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How close was the Fenwick boys soccer team to winning the Catholic League title last season? Try four seconds.
That was the scant amount of time remaining on the clock when Mount Carmel scored a clutch goal against St. Ignatius in the conference finale, clinching the game and, consequently, the conference championship for the Caravan. Fenwick was forced to settle for a runner-up finish with a 4-0-2 record in the league. Overall, the Friars went 12-6-3 on the season, highlighted by a regional title and a sectional championship game appearance (loss to Mather, who ultimately claimed the Class 2A State title).
"Our expectations are the highest they have ever been," Fenwick coach Robert Watson said. "Our top priority is to win the Catholic League this year. Unfortunately, that last goal Mount Carmel scored in the last game of the [Catholic League] season clinched the title for them. We were so close — it's been about a decade since Fenwick won the Catholic League. We're looking to change that this season."
Watson's optimism regarding the Friars' considerable upside stems from an experienced roster that features seven returning starters and 13 lettermen overall. Marquette-bound senior forward Jack Alberts, who earned All-Catholic League and All-sectional honors in 2011, is a projected all-state performer this fall. The Friars' formidable playmaker scored nine goals and dished out 12 assists last season.
"Jack is one of the best players in the area," Watson said. "He's a four-year starter, two-time captain and the core of our offense. Jack also had a great summer competing against excellent competition. He played club soccer with the U17 Lemont Raiders which lost in a national title game."
Senior midfielder Mike Nowicki, who led the Friars with 10 goals in 2011, also returns as another major offensive threat.
"Mike has shown phenomenal improvement," Watson said about the All-Catholic League player. "Mike will give us a lot of goals and assists. Like Jack, he's another 'glue' player for us."
Seniors Dylan Kramer, Francisco Moreno and Michael Reyes are slotted to start in the midfield, while senior Ben Greenberg along with Joaquin Camara and Tom Smith anchor the Friars defensively. Junior forward Carlos Soto is a promising newcomer.
Goalkeeper Jacob Peterson had nine shutouts en route to a 2011 All-sectional honorable mention accolade. Watson believes his star keeper could notch 12 to 15 clean sheets this season.
"Jacob is a prototype goalkeeper," Watson said. "He's big, tall and aggressive. He has good technique and he's tactically sound. I think Jacob has All-state potential."
Fenwick kicks off the season against Andrew at the Windy City Ram Classic (Aug. 21). Other notable matchups include the Friars' home opener vs. Chicago Bulls Prep (Sept. 4) and their Catholic League debut against Brother Rice (Sept. 18).
Fenwick also clashes with host OPRF at 7 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 7 in the neighborhood rivals' Pink Out game.
"It's a great rivalry for a great cause," Watson said about the Friars-Huskies annual fundraiser. "It's a great event for the kids on both teams because a lot of them grew up together. We get a great crowd turnout. [OPRF coach] Paul [Wright] is a good friend and I think we enjoy seeing our teams testing each other. Anything can happen when we play OPRF."