Chicago Sun-Times
By Patrick Z. McGavin

Stories outside of the top 20

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Not every team is Warren. Yet, the beauty of all sports, is with the start of the new soccer season Monday, Aug. 26th, every team starts in the same place. The best separate themselves from the pack.

Warren, Hinsdale Central, Lyons, Libertyville and Morton are likely playing for a state championship; St. Viator is a top threat in Class 2A. For others, success is measured, winning a regional, taking conference, doing better than the previous year.

Here is a snapshot, of sorts, of programs outside the top 20 to start the year, and what they hope to achieve.

Lincoln-Way West finished 14-9-3 last year. Coach Jeff Theiss has seven returning starters, led by senior midfielder Ian McGrath, one of the state's top players. The coach also touted senior midfielders Kipp Pavlovich and Paul Miller, senior forwards Adam Webb and Franco Pettinato, senior defender Kevin Staniszewski and keeper Tony Prospero. "I feel our program this season has a quality mix of experienced varsity athletes along with technical and talented underclassmen who have the ability to succeed at the varsity level," Theiss said.

Geneva (7-8-3) a year features four returning starters. Coach Ryan Estabrook is excited about two junior newcomers, Jason Lagger and Dylan Lange.

Notre Dame has not been known for its soccer program, but that could change under coach Reggie Lara. He called last year's team "perhaps [Notre Dame's] most successful soccer team in school history." The Dons have seven returning starters. Their best players are senior midfielder Lucas Carlson, senior keeper Robbie Hill (nine shutouts last year) and sophomore defender Nate Adams. Lara also likes sophomore midfielder Jack Werner and junior defender Joe Hilger. "We're a young team that still has a lot of experience," Lara said. "Our strengths are our speed on offense and our discipline and physical toughness on defense."

Ridgewood finished state runner-up in Class 2A three years ago. Coach Robert St. John, behind senior Adam Yaghmour, is looking to make another run. "The [Metro Suburban] is tough with Glenbard South, Timothy Christian, Fenton, and Riverside Brookfield all bringing back quality teams," he said.

Glenbard South (9-7-3 last year) is led by Matt Patterson and Joey Gjata, according to coach Melissa Pero.

Oak Park-River Forest returns just three starters from last year's team that beat Morton in the state tournament. "We are going to be an extremely young team this year with only six players that have varsity experience," coach Paul Wright said.. "The majority of the team will be juniors." Watch senior midfielder Tim Huettel and junior defender Mavin Gill.

Curie is making the leap the Public League's top division, the Premier. Coach Leon Kim has one of the city's best players in three-year starter Eric Gonzalez. "This will be our first season where every team we play will be a challenge," Kim said.

Leyden, with Addison Trail, is the top threat to power Morton in the West Suburban Gold. The Eagles return six starters from a 15-7-2 team. Sophomore Albert Arabik is one of the state's top sophomores (he had 15 goals and four assists last year). "We lost three kids to academy, but we will be quite competitive," coach Mark Valintis said. 'We have a strong senior group that is experienced and talented. Will be young in the back and in goal."

Stagg returns five starters from a 12-7-2 team that lost to eventual third-place finisher Sandburg 1-0 in a regional final. The foundation is set with two star, senior midfielder Roberto Torres and junior keeper Erick Estrada.

Homewood-Flossmoor was just 4-18-3 last year. Coach Chris Reid has a simple goal: "Improve on last year's record." He has five starters back, led by Andrew Lwanga and talented newcomers Sam Spencer, Nick Wassilak and Jonathan Brandt.

Mundelein has three returning starters from a team that went 8-9-4 a year ago. Coach Ernie Billittier said his top returning players are: Eric Morales, Armando Gomez, Carlos Huaracha, Lino Garcia and Mason Homsey. The top newcomer are Hector Ruiz, Chuy Alba, Stephen Wald, PePe Gonzalez. "We have a young group that is enthusiastic and have a team-first approach to the season," he said.

Plainfield East features an elite player in senior forward Ryan Olans (19 goals a year ago), one of four starters from last year's 9-6-4 group. Others to watch are sophomore keeper Isaias Marquez and seniors Cristian Rodriguez and Cristian Valdez. This year's junior class was undefeated as sophomores.

