Boys soccer makes it to sectionals, continues improvement


What makes the DePaul Prep soccer team great? Coach O’Reilly enlightens the readers on their “special sauce” and how he himself grew as a player and a coach.

O’Reilly has been involved in soccer for most of his life, including coaching for about 30 years. He had experience at both Gordon Tech and Stevenson High School, which inspired him to come back here; based on the opportunity to grow the program for both the boys and the girls. Since he’s been coaching here at DePaul College Prep, the team has been progressively getting better and better; including the size, the talent, and the level of dedication.

They made their mark last year by winning regionals for the first time and have only built on that this year by winning the conference and making it to the playoffs.

O’Reilly states, “We have a lot of confidence going in, the boys have been playing very well. We are looking forward to the challenge, and we know that there are some outstanding teams that we will be matched up against; but we are confident in our ability to perform well against it.”

Although they had an unfortunate end to the season with losing sectionals, he tries to focus on keeping everything as positive as possible and maintain a sense of team camaraderie.

When asked about his players, he says they “drive him crazy,” kidding of course. He says every player has different skills and is motivated in different ways. It is important to focus on those individual strengths and how they can contribute to and grow the team. It’s challenging to think about the future of the team just yet, with so many great seniors leaving. it will be a challenge to find their replacements.

“Those guys have given us a lot of great leadership and really helped with growing the program, so replacing them will be extremely difficult.” 

Isaiah Walker, a senior varsity soccer player, first was introduced to soccer at his middle school, where that was all anyone did. He was also inspired by his mom to play the sport, seeing as she used to herself. Soon enough, soccer had become his whole life. As a senior, he brings leadership and discipline to the team, which in his opinion is his most impactful quality.

At his middle school, Walker wasn’t necessarily looked at as a leader. Bringing those qualities to the team was a change for him, but a big part of his leadership role came from his coaches.

“Both Coach O’Reilly and Coach Keckler constantly tell me to keep improving in every aspect of the game.” Coach Keckler helped him choose what position was right for him and Coach O’Reilly taught him to have that “fire” and “aggression.”

With Walker graduating, he hopes that the student body and the school as a whole will come together to support the team more and show that “love.” He also hopes the team will continue to grow.

“We’ve grown so much since freshman year. I remember freshman year we didn’t win anything and we were getting blown out by every team, but now were dominating. So I just want to see the program continue to grow and get that recognition.”

Walker says that structure was very important for the team to grow since freshman year, especially the discipline taught by O’Reilly and Keckler.

Walker takes this level of discipline very seriously. Even after their win at regionals he stated, “Me as an individual, I’m never really satisfied. I always want to push to the next level. Last year we won regionals, but got beat in the semi-sectionals; so I want to keep pushing to win more and then of course the overall goal is to build the community of soccer, which is what I want to see the most.”

Walker’s advice to the younger players on the team is to always listen to the coach, remain disciplined, and overall just have fun.

Olivia Garza has been a team manager and played soccer at DePaul Prep since freshman year. She’s played her whole life and has always loved playing at DePaul Prep. Once she found out about the football managers, she thought the same program would be great for the soccer team.

Her job is to take stats throughout the game and help out the coaches when necessary, before, during, and after the game. She’s become closer to the team throughout this experience and has seen great strides from them throughout the season.

Garza has also seen growth within herself from watching the games. She likes that she can get a different perspective from being behind the field and criticism of certain plays helps her think about what she can do to improve her own game. From team bonding, to learning from past mistakes, to advice from the coaches, she’s seen immense growth from the team throughout this season.

Garza credits some of their growth to the coaches, saying that she likes that the players and coaches can disagree on certain things and come to a conclusion that benefits both parties.

Agreeing with O’Reilly and Walker, Garza hopes to see more growth in the stands from the students.