By Mark Gregory
Heading into the IHSA playoffs, the Niles West girls soccer team should be as ready as it will be this season.
The year started off 2-3-2 for the Wolves before the team found itself in the middle of a five-match win streak and in the finals of the Pepsi Showdown at DePaul University against Lakes.
While the team has evened out going 2-2 since a loss in the Pepsi, the Wolves should be battle tested heading into the opener at Prospect, where Niles West, the No. 9 seed in the Glenbrook North Sectional, will face off against No. 8 Prospect.
“The girls have been doing a great job. We have really come together,” coach Milo Cejovic said during the win streak. “We introduced some new things, a new formation and it took a little time.”
Cejovic said early season poor weather may have helped that coming together process.
“It took a few weeks. We were actually pretty lucky that a few games early got rescheduled because of weather because it gave us more time to practice.” he said.
That, along with work and talent added to the mix.
“They have been doing a great job,” Cejovic said. “We have some really talented kids and they work hard.
That talent is not limited to one or two players.
“Bianca Tomuta has been great and Jacqueline Bajrichas also played really well. They are both captains,” Cejovic said. “Freshman Aila Durakovic has done a great job for us in the middle. Ana Sajic in the back has done great and our goalie Lidia Fakhoury has done really well and Ashley Dyer has been great.”
The identity of the team this season has been to utilize a balanced attack.
“We really moved to more of a team game. Everyone is on the ball and learning their role and everyone is chipping in in every possible way,” Cejovic said. “We have some quality players and we have been really lucky that our role players have really done a great job for us.
“Our goalie (Lidia Fakhoury) had a hot hand for a stretch and Bianca Tomuta scored in like three or four games in a row and we are starting to understand what we are trying to do. We are building a team spirit and team momentum and it has worked so far and we will see where it goes.”
Maine East and Maine South are both also in the Glenbrook North Sectional.
Maine East is the No. 17 seed and will travel to No. 16 Schurz to open the Prospect Regional and the winner will face No. 1 New Trier on May 16 at Prospect.
The winner of that match will face the winner of Prospect and Niles West.
Maine South is the No. 6 seed and will face No. 11 Niles North May 17 in the Loyola Academy Regional.
The winner will face the winner of No. 3 Loyola and No. 14 Leyden.