their composed, possession-oriented style.
If they play their style, Parillo says the team can advance to the sectional final, where it could meet conference-rival Rochelle. But after that midseason hiccup, he knows that isn’t a given.
“Hopefully we don’t go into that slide, that little lull, and we advance,” Parillo said. “We want to do more than we’re doing now. We want to keep advancing. If we keep playing the way we’ve been playing, we’ve got a good shot at advancing.”