It seems as though it were just yesterday that Morton and Mather captured the two large state championships in boys' soccer.
We'll have more soccer signings and announcements forthcoming. The bigger news is the imminent start of the girls' season. Practice formally started last Monday. Like many niche sports, the top teams are pretty consistent and tend to congregate in specific geographic areas. In Chicago, much like the boys' programs, it's the western suburbs and North Shore.
We'll be publishing, soon, in the print edition of the paper and yourseason.com a preseason top ten, a list of ten other schools to watch and a list of the top fifty players,
Despite the best intentions, sport is rarely if ever very democratic. Not every school has access to the same talent, facilities and coaching. Because of the nature of the game, the rules and the style of play, the random and unpredictable plays a huge factor. Neuqua Valley was nationally rated and undefeated last year until the 3A sectional final, where they lost 1-0 against Naperville North.
The North boys' team was nationally rated and cruising last fall until they lost, to rival Naperville Central, 1-0, in a sectional final. It's a cruel sport, boys and girls' coaches like to say. It's all true.
Nobody ever won a state title in early March. Because of the notoriously volatile spring weather patterns, early season schedules are best written in pencil. Soccer is not quite as touched by this as baseball or softball. The season starts before boys basketball is even finished.
In studying some early season match ups, I was struck, in a very positive way, how the best coaches look for early showdowns as a true indicator of their early season value and worth. Neuqua Valley opens with traditional power Barrington March 17 in advance of a March 21 rematch with Naperville North at North Central College. York and Lyons, who played a memorable 2-1 sectional title game last year in favor of the Dukes, also face each other in the first month of the season.
As a newcomer, I am ready to catch the excitement.
More signings: As promised, a few more updates on where some of the best players from the 2012 class are going to continue their playing careers. Two key members of Warren's group that finished fourth last year in Class 3A are going to remain teammates. Keeper Brady Walsh and defender Patrick Schultz are both going to Marquette. Walsh was a third-team member of the all-area squad.
According to Crete-Monee coach Julian Lagunas, the Warriors' Carlos Posada, the state's all-time career goal scorer, is still mulling his options. Posada is considering either going to a junior college for two years in an effort to secure a Division l scholarship or walk on at Eastern Illinois.
Speaking of Morton and Mather: Mike Caruso, coach at Morton, reports, as expected, Joel Salmeron, who scored the game-winning goal against Naperville Central in the 3A state final, is headed to UIC. His two teammates, both members of the Sun-Times' all-area teams, remain undecided. Midfielder Jesus Morales and forward Alonso Torres are weighing their options.
Two stars of Libertyville's 2010 3A runner-up team, Marshall Hollingsworth and Joey Ruppert, have settled on Wheaton College and SIU-Edwardsville, respectively.
Finally, Branko Cvijovic, coach of city and state champion Mather, says the team's two stars, Qudus Lawal and Steven Younus, are both likely to go the junior college route.