By Bob Narang

East Aurora midfielder Alondra Monjaraz won’t soon forget the memory of her team’s final game in the PepsiCo Showdown last April.

Seconds after beating Romeoville in their bracket championship, the senior and her teammates raced toward the stands at DePaul University.

“Running to the crowd afterwards was so exciting,” Monjaraz said. “It was just a blur, just crazy.

“Last year was beyond exciting. We did so good in the PepsiCo Showdown and were just so happy to be in the final. Once we got to the semifinal, we thought it might happen. Once we got to the finals, we knew we had to win it. We want to win it again.”

Senior defender Marina Lopez said the Tomcats’ PepsiCo title helped take the sting off losing to rival West Aurora twice last season. She recalled being sprayed by numerous two liters of Pepsi during the postgame celebration.

“It was a great experience,” Lopez said. “We were champions.

“We can’t wait to play in (the) PepsiCo (Showdown) again. We’re dedicated to getting our second championship.

“Teamwork is the key, because we had ups and downs last year. We had some good wins and some tough losses.”

East Aurora’s motto this season might be “Beat West,” as several players talked about their frustrations of losing to the rival Blackhawks last spring. For that to happen, the Tomcats must make numerous improvements on the pitch following a 5-16 campaign that included a 0-5 mark in the Upstate Eight Conference.

“We have to play more effectively than last year,” East Aurora coach Obed Mendoza said. “When we’re in tight situations, we have to be smart because the smallest error could cost us a game.

“We need to get better recognizing when the ball is ours and it’s attacking time. We have to react faster and be more decisive when we lose it and it’s time to defend.”

The good news for Mendoza is that he returns seven starters, including numerous key players such as Monjaraz, Lopez, Jacklyn Cabrera and Marubeni Nieto.

“I’m so excited for this season,” Cabrera said. “It’s going to be better than last year.

“We have a lot of offensive players back, and we have to beat West (Aurora). We want to beat West and win (the) PepsiCo Showdown. It’s a team sport, and everybody has to work hard for those things to happen.”

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