Chicago Sun-Times
By Patrick Z. McGavin

March 2014 Archives

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
4. Barrington
5. Neuqua Valley
6. Loyola
7. New Trier
8. Lake Forest
9. Plainfield North
10. St. Charles North

The second ten:

11. Naperville Central
12. Hinsdale Central
13. Sandburg
14. Lane
15. Lemont
16. Lyons
17. Hersey
18. Metea Valley
19. Geneva
20. Parker

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.

A new month brings the start of the girls season. The IHSA formally permits the beginning of practice this week for the girls' season. Many programs are staging tryouts and launching the start of the new season.

Weather permitting, there are some dynamite games the opening week of the season, beginning in the middle of the month. Two-time defending Class 3A state champion Naperville North is scheduled to play two teams from last year's state finals, Barrington and Hinsdale Central, in the opening week of the season.

The Huskies graduated two-times All-area star Zoe Swift, who scored both goals in the Huskies' 2-1 victory over Hinsdale Central in the state championship last June at North Central. Coach Steve Goletz must also contend with the loss of his two other captains, crucial three-year starters Christa Szalach and Cora Climo.

The biggest story surrounding the Huskies' three-peat hopes is predicated on the health of star Abbie Boswell, the state's top junior. Boswell had an extraordinary sophomore campaign in scoring 27 goals and administering 10 assists for the 22-0-2 Huskies. She also had knee surgery last September.

Naperville North returns two other excellent midfielders in senior Meghan Lee and junior Claire Hilburger, tough, experienced players, and star junior keeper Fiona Baenziger, who allowed just 16 goals in 24 games last year.

Even with the graduation losses, Naperville North looks to be formidable.

Defending Class 3A third-place finisher Barrington is another team to watch. Coach Ryan Stengren must replace one of the greatest players in school history, current Marquette player Molly Pfeiffer. If Boswell is the state's best junior, the electrifying and fast forward Jenna Szczesny is right behind her. She scored 24 goals last year in leading the Fillies.

She heads a superb junior class that also features star keeper Hannah Luedtke and midfielders Megan Fox and Kelsey Muniz. Seniors Elli Ackermann and Mia Calamari are also very skilled.

The Fillies defeated MSL rival Buffalo Grove in the third-place game. It was a disappointing to an extraordinary year for the Bison, who won the Pepsi Showdown and advanced to the state semifinals for the first time in more than two decades.

Astonishingly, Pat Dudle had just three seniors on his entire roster. He returns virtually his entire team, led by All Area star Kelli Zickert, who scored 31 goals and had 11 assists for the 25-win Bison last year. Her twin sister Colleen is also back, as are Allie Ingham, Jessica Kovach and Sara Busse.

Hinsdale Central coach Michael Smith proved himself one of the rising stars in his field, and the Red Devils

That's just last year's Class 3A semifinalists. Waubonsie Valley, Loyola, New Trier, Neuqua Valley, Naperville Central, Plainfield North, Lockport, Sandburg and Hersey also return loaded and dangerous players from a year ago. It looks to be a great season.

In the city, Lane has a new coach, Michelle Vale-Suarez, and a stacked lineup, led by Sofia Pavon and a great junior class headed by Natalie Wade. Payton won a Class 2A sectional title and Young is always dangerous. Defending Class 1A state runner-up Parker features the prolific and very skilled Olivia Amdur.

For soccer fans, that wait is nearly over.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from March 2014 listed from newest to oldest.

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