Chicago Sun-Times
By Patrick Z. McGavin

September 2013 Archives

Talk about delayed gratification. Word broke late Wednesday the Pepsi Showdown championship match of No. 3 Morton and No. 4 Lane has been pushed back a week to Oct. 6th, at Toyota Park, in Bridgeview, at noon.

"We were looking forward to playing [this] Sunday," Lane senior Sergio Fuentes said. "Now we just have to wait a week."

The Pepsi Showdown has often functioned as a microcosm of the season, a grueling tournament that provides excellent context for gauging team's strengths, Lane making the championship underscores the wider strength of the Public League.

In a year without a clear-cut favorite for the state title (though No. 10 Wheaton Academy looks awfully imposing in Class 2A), Lane picked the right time to have potentially its greatest team ever. "We can play with any team in the state," coach Andrew Ricks said.

The 13-1-1 Indians beat Lyons, the defending tournament champion, on its own field en route to the final. They also beat a somewhat wounded though very dangerous Libertyville team in double overtime in the semifinals. Lyons and Libertyville were ranked No. 3 and No. 4, respectively, to start the year.

Not even Mather's dominant Class 2A state title team of two years ago reached the championship round. Lane is a trailblazer in that regard. The Indians are the headliner, though one of the intriguing subplots of this year's field was the impressive showing of Public League teams. That was evident on the first round of play, at Lyons.

The Public League nearly went 5-0 on that day. Lane, Washington, Kelly and Solorio (in an upset of Larkin) each advanced to the second round. Young gave Wheaton Academy everything it wanted before falling 2-1 in double-overtime.

The larger lessons from the Pepsi Showdown reiterate the state-wide parity. (Another interesting sidebar to the championship match: enrollment figures. Morton and Lane, by a wide margin, are the state's two largest schools, when you adjust the IHSA multiplier, in Lane's case. Morton has 8,158 students. Lane has 4,41, but that number goes to just under 6,678, as a non-boundary school.)

Morton is in the final for the second consecutive year and third time in the last four years. Mike Caruso's team, which won the Class 3A state title two years ago, is rarely flashy; the Mustangs just win, typically by narrow margins of 1-0, or 2-1. The one-goal differential sometimes comes back to haunt the Mustangs, like last year in a Class 3A regional final against Oak Park-River Forest.

Like boxing, styles make the game. Sometimes it's contrasting and sometimes dovetailing movements. Morton and Lane both prefer textbook movement, cutting and possession games.

Nationally ranked: Top-ranked Hinsdale Central and No. 2 St. Charles East have both been acknowledged in the national rankings of StudentSports. The Red Devils reached as high as No. 9, before its 1-1 draw with Naperville Central last week. Hinsdale Central checks in at No. 16 in the most recently posted rankings. St. Charles East is now the highest rated local school, at No. 14. Benet is now listed at No. 35.

The boys soccer season moves at its own inexorable forward momentum. Once the season starts, the days move quickly, the interesting matches accumulate and register one way or another and we are all left trying to interpret the data.

The screenwriter and savant William Goldman famously said of Hollywood, the first rule is that nobody knows anything. It was especially difficult to get a read, this year, on how things would shake during the regular season, much less the playoffs.

Making educated guesses is part of the fun.

Some teams, like Wheeling, 8-13 a year ago, come out of nowhere; others are what we most accurately call the "tried and true," a Benet, a Naperville Central, a Morton, all teams with great players, excellent coaching and an ingrained knowledge about how to get things done.

In the notebook this week, Wheeling was held up as a surprise team that emerges from the shadows. Last year midfielder Jose Garcia accounted for 67 percent of the Wildcats' offense, scoring 19 goals and adding 14 assists.

Garcia has hardly slowed down this year, already recording four goals and two assists in Wheeling's first six games (5-0-1). He has help. Forwards Ivan Mancilla (three goals, six assists) and Luis Herrera (three goals, two assists) are dangerous in their own right. Garcia's opposite number at midfielder, Frank Estrada, has also been a revelation, according to coach Ed Uhrik.

The result is a team that went from obscurity, a team without a great deal of aura to start the year, is now suddenly a top team to watch.

This is an interesting stretch to the year. The pieces have started to solidify for a number of teams, who are understanding new roles and learning with each game how everybody fits together. It is also tournament time. Like basketball, the tournaments are a marker, a way to examine how your own strengths and weaknesses contrast with other leading teams.

It truly is the eye of the beholder. It means everything, or very little, depending on the source.

The tournaments also reinforce the idea that the regular season matters. At least twice in the first two weeks of the season (and both games involving Lyons), a player or coach, speaking afterwards, has made the point of saying the intensity level and depth of feelling of both sides equaled that of a state tournament game.

