The Sun-Times published its girls soccer preview last week. Already the season is topsy-turvy, with early upsets, as teams have struggled to get consistent outdoor practice time because of the volatile weather, many schools having their spring breaks and just the nature of early season play.
For those who missed it, here is the top 20:
1. Buffalo Grove
2. Waubonsie Valley
3. Naperville North
5. Neuqua Valley
7. New Trier
8. Lake Forest
9. Plainfield North
10. St. Charles North
The second ten:
11. Naperville Central
12. Hinsdale Central
18. Metea Valley
Our top players list was restricted by space to just 50 players, 15 forwards, midfielders and defenders and five keepers. As one of the top five girls soccer markets in the country, many other quality teams and players were unfortunately left off. Here are some other teams to keep an eye, as well as players to watch.
Benet coach Bob Gros has gone to a new, more diversified offensive formation, and he has two elite players in Michelle Morefield and Katie Baumann.
Traditional power Conant experienced a transition year after the graduation of former Sun-Times Player of the Year Courtney Raetzman. Young players earned the necessary experience. Conant opened the year with a 2-1 victory over No. 10 St. Charles North, and is solid in all phases of the game with star senior defender Drew Wentzel, junior forward Leah Celarek and junior keeper Haley Anderson.
Lake Zurich coach Mike Castronova has nine returning starters back from a year ago. Senior midfielder Meaghan Gelinas is a star, and Ohio-recruit Kaitlyn McCurley keys the backline, with keeper Elly Daleske and defender Maggie Tuckey.
Lincoln-Way North has won four consecutive conference titles and is off to a blistering 5-0 start, capped by its 1-0 victory over Glenbard East in the championship of the Windy City Ram Classic last Saturday at Toyota Park. Brenna Stremlau scored the game-winner and keeper Bethany Dombkowski has been superb. Senior forward Lexi Cesario and sophomore forward Rachel Pappas (nine goals as a freshman) are the offensive catalysts.
Naperville North and Naperville Central have dominated the DuPage Valley, but watch out for Glenbard East and Wheaton Warrenville South. Glenbard East is 4-1 after the tight loss to Lincoln-Way North and survived a strong Fenwick team in the semifinals. Coach Kent Overbey has nine returning starters, led by senior midfielder Alex Ruffer, a Western Michigan-recruit, Megan Mrazek, and gifted sophomore forward Brittany Paganucci (who had nine goals and seven assists as a freshman). Juniors Haley Lydon and Rachel Anderson share keeping responsibilities.
At WW South, veteran coach Guy Callipari has six returning starters, keyed by one of the state's top juniors, midfielder AJ Jakuszewski (who played a prominent role on the U-18 national champion club team), sophomore forward Anna Fank and sophomore defender Tory Adomshick. Junior keeper Abby Fuster is another standout.
Deerfield in a team to watch in Class 2A, with eight returning starters and a strong supporting freshman class. Senior keeper Bailey Bradford has 16 career shutouts, and junior forward Emily Kellow (13 goals a year ago) is another standout.
Batavia coach Mark Gianfrancesco returns a strong nucleus from a 13-win team, led by sophomore forward Megan McEachern (15 goals, eight assists), junior midfielder Alexis Bryl (three goals, 10 assists) and junior defender Ali Grimm.
Prospect returns virtually its entire team, 10 starters, from last year's 13-win outfit. Midfielders Sammy Minasian, Markita Maggos and forwards Sarah LaCost and Emily Novak are the ones to watch. Stevenson has six starters back and three talented club players in Katy Karabetsos, Sophia Godoy and Erin Bailey.