Before we go forward, a quick look back at last year's season. These were last year's final rankings, in ascending order with final records and their preseason rank.
1. Naperville North 24-1-2 (1)
2. St. Charles North 19-6-2 (14)
3. Loyola 24-1-1 (6)
4. Naperville Central 20-2-2 (5)
5. Downers South 20-6-3 (NR)
6. Glenbrook South 21-6-4 (NR)
7. New Trier 20-4-1 (4)
8. Barrington 19-6 (15)
9. Neuqua Valley 16-5-2 (2)
10. St. Francis 24-3 (NR)
Others: Conant, Metea Valley, Plainfield North, York, Lockport, Homewood-Flossmoor, Waubonsie Valley, Schaumburg, St. Viator, Benet.
In keeping with the larger theme of the preview published last week that examined the large number of returning star players and Division I recruits headlining the top teams, some very good teams just missed out of the top 20.
In alphabetical order, here are some other teams and players to be on the lookout for as we move into April.
Andrew: Sandburg and Homewood-Flossmoor are considered the class of the south suburbs. The Thunderbirds are poised to break into that elite company. Senior defender Emma Peele (like her nearly identically named "Avengers" heroine) is one of the state's top defenders, backed by an excellent keeper in senior Kaitlyn Kosary. Junior Kelly Blyth returns to the lineup after missing last year recovering from ACL surgery. Midfielder Alicia Halikas and forward Chloe Annerino add scoring firepower.
Benet: The Redwings return a core group from last year's surprise supersectional qualifier that lost to eventual Class 2A state champion St. Francis 2-1. Coach Bob Gros has also inherited a talented freshman class that is already paying dividends. The Redwings are off to a 4-0-1 start and riding a four-game winning streak since an opening game draw with York. Michelle Morefield, Claire Elenteny, Sophia Elbchiri and Katie Baumann are offensive standouts. Freshman Ellie Bumpus is a freshman to watch. Redwings have depth in goal with Emma Hlavin and Christina Stopka. Redwings and Carmel meet April 6 in early East Suburban showdown.
Carmel: Speaking of the Corsairs, coach John Halloran must fill the considerable void of graduated all-state performer Sarah McHugh. He has an elite scorer in Illinois-recruit Meegan Johnston, a senior midfielder who recorded three goals in the Corsairs' season-opening victory over Warren. Others to watch are senior keeper Jenna Bauer, senior forward Bri Carlson, senior defender Colleen Foley and sophomore defender Kayla Handel.
Elk Grove: Barrington and Buffalo Grove appear the class of the Mid-Suburban this season. The Grenadiers two elite players in all-state stars Kelli Hubly and Katie Naughton. Coach Dan Klaus has some very nice returning pieces with senior midfielder Kelly Naughton, junior forward Nikki Zaino, senior midfielder Sarah Stram, sophomore midfielder Diane Gomez and junior defender Jocelyn Potratz. Junior keeper Melissa Solorio is a big-time player.
Fenwick: The Friars opened the year by winning the Windy City Ram Classic. Coach Robert Watson has 17 returning that played last season. Perhaps most important, he also has Bridget Hillsman, a Providence recruit off the club circuit. Another club player, Cali Pyzdrowski, is committed to Marquette. Returning forwards Lauren Frank, Caroline Murphy, Nora Madden and Maggie Reilly solidify the frontline. Freshman Colette Jaslowski is a potential star. Keeper Jesse Cwik, with a background in club soccer and playing hockey, has been superb.
Hinsdale Central: Coach Michael Smith's team caught everybody's attention when they played top-ranked and defending Class 3A state champion Naperville North to a 1-1 draw. They finished last year with a losing record, but it was misleading, given their early-season youth and inexperience. The Red Devils finished strong and captured a regional. Smith returns his entire starting team, led by Casey may, Darby Moran, Katie Camden, Caitlin Smith, Jenn Jarmy, Meghan Schick, Alison Cerny and keeper Riley Glenn.
Oak Park-River Forest: Since opening the season losing 2-0 to No. Naperville Central, the Huskies have won five straight. During one impressive stretch, they recorded three straight shutouts and had a stretch of 18 consecutive goals. Junior midfielders Erin Schrobilgen, Teresa Trinka and Lauren Wilkes are the playmakers. Meredith Blatner shifts between center and the backline. Senior Elise Delligrazie is a skilled and talented keeper. Huskies are intriguing threat to Lyons, Hinsdale Central and York in West Suburban Silver.
Wheaton Warrenville South: The Tigers are overshadowed by the brilliance of Naperville North and Naperville Central in the DuPage Valley. They are a formidable team in their own right, led by senior midfielder Dana Miller, sophomore midfielder AJ Jakuszewski and a talented backline with Kelly Langlas, Natalie Jensen, Tory Adomschick and junior keeper Abbey Fuster. Coach Guy Callipari is also touting several newcomers, freshman forward Anna Fank, freshman forward Sarah Burns and junior defender Alex Immekus.
York: Like Elk Grove, the Dukes must replace two great players in Christina Ordonez and Courtney McHugh. Coach Chris Halupka has some impressive offensive talent at his command. West Virginia-recruit Bryce Banuelos leads the attack. Christina's sister Ellie Ordonez takes on a greater offensive role as well. Sophomore forward Alyssa Kovatchis has emerged as a key offensive talent. Angela Guerino, a senior defender, solidifies the backline and is a dangerous offensive threat on free kicks. Annabelle Lansdowne is a skilled keeper.