Ozvaldo Sanchez can't help but feel good about his team's progress each time he notices the small improvements Bloom Township soccer has made through the season.
Players communicate more on the field. They're passing the ball more, a sign of less selfish play.
Now the Blazing Trojans have a Southland Athletic Conference championship to show for it.
"We started passing more and we just started playing better as a team," Sanchez said. "It was pretty obvious."
Sanchez led the Blazing Trojans with 27 goals during the 2012 regular season. The senior forward now has 44 career goals for Bloom Township, and he is hoping he can get a few more once the Blazing Trojans kick off regional play.
"I do feel pressure since I am a senior," Sanchez said of the upcoming regional. "I just have to play at my best and hopefully we win. I play the same role as any other player on the team: Just put the goals in."
Bloom Township will face Shepard today at 6:30 p.m. in the third match of the Lincoln-Way East Regional.
If the Blazing Trojans can get past Shepard, a rematch with Lincoln-Way East is a good possibility. The teams played to a 0-0 tie on Oct. 6 and Bloom left plenty of chances on the pitch that afternoon.
"That game I wasn't shooting as much as a should have," Sanchez said. "It would be a good match if we were to meet them."
Sanchez and Bloom Township midfielder Jorge Garcia make it tough for opposing defenses to slow down the Blazing Trojans.
"I grew up with him since I was like really little," Sanchez said of Garcia. "We've always been good friends. On the soccer field, it's the same as off the field."
Bloom Township coach Kelly Gutierrez has known Sanchez, also nicknamed "Nene" by family and friends, since he was a baby, and Gutierrez has watched Sanchez develop into a strong scoring threat up front.
"I've seen him grow up since an infant," Gutierrez said. "He's a three-year varsity player, but this year he's really come to fruition. He's really taken over the role of forward."
Sanchez believes if the Blazing Trojans can keep playing as a team, Bloom can make a deep run into the tournament.
"The more we keep playing as a team then we'll be OK," Sanchez said. "Hopefully we get past Shepard and on to a rematch with Lincoln-Way East. Hopefully, we can win that game too."