"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.