AURORA – New Marmion soccer coach Ricky Del Toro didn’t spend much time fretting about where his team’s defensive leadership would come from.
A quick appraisal of junior defender Luke DeSimone put those anxieties to rest in a hurry.
“He’s one of those players, you look at them for about six, seven minutes, and you know that’s an impact player,” Del Toro said.
In his second year in the Cadets’ program after transferring from Batavia, DeSimone moved from outside back to center back. Early in the season, Del Toro named DeSimone a captain, recognizing the stability he brought to a Marmion defense that includes a freshman, Joe Duffield, teaming with DeSimone at center-back.
“He’s one of our best athletes and he’s one of our best players on the ball,” Del Toro said of DeSimone. “I could probably put him in the midfield or on the attack and he’d be great, but we really need someone with those attributes in the back playing that center-back and playing alongside a freshman, we needed someone, and Luke out of everyone has stepped up defensively and with that confidence to play back there.”
DeSimone has ample family history at Marmion. He said his father pushed him to consider attending Marmion during eighth grade but it took another year for DeSimone to wrap his mind around changing social circles.
“A lot of the kids I’ve played with over at Batavia, I’ve known since I was 6 years old, so it was tough knowing I wasn’t going to play high school with them anymore,” said DeSimone, a longtime Campton United club player. “After a whole year [at Marmion], I got to really bond with them, but it was tough to move over to Marmion.”
He picked a heck of a year to join the Cadets. In former coach Kevin O’Connor’s final season at Marmion, the Cadets enjoyed their most successful season in program history, advancing to last year’s IHSA Class 2A state semifinals.
“It was a great experience,” DeSimone said. “I played with a lot of great players like Mick Maley and Mike Frasca, who went on to play Division I soccer. Knowing that it was coach O’Connor’s last year as coach here was a lot of motivation.”
Putting the pieces back together this season proved tricky in the first month, as Marmion went through a stretch of scoring only one goal in a five-match span.
That lack of offensive production made for a stressful period for the Cadets’ defense.
“We felt like every goal that we got scored against, it hurt that much more, and we had that much more pressure to keep them shut out,” Cadets junior right-back Jake Hutchison said.
But the Cadets have made dramatic strides since then, and now stand at 10-5-2, 5-0 in the Suburban Christian Conference with a pair of key conference matches – against fellow SCC contenders St. Francis and Wheaton Academy – looming in the next 10 days.
Marmion’s uptick included a 3-all tie against St. Charles East, a top seed in the 3A postseason. That game, though, marked a lowlight for DeSimone, who was sent off with a red card after a pair of hand-balls. The shorthanded Cadets saw their 3-1 lead disappear as Marmion settled for the draw.
More often than not, though, DeSimone and fellow captain Matt Switzer, a midfielder, have offered Del Toro peace of mind.
“They’re the backbone of our team,” Del Toro said.