ROMEOVILLE – Last season, Isaiah Pina played defender but still managed to score nine goals during the best season in Romeoville soccer history. The Spartans finished as the Class 3A state runners-up.
Now a senior, Pina has moved to forward and is looking to fill the void left by the graduation of Joseph Duarte, the 2022 Herald-News Boys Soccer Player of the Year. Duarte poured in 42 goals last season and is now playing at Benedictine.
“I have to pick up for Joseph,” Pina said. “I feel like I’m playing that role since I’m the main striker now. It’s fun being up top and scoring, getting that feeling is great. I scored a lot as a defender, but now to get more chances to score, I really like that.”
Pina is adjusting to his new position quite nicely. He scored his 11th goal of the season Saturday and added an assist as the host Spartans beat Shepard 2-0 in a nonconference clash.
Josh Silvar also scored for Romeoville (6-1-1), while Alex Duda recorded the shutout, stopping all three shots Shepard (4-2) put on goal.
The Spartans bounced back after falling 2-0 to Bolingbrook on Thursday for their first loss.
“We really wanted this win, coming back after a loss,” Silvar said. “Last year, we did really good and we want to keep that going. We want to go far again this year. We’ve been training hard and we want to try to win every single game we can.”
Pina’s scoring has been a big boost.
“The first week, I had eight goals,” Pina said. “So I’ve put in three this last week or so. It’s speed and finding it in the air. Every time I’m in the box, I just try to let it go.”
Romeoville coach Nick Cirrincione appreciates his players’ ability to move around.
“Our whole team can play different positions,” he said. “I think Pina is going to be at defender at some point. He’s going to be a forward. The problem is trying to find who can score consistently. We’re trying to fill that gap and get him comfortable in that role and that’s going to be key.”
The Spartans broke through off a corner kick in the 27th minute. Manny Casillas sent a cross into the box where Pina flicked it toward the near post. Silvar crashed in to head it home.
“I saw Manny cross the ball in,” Silvar said. “Usually, (Pina) is in the back and he’ll hit it forward. I had to make sure I cleaned it up. We’ve been working on that in practice a lot, so I had to make sure I was there. I got there and scored and it was a good feeling.”
After a couple close misses, Pina got the insurance goal with 17:12 left in the game, getting behind the defense down the left side of the field and burying his shot.
The Spartans’ back line of Silvar, Diego Garcia, Kameron McShaw and Gavin Carrasco took it home from there.
Coming off the unprecedented success of last season, Romeoville is in the spotlight more than ever. Cirrincione knows that means they will get some tough battles.
“My running joke is I don’t think my guys understand how good they did,” Cirrincione said. “I don’t think it’s going to sink in for another five to 10 years. I tell them, “Everybody’s coming for you guys now. You’ve got a bullseye on your back.’ Bolingbrook beating us, on paper based on rankings and everything, might be their biggest win in a while. Teams are going to want to beat us.”
On the positive side, the Spartans have their school excited about soccer.
“I feel like everybody’s supporting soccer now,” Pina said. “Everybody wants to cheer us on. It feels good.”