Niles West struggled last year, going 3-13-3. Coach Scott Ackman is excited by the return of Robert Ljubic and two prized freshmen, keeper Carlos Lome and defender Kevin Sanchez.

Maine East has eight returning starters from a 12-8-1 team. Coach Vic DiPrizio said watch sophomore forward Matt Coronado, senior midfielder Dino Tijanic, senior defender Marco Marin and senior keeper David Patyk.

Plainfield North coach Jim O'Hara returns seven starters, led by star midfielder/forward Logan Wright and senior midfielder Tyler Petprachan and senior defender Garret Gathman. "I believe we have a great opportunity to be the best team in our school's young history," O'Hara said.

Plainfield South coach David Brown has seven returning starters from a team that went 13-8-3. "We brought up a lot of very skilled sophomores to the varsity team last year, so hopefully their experience of going through a complete varsity season, coupled with the assets our seniors bring to the table, will make for an exciting season," he said. "We have been in a regional final two of the last three years, now it is time to see if we can take the next step."

Nazareth coach Doug Hunt has one of the state's most prolific scorers in senior forward Chris Tovar (26 goals, nine assists in 2012). Also watch senior midfielder Mark Haraus (eight goals) and defender Sam Abed.

Alan Matan assumes the coaching job at Maine West, a strong program embroiled in a notorious hazing incident that undercut its 17-3-3 season. He has one of the state's top players, four-year starter Nelson Herrera, and Jonathan Schmitz as a foundation to build around. "With a new coaching staff and new philosophies, it will be a challenge to quickly develop chemistry," Matan said.

Plainfield Central has been the dominant program in the Southwest Prairie. Coach Kevin Fitzgerald has three returning starters. His top newcomer are sophomore midfielder Jarod Petrovic, sophomore midfielder Gustavo Sanchez, junior defender Gage Wuestenfeld and senior defender Tom Poznanski. "We have a nice mix of youth and experience, and we're still learning how to play together," he said. "The conference is wide open with the other Plainfields all expected to be pretty good. Oswego should
also contend."

Larkin has seven returning players from a sectional finalist that went 20-4-2. Senior defender Tito Valezguez is the team's star. Also watch two newcomers, keeper Leo Perez and transfer Gonsalo Garcia, according to coach Ken Hall.

Bloom was on the verge of cracking the top 20. The Blazing Trojans have five returning starters from a 19-3-1 group that romped undefeated through the Southland. Senior forward Juan Elizalde (19 goals) is the team's star.

Loyola returns six starters from a 15-6-2 regional finalist. Players to watch are Gil Maloul, Alex Lopez and keeper Konrad Kowal.

Wes Molyneaux takes over one of the state's signature programs at New Trier. He has four returning starters. "Kevin Sokal and Jack Cornelo are our top returning players from last year," he said. "Both played in the back for us last year but will be moving up to midfield this year." The Trevians also return two experienced keepers in Andrew Gjersten and J.J. Jaggard.

Addison Trail is another team right on the verge of making the top 20 with six returning starters from a 14-6-1 team of a year ago. In addition to three returning all-conference players, Angelo Amta, Trey Smith and Sergio Marin, the team welcomes back star midfielder Elias Leyva from a year playing club.
"Our strengths this year are team speed, quickness, and ability to put the ball in the net," coach Ryan Dini said.

Wheaton Warrenville South is the top threat to perennial powers Naperville Central and Naperville North in the DuPage Valley. The Tigers have one of the state's top backlines, led by star senior defender Joey Spera and Mike Stelletello. Offensively, watch out for junior midfielder Elliot Kettle, junior forward Jurguen Guzman and junior midfielder Ian Daniels.

In his second year at Neuqua Valley, Skip Begley has a solid nucleus with two gifted playmakers, senior forward Jake Loncar and junior forward Ryan Ross. Junior midfielder Xavi Ortiz is the team's other returning starter.

Rolling Meadows returns six starters from a developing team. Coach Peter Mikulak touts junior midfielder Brett Gibson, junior forwards David Zarate and Arthur Giedrojc and senior midfielder Mike D'Acquisto.

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This page contains a single entry by Patrick Z. McGavin published on August 25, 2013 8:34 PM.

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