Chicago Sun-Times
By Patrick Z. McGavin

May 2013 Archives

A great regular season ended Saturday. The state tournament is on.
Without further adieu, here is a deeper look at the Class 3A sectionals.

Bolingbrook

Top four seeds: Naperville North, Plainfield North, Waubonsie Valley, Neuqua Valley
Regional hosts: Bolingbrook, Naperville North, Metea Valley, Oswego
Team to beat: Naperville North
Top contender: Waubonsie Valley
Darkhorse: Lockport
Teams ranked in Sun-Times' top 20: Naperville North (1), Plainfield North (3), Waubonsie Valley (4), Neuqua Valley (6), Naperville Central (8), Lockport (13)
Best player: Ashley Handwork, Plainfield North

Overview: Defending state champion Naperville North has lost one game, on penalty kicks, the last two years. They have the state's top 1-2 combination with Zoe Swift and sophomore Abbie Boswell. Waubonsie Valley is on a roll. Pepsi Showdown runner-up Plainfield North features Handwork, who has scored 34 goals this year. Lockport has won nine in a row.

Mundelein

Top seeds: Buffalo Grove, Carmel, Hersey, Prospect
Regional hosts: Hersey, Fremd, Libertyville, Warren
Team to beat: Buffalo Grove
Top contender: Hersey
Darkhorse: Fremd
Teams ranked in Sun-Times' top 20: Buffalo Grove (2), Carmel (10), Hersey (12), Glenbrook South (15), Fremd (20)
Best player: Kelli Zickert, Buffalo Grove

Overview: Rates with Bolingbrook as the deepest sectional. Buffalo Grove's dream season has hit a bit of a detour, with the Bison ending regular season with consecutive losses. Still, Kelli Zickert has been magical. Hersey handed No. 2 seed Carmel its only loss. Glenbrook South, fourth last year, is riding a hot streak. The team to watch is No. 20 Fremd, regional hosts and riding an 8-2-1 streak over its last 11 games.

New Trier

Top seeds: Loyola, New Trier, Lane, Maine South
Regional hosts: Loyola, Maine South, Evanston, St. Ignatius
Team to beat: Loyola
Top contender: Lane
Darkhorse: St. Ignatius
Teams ranked in Sun-Times' top 20: Loyola (7), Lane (18)
Best player: Corey Burns, Loyola

Overview: Loyola owns a 3-0 victory over No. 2 seed, the sectional host Trevians. Recent history, like last year, suggests that does not necessarily predict future results. New Trier needs to relocate scoring punch. Public League champion Lane has a great 1-2 combination in Jasmin Carrera and Sofia Pavon.

Hinsdale Central

Top seeds: Hinsdale Central, Lyons, York, Benet
Regional hosts: Lyons, York, Downers South, Wheaton North
Team to beat: Hinsdale Central
Top contender: Lyons
Darkhorse: Wheaton Warrenville South
Teams ranked in Sun-Times' top 20: Hinsdale Central (9), York (14), Lyons (17), Benet (19)
Best player: Ari Kowalski, Lyons

Comment: By dint of home field advantage, Red Devils rate a slight edge over West Suburban Silver rivals York and Lyons. Hinsdale Central have entire lineup back from last year's sectional champions. Benet won a sectional in Class 2A. With sophomore star Alyssa Kovatchis back, York is the other team to reckon with.

Andrew

Top seeds: Sandburg, Andrew, Lincoln-Way North, Stagg
Regional hosts: Sandburg, L-W North, Marist, Argo
Team to beat: Sandburg
Top contender: Andrew
Darkhorse: Homewood-Flossmoor
Teams ranked in Sun-Times' top 20: None
Best player: Morgan Manzke, Sandburg

Overview: In some respects, the most wide open of the sectionals. It has just as many questions as answers. Sandburg has played the toughest schedule of the top tier programs. Two sleepers to watch are No. 3 seed Lincoln-Way North and Homewood-Flossmoor.

Hoffman Estates

Top seeds: St. Charles North, St. Charles East, Batavia, Conant
Regional hosts: Conant, Lake Park, Bartlett, DeKalb
Team to beat: St. Charles North
Top contender: Conant
Darkhorse: Geneva
Teams ranked in Sun-Times' top 20: St. Charles North (5)
Best player: Alex Gage, St. Charles North

Comment: Defending Class 3A state-runner-up St. Charles North is the overwhelming favorite, having already beaten five of the top seven seeds. With sophomore star Leah Celarek fully recovered from her knee injury, always dangerous Conant is the top threat. Watch out for Geneva, a team better than its record.

The sectionals at Jacobs and Collinsville have been broken into four sub-regionals. Barrington, a regional host, is the team to beat. The Fillies, behind senior star Molly Pfeiffer and emerging sophomore Jenna Szczesny, just captured the Mid-Suburban Soccer cup. They have won five consecutive sectionals, the most of any current program. With star Abby Reed, Boylan is a clear second-choice. At Collinsville, Minooka is the top seed of the Joliet Central regional.

On the eve of the state tournament, teams expecting to make deep playoff runs are trying to sharpen their games by taking part in conference tournament finals.

Payton and No. 18 Lane meet Thursday night at UIC for city supremacy.

"We want to stay sharp and ready to go, because this year, we want to go farther than any Lane team ever has in the state tournament," sophomore forward Sofia Pavon said after she scored four goals against Northside in a Public League semifinal on Tuesday.

The Indians' sophomore class is one of the strongest around. Keyed by Pavon, it also features high-scoring and versatile forward Natalie Wade, forward Anastasia Niforos and keeper Samantha DeGryse.

Wade has emerged as a strong scoring threat opposite senior forward Jasmin Carrera and Pavon. She also has showcased her range, serving as an emergency keeper after DeGryse sustained a finger injury. In the team's last nine games, she has played the second half in goal.

Chasing history: With each game, Carrera makes her bid to join the state's all-time best scorers. Carrera has 29 goals entering the Public League final. She has now scored 113 in her career. According to statistics compiled by the IHSA, she is just five goals from entering the all-time top 20 list.

The UIC-recruit is trailing Teri Atkinson, who recorded 117 career goals at Springfield from 1996 to 1999. Carrera's 113 goals trail only former Lane star Jacqueline Vera in the history of Public League players. Vera recorded school and Public League high-water marks in a season (53) and career (147).

On Wednesday night, two of the elite soccer-playing conferences, the two divisions of the Upstate Eight and Mid-Suburban League, are honoring their best with Soccer Cups.

At Buffalo Grove, the No. 2 Bison host No. 11 Barrington. "I hope Buffalo Grove comes in undefeated," Barrington coach Ryan Stengren said last week. A rapidly-improving Conant team dashed those plans when they stunned the Bison 1-0 on Saturday.

On a rainy mid-April night, Buffalo Grove beat Barrington 2-1. "I still think we're going to be good,"

Stengren said after the disappointing loss, which occurred during a difficult stretch for the Fillies.

At St. Charles North, the No. 5 North Stars, winners of the River division, host No. 4 Waubonsie Valley, champions of the Valley division, in the inaugural championship game of the Upstate Eight. The Warriors are on fire, their 3-1 championship over host Lemont in the Lemont Cup extending their current streak to eight games.

The North Stars have posted 13 shutouts and allowed just five goals in 18 games.

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