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Patrick Z. McGavin: April 2012 Archives

"Covert in April, Candid in May," the great poet Emily Dickinson once wrote.

In a whirlwind and madcap last two weekends that saw the completion of the Pepsi Showdown and the Naperville Invitational six days apart, the season is suddenly a blur. Naperville North, the preseason No. 1 who opened the year with 15 consecutive wins, now surrender the top spot to Pepsi Showdown champion Loyola.

Naperville Central vanquished its crosstown rival North 1-0, the result of winning the shootout phase 4-3 after 100 minutes of play failed to produce a score from either side.

A week ago, Loyola beat insurgent Lake Forest 1-0 when Colleen McShane scored in the 76th minute at Toyota Park.

What it suggests, for now, is Loyola and the two Naperville schools are the teams to beat. Write everything now in pencil.

Don't look now, but we are rapidly approaching the end of the regular season. There are just two weeks remaining for schools in Class 2A and 3A before the start of the IHSA state tournament May 15th.

Clarity is suddenly a luxury. Central's mild upset has certainly broken the shield of invincibility that started to form around the Huskies. Then again, Naperville North coach Steve Goletz appeared relieved, of sorts, saying "the pressure," involved with going unbeaten is now off his team.

A couple of the North players left Central's stadium teary-eyed, but they get a quick turnaround to get their revenge. The two teams meet Thursday night at North, in the game that is likely to decide the Du Page Valley Conference title. "It's going to be very difficult to go from this high to getting ready to play them again," star Naperville Central keeper Jill D'Amico said.

Goletz appeared somewhat less than comfortable with playing Central on Saturday afternoon, knowing the teams were set to battle against five days later. Naperville Central now joins Loyola as the hottest team around. The Redhawks' dramatic win was their 11th in a row. Loyola has won 16 in a row since a scoreless draw with Glenbrook South the first week of the season.

An added element to all of this, the Naperville Invite followed the release, by the IHSA, of the seeds for the state tournament. The Naperville Invite was a showcase event; it also served as a dazzling prelude to the Naperville North sectional. Stunning, five of the Sun-Times top 10 teams are playing in that sectional. Two other programs, Waubonsie Valley and Lockport, are in the second tier of rankings.

(The day after its showdown with North, Naperville Central plays Lockport.) A week from Monday, Naperville North tangles with Plainfield North.

The No. 10 Tigers, who'd be no worse than a No. 1 or No. 2 seed at most sectionals, are a six-seed at Naperville North. They lost at Naperville Central 2-1 on the first weekend of the season. Naperville Central is the No. 2 seed; that means North and Central, if the seeds hold, are set to meet for the third time in late May.

Familiarity governs everything at the moment. Naperville North has already played and beaten Neuqua Valley and Waubonsie Valley twice and they knocked out Metea Valley (the third seed) 1-0 on Tuesday. Naperville Central has also beaten Neuqua Valley and Neuqua Valley.

For the moment, let's not get ahead of ourselves. We'll have more about the IHSA seedings and intriguing early match ups a bit later. Now is the time to savor a fascinating and wild year that rather than settling into focus has only splintered and taken a wild ride into the unpredictable.

So now, it is down to this.

With two 1-0 results in Saturday's semifinals, No. 3 Loyola and No. 14 Lake Forest advance to the big stage of Toyota Park in Bridgeview Sunday afternoon for the championship of the Pepsi Showdown.

The Ramblers are seeking their second consecutive title and the third in the last four years. They go in as a significant favorite over the upstart Scouts. Lake Forest has not backed down from anybody, owing impressive victories over the No. 3 (Elk Grove) and No. 2 (Plainfield North) seeds in the field.

Loyola entered the No. 4 seed, and they have already beaten three teams, Hersey, New Trier and Metea Valley, that are potential top-five teams. They enter the game 14-0-1 and have outscored their opponents by an aggregate of 55-1.

Their defense has been nothing short of astonishing, allowing just the one score in 15 games. Coach Craig Snower calls junior defender Corey Burns "one of the elite players in Illinois regardless of position." She is a destabilizing force who has a remarkable ability to disrupt and take teams out of their offensive rhythm.

On offense, the Ramblers have been buoyed by the return of senior forward Meeghan Smith. She has been dynamite in the tournament. She scored a goal and an assist in the 2-0 victory over Hersey.

