Warren Cousino boys soccer earned the school’s first-ever district championship in a 2-1 win over Sterling Heights Stevenson on Oct. 18 at Cousino High School.

Warren Cousino boys soccer earned the school’s first-ever district championship in a 2-1 win over Sterling Heights Stevenson on Oct. 18 at Cousino High School.

Photo provided by Warren Cousino soccer

Cousino soccer bids farewell to history-making senior class

By: Jonathan Szczepaniak | Warren Weekly | Published November 8, 2023

WARREN — Before even seeing them take the field, sometimes a coach just knows when he has a special group on his hands.

Whether it was their chemistry, their style and the way they play, or just flat out being gifted athletes who know how to coexist on a team together, Cousino’s 2024 senior class was turning heads long before becoming a Macomb Area Conference Blue powerhouse.

The program, who had previously won a MAC White title in 2020, was in a difficult spot in 2021 after suffering a 5-14-1 record and having insufficient numbers to field a junior varsity team. But because of the lack of numbers, Cousino coach Jordan Wilczak was able to get a look at what the future of Patriots soccer would hold.

“At that time we had 11 sophomores, and just seeing them from the first practice I was like, ‘These kids are going to be good,’” Wilczak said. “Over the course of the last two years was just team bonding, watching film and going extra hard at practice. They just gelled as a group.”

A 2014 graduate from Cousino and three-year varsity soccer player, Wilczak joined the Cousino coaching staff in 2021 as an assistant coach and would take over the head coaching job in 2022.

Cousino would go 10-6-3 en route to a MAC Blue title in 2022, and despite the turnaround, a loss to St. Clair Shores Lakeview in the district semifinals left the team yearning for another shot at a title.

At the team’s season-ending banquet last year, Wilczak extended a promise to the Cousino soccer family that a district title would be on the horizon for the school. Backing their coach’s claim, Cousino (14-6-2) made history with a 2-1 win over Sterling Heights Stevenson on Oct. 18 at Cousino High School, earning the school their first-ever district title. Cousino also defended their MAC Blue title successfully this season, holding an 8-1-1 record in league play.

“After our disappointing loss last season in the semifinals of districts, our ultimate goal this year was to win districts,” senior Francesco Bonucchi said. “The fact that we did that means so much to the team, to the school, and to the coaches. It was honestly incredible. Winning districts is all that we worked for this year during the offseason and during the season, so it means so much that I can finally say that I got to be a part of the team that won Cousino High School their first soccer district title.”

Seniors Afram Polus and Jaylan Linnear each tallied a goal in the win while junior goalkeeper Benjamin Modronja earned the win in net. Cousino’s season would come to a close in a 3-2 regional semifinals loss to Utica Ford II on Oct. 24.

While their win against Stevenson showcased more of a defensive approach, Cousino’s offensive attack was firing on all cylinders throughout the state tournament. In their four playoff matchups, Cousino averaged just under four goals per game including a seven-goal performance in their overtime win over Lakeview.

Seniors Aidin Sabic, Sardar Mohamad, Adam DeMonaco, and Bonucchi led the Cousino offensive attack this season. Sabic, who is currently under consideration for all-state, tallied 21 goals this season.

“He’s a special player,” Wilczak said. “We like to call him box to box. Almost like in football, you have your linebackers that can go sideline to sideline and make big plays. That’s kind of like how Sabic plays the game of soccer. He runs the entire field, gets the ball back on defense, passes all the way up, he makes his run up, he shoots from distance, he sends the long ball, and he gets his teammates involved.”

On the back line, Linnear headlined an athletic group of defenders that included senior Justin Lifshay, Polus, and Modronja in net. Modronja, originally a field hockey player, filled in for injured sophomore Luke Banick, who started last year in net.

While holding past experience in net in his early soccer career, Modronja made the adjustment needed and evolved into a reliable keeper this year for Cousino.

“He made great strides throughout the season and kept us in a lot of games,” Wilczak said.

The entire program made impressive strides throughout the two seasons, and a loaded veteran group has the power to turnaround a culture as quickly as Cousino did.

The 11 seniors who took the reins of the program with Wilczak at the helm made the changes necessary to succeed, and Sabic said one change was crucial to the team’s success.

“I think when we were younger and less mature, our team chemistry wasn’t the best,” Sabic said. “As we got older and realized that to win we need to have great chemistry on and off the field, we definitely improved on it. This year, compared to previous years, has been great for our team morale and relationships with each other and the coaches.”

Going through the classic Cousino “Hell Week” will also bring a team together as well. Wilczak enlisted the help of his friend Garret Zacharek, who served in the United States Navy, to run the team through various conditioning drills

“We knew it wasn’t going to be easy, and a little harder, but we also knew that it was just going to make us better and more conditioned for the season,” Bonucchi said.

There are new expectations for Cousino soccer, and while they’re set to graduate a healthy number of seniors, the underclassmen group of sophomores Zane Fadak, Cynric Gorospe, Gasper Milazzo, Frankie Toma and Banick are expected to make their presence felt next season.

But for now, Cousino bids farewell to the 2024 senior class consisting of Bonucchi, Lifshay, Sabic, Mohamad, DeMonaco, Polus, Linnear, and seniors Ethan Jackson, Eldi Murtic, Vojin Rajic and Abdulmanan Wahoud.

“Their leadership has been off the charts,” Wilczak said. “When I took over, they went 0-9-1 in league play, and I think their overall record since in league play is 15-2-3 or something like that. Without their leadership, they would never go back-to-back in the MAC Blue or win the first district title in school history for soccer.”