We are barely out of August. It is still technically summer.

By the end of Saturday, Sept. 7, four or five major in-season tournaments are going to crown winners. Also, the Pepsi Showdown opens its first round of action, with all games at Lyons, marking a sharper delineation of the year, captured from the point of view of the leading participants.

Hinsdale Central senior forward Christian Meyer, this week's featured player, pointed out the Red Devils had not qualified for the championship of their tournament since 2004. Meyer made it fairly explicit the team felt overdue. Hinsdale Central survived a tough match against Downers South, a 1-1 draw, and reached the final.

The opponent is an old standby, No. 5 Morton. Mustangs' coach Mike Caruso pointed out just before the year started this team marks the final connection to the 2011 Class 3A state championship. Morton survived a very good Hersey team (like Wheeling, from the deep and loaded Mid-Suburban League) 1-0 to reach the final.

One of the other top weekend tournaments is a rematch from last year: Benet against Naperville Central meet for the second consecutive year to determine the Best of the West. Last year Naperville Central star Patrick Flynn blasted a free kick from close to 30 yards that powered the Redhawks to the 1-0 victory over the Redwings. Benet edged Naperville North 1-0 to qualify for a return to the final.

If you're a soccer fan, check the Saturday results page on, and make a point of checking out the winners of the Hinsdale Invite, the Barrington Classic, the Lemont Cup or the Best of the West.

The games are there for the taking. After the jousting on both sides, we are better able to extrapolate the larger meaning. More than anything, it just provides one more rationale for staying tuned and watching the game, very closely.

What you get is both heft and excitement.

The news that Waukegan has hired former Elmwood Park basketball coach Mike Wasielewskias its new boys basketball coach is significant on multiple levels. It is a signature and much coveted job for the the former Naperville North guard who played under the legendary Mark Lindo in the DuPage Valley Conference.

The hiring also carries dramatic consequences for the Public League soccer landscape. Wasilewski left his job as a history teacher and coach of Lane's powerhouse girls city program in accepting the teaching and coaching job at Waukegan.

Under Wasilewski, the Lane girls qualified for five consecutive city finals.

He was seconds away from winning four consecutive city titles. In the spring of 2012, Lane led Young 1-0 in the 80th minute when Young scored seconds before regulation ended. The Dolphins eventually won the match in overtime.

Otherwise, Wasielewski directed the Indians to city titles in three of the last four years and four overall. His final team beat Class 2A supersectional qualifier Payton 8-0, in the most lopsided final in the 19 year history of the girls' city title. They outscored the city tournament opposition by a combined 37-0.

Wasilewski said he is not "sure if I'll coach girls' soccer at Waukegan yet, basketball will certainly keep me busy."

Jasmin Carrera, a two-time first all area player and the second most prolific scorer in Public League history, is part of the first group of scholarship at UIC, which is starting a varsity program for the 2014 season. Her departure leaves a considerable void.

George Washington-recruit Sofia Pavon, Natalie Wade and Anastasia Niforos form the nucleus of an exceptional junior class that is likely to maintain the Indians' dominance for the next two years.

Wasielewski's hiring underlines a potentially crippling blow to the Public League, another example of the talent drain the city is suffering in the aftermath of the draconian budget cuts and teacher layoffs. Some of the city's most successful, and best known, coaches in a range of sports, have lost their jobs in the reorganization.

Young boys soccer coach Ian McCarthy said he was forced to cut back his own staff. He also had to move all of his home games to a makeshift field in front of the Young campus. "I can't justify paying Park District fees in this financial environment," he said. George Stavrakas, the softball equivalent of Wasielewski who won multiple city titles for the Indians, is also no longer coaching softball there.

It seems self-evident the long-term repercussions, especially in the niche sports, are going to be considerable.

Team of the week: Hinsdale Central began the year with great expectations. The No. 2 Red Devils have exceeded the early season hype by recording two highly impressive victories to start the 2013 season. Sam Johnson scored three goals, star forward Christian Meyer also tallied and TJ Schmidt added a goal in the Red Devils' 5-1 season-opening win over No. 20 Metea Valley.

On Saturday, Hinsdale Central shut down Tremper of Kenosha, 1-0, on a goal by sophomore Bryan Loebig, in the first three minutes of the match. It was his first varsity goal. Keepers Wes Bergevin and Ethan Gama alternated in the net for the Red Devils. "It was a strong defensive effort and combined with an equally effective attacking scheme that [kept] pressure on in the attacking half," Hinsdale Central coach Michael Wiggins said.

Hinsdale Central hosts its own invitational this week. The final is Saturday at 7 p.m.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from September 2013 listed from newest to oldest.

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