Her assist to sophomore forward Margaret Walker was the offensive difference in the Ramblers' 1-0 victory over Metea Valley Saturday. "We're so excited," she said, about the prospect of defending their tournament championship.

Loyola beat Lake Forest in the semifinals of last year's tournament en route to their 1-0 victory over Lyons.

In the all-North Shore final, Scouts' coach Ty Stuckslager knows his team enters the game a considerable underdog. "We're going to give it everything we have," he said. He expressed some surprise at the remarkable improvement his team has demonstrated in the tournament.

The Scouts (9-2-1) have shown toughness and resilience throughout the tournament. Senior midfielder Abby Shipp scored in overtime to beat Elk Grove in the quarterfinal round. Against Plainfield North, freshman Carly Hoke scored on a header from a beautiful feed by Catherine Traut.

In the Scouts' stunning victory over the heavily-favored No. 8 Tigers, junior keeper Liz Clark was absolutely spellbinding, repeatedly denying Plainfield North up close. Loyola is not the only team capable of playing shut down defense. Senior Marina Katz was brilliant against Plainfield North, and sophomore Lucy Edwards (the daughter of former DePaul basketball star Kevin Edwards) is a future star with her range, speed and quickness.

The proximity of the two schools only adds to the intrigue. Clark and a couple of other Lake Forest players are connected to the FC-United club program that Snower directs.

The tournament has a way of propelling teams into a different level. "Four years ago, the first time we made the finals, that helped put our program on the map," Snower said.

On Sunday, Loyola is trying to take its program to an even higher level, and Lake Forest is ready for the same.

After an interesting and dramatic first two rounds, the Pepsi Showdown moves to the quarterfinal phase Saturday. The four games are set to be played, consecutively, beginning at noon, at Olympic Park, in Schaumburg. The forecast is hot, windy and rainy, which possibly could only add to the unpredictability.

Seven of the eight teams are ranked in the Sun-Times' current poll.

Metea Valley, fourth-ranked by the Sun-Times, is the top-seed. The Mustangs (11-1) meet Stevenson (5-2-1) in the first game. Metea Valley already owns impressive victories over No. 5 Neuqua Valley and No. 12 York. Their only loss was a 1-0 decision to No. 10 Waubonsie Valley.

The Mustangs have some serious offensive firepower with Jenna Kentgen, who had five goals in the first-round game with Plainfield East, Holy Krol and Tina Tomaras, a superb facilitator who orchestrates the attack. (She had four assists in the same game against Plainfield East.) Equally important, Metea Valley has a keeper supreme in Megan Geldernick. She was withstood a barrage of shots from York that enabled the Mustangs to win on penalty kicks.

Stevenson is coming off the most dramatic second-round match up, a 5-4 overtime victory over York, that marked the only true upset of the second round. (The rest of the seeds held up.) Jenna Weiner's goal punched the Patriots' ticket to the quarterfinals. Olivia Whalen scored twice in the topsy-turvy game against York.

For many reasons, the most interesting game is certain to be New Trier and Loyola. The No. 3 Trevians are 9-0. With the addition of Jessica Weaver, a transfer from Pennsylvania, their attack is jet-propelled. "Our attack is insane right now," junior forward Jessie Berman said. Forward Aly Marzonie, forward Maddie Mulford, midfielder Emily Miller and forward Rachel Shellenback have also excelled. Defensively, the Trevians are have stout with defenders Tricia Lybrook and Sarah Connors and keeper Emma Schaff.

The No. 7 Ramblers (10-0-1) have also impressed, allowing a stunning one goal in their first 11 games. Junior keeper Brittany San Roman has been superb, supported by a long and rangy backline led by junior Corey Burns. Senior forward Meeghan Smith starred in the second-round victory over Hersey, scoring a goal and setting up sophomore Margaret Walker's goal on a beautiful spin and pirouette move.

The game will mark the first in-season game of the North Shore rivals since 2005. "We played the last three years in the sectional [finals]," Loyola coach Craig Snower said. "We've won once, and they've won twice, and the cumulative score of the games is 3-3. That tells you how close we've been." One final level of extra intrigue: Snower is the coach of the U-17 club program FC United that features many players from both schools.

The third game is No. 12 Elk Grove (7-0-1) against No. 19 Lake Forest (7-2-1). Rachel Pruim and Kelly Naughton scored in the Grens' 2-1 second-round win over Wheaton North. The Grens have a big, imposing attack featuring Kelli Hubly and suffocating defense led by Notre Dame-bound Katie Naughton. The Scouts have allowed just 11 goals in seven games, keyed senior defender Marina Katz and sophomore Lucy Edwards. Sisters Kendall Hoke and Carly Hoke are emerging stars.

In the nightcap, No. 8 Plainfield North (10-1-1) takes on No. 18 Lockport (7-2). Behind do-everything star Callie O'Donnell, the Tigers have been on a roll, pummeling the opposing. They have one of the most impressive wins in the tournament, a 2-0 victory over No. 11 Lyons on Thursday. Considered the best of the south suburbs to start the year, Lockport started out slowly after star Lexi Cozzi missed the first couple of games. The Porters have been on a roll, winners of six straight and owing impressive wins over No. 20 Lincoln-Way North, Maine South and a very good Lake Zurich team. Cortney Jerzy was the star in that game, scoring in regulation and making the game-winning shot during the penalty kick phase. Junior keeper Alyssa Deyoung is also dynamite.

The in-season, specially curated invitational has become the soccer equivalent of the holiday tournaments that produce so much excitement during the basketball season. For the girls' soccer enthusiast, April is not, in poet T.S. Eliot's famous formation, the "cruelest month," but rather its opposite, a virtual nirvana.

The month is shaped by two big-time tournaments, hybrid events that pull from many of the same teams. In basketball teams, it is as though Pontiac and Proviso West cross-pollinated.

First-round games of the Pepsi Showdown start Tuesday. Two city teams figure prominently in the early intrigue. If Payton gets by Plainfield East in a qualifying game, the Grizzlies and star forward Corinne Harris must confront top-seed Metea Valley.

The Mustangs are coming off the biggest win in its program's history, a scintillating 4-3 victory over nationally-rated and previous No. 3 Neuqua Valley on Wednesday, sparked by Kristina Tomaras's two goals and assist.

(The Mustangs survived a gauntlet that featured games against highly-regarded York and Waubonsie Valley.)

Without looking too far ahead, North Shore rivals New Trier and Loyola, currently ranked number 5 and 6 respectively, in the Sun-Times' poll, are staring down at a showdown in next Saturday's quarterfinals, if the seeds hold out.

That's at the top of the bracket.

In the lower bracket, the most interesting first-round match up appears to be Lane, with Payton the favorite for the city crown, traveling to the (far too lower) 15h-th seeded Lyons. The Lions, the tournament defending runner-up, are coming off back-to-back impressive wins over Lincoln-Way North and nemesis York. They have a great keeper in Maggie Orlowski and a dangerous and quickly improving offensive attack. Their only blemish is their undefeated start is a tie with Waubonsie Valley.

The quarterfinals are Saturday, April 14 at Schaumburg's Olympic Park.

The other significant tournament is the 24-team Naperville Invitational that boats a staggering line up including nine teams currently ranked by the Sun-Times. The current top two ranked programs, Naperville North and Conant, headline the field.

The format has eight three-team pools that begins April 19th at Naperville Central, Naperville North, Barrington and Wheaton North.

In addition to stacked programs such as Naperville North, Conant, Naperville Central and New Trier, the invitational features the wild card of Rockford Boylan. Behind junior forward Abby Reed, an Indiana State-recruit, the Titans blitzed the field at the Huntley tournament last month. Their presence certainly diversifies the field.

The eight pool winners make up the quarterfinalists. The championship bracket tips on April 26th at a site to be determined. The semifinals and championship are set for Naperville Central on Friday and Saturday, April 27th and April 28th.

Back to work: many Public League teams elected not to play during their spring break. That break is officially over after Easter Sunday, and some excellent games are on tap. The most exciting is Wednesday at Lane Stadium, where two-time defending champion Lane hosts Harris and the rest of the Grizzlies from Payton. The other wildcard of course is Young. Rachel Hobart is probably the best keeper in the city, and she ensures the Dolphins are always going to hang around. Lane and Young, who played in last year's city final, are scheduled to play April 18th.

Finally, Bogan won the Amundsen Cup earlier this week behind the strong play of Bianca Soto. She scored five goals in two games as the Bengals beat the hosts in the preliminary round and smothered Schurz 5-0 in the title game. Not surprisingly, Soto was named the most valuable player for her accomplishments.

About this Archive

This page is a archive of recent entries written by Patrick Z. McGavin in April 2012.

Patrick Z. McGavin: March 2012 is the previous archive.

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