Coach: Eric Cournaya
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Last year: 10-12, 1-6 in Suburban Christian Conference; lost 5-1 to Marmion in Class 2A Burlington Central regional Top players: all starters return except for one.
Outlook: The Aurora Central program enters just its ninth season and should have a solid chance of finishing above .500 as the Chargers only lost one starter from last year's 10-12 team. "We aren't a team loaded with guys with club experience so there's a lot of building that goes on during the season," Aurora Central coach Eric Cournaya said. "I'm trying to give them a better knowledge of the game and to continue to see them grow." Cournaya was away from the team last year and Mike Bond served as interim coach. That didn't mean that Cournaya was out of the loop. He kept up to date with the progress of the team. "I kept poking my head around to see how things we're going," he said. "We're excited with this group of kids and the program. We had 17 or 18 kids during my first year and now we're up to 46 kids."
Coach: Mark Gianfrancesco
Last year: 8-8-5 overall, 3-2-1 in Upstate Eight Conference River Division; lost 1-0 to Benet in the Class 3A Naperville Central regional semifinal.
Top players: Calvin Baez, Sr., MF, Eduardo Cuautle, Sr., MF, Anthony Torres, Sr., D, Cody Witkowski, Sr., F
Outlook: Batavia was a bad team and also a very good team last fall. It all depended on when you saw the Bulldogs play. They weren't very good against Bartlett (5-2 loss) and Downers Grove North (5-1 loss) at the end of August and September respectively, but they were very competitive in their final eight matches (2-3-3) even if the results weren't all positive. Playing consistent soccer from start to finish is a big key for the Bulldogs this season.
Last year, coach Mark Gianfrancesco could point to inexperience as the main reason why his team could look fantastic at times and miserable at others. Now, the Bulldogs feature a roster of 15 seniors. Most of the players from last year are back this season and the Bulldogs should contend for a conference title and have the kind of makeup to make a strong postseason run. "Most of these guys have a sense of urgency because they're seniors," Gianfrancesco said. "They play smart, mature soccer and enjoying playing together as a team. Chemistry is very good and it's just a matter of playing with consistency."
Coach: Ryan Estabrook
Last year: 13-10-1, 4-2-0 in Upstate Eight Conference River Division; lost 1-0 (OT penalty kicks) to Leyden in Class 3A Schaumburg sectional.
Top players: Josh Poythress (Jr., F), Steven Soderstrom (Sr., GK), Kevin Higgins (Sr., MF), Nick Nowukunski (Sr., MF)
Outlook: There's no denying that the Vikings lost a lot of talent to graduation. Veterans Andrew Walton, Craig Hancock, Robbie Johnson, Seamus Kaminski, Brian Ruane, along with the 2010 Daily Herald All-Area captain Brady Wahl, and others, are no longer here to lead the way for the Vikings. That said, this isn't the first time the Vikings have had to rebuild and they've got a few remaining pieces that will be crucial, as will be the much-needed contributions from several newcomers and some inexperienced returnees. "I think we have the talent but we don't have the breadth of experience of our previous teams," Geneva coach Ryan Estabrook said. "That might mean we'll struggle early in the season, but these guys have a lot of great, quality characteristics and we're excited to see where they can go."
It also could be the kind of year where someone rises seemingly out of nowhere to play a significant role. An example would be senior Ryan Cordon who played solely JV last year. "It was nice to see him work hard in the off-season and improve his game," Estabrook said. "He didn't just make varsity but we'll need him." Geneva's roster features nine seniors, three juniors and five sophomores. "Beck Nebergall is one of those sophomores," Estabrook said. "He was a very skillful player on JV last year and is a nice addition to our attack." Geneva's top returning players include fourth-year player Steven Soderstrom and junior Josh Poythress, who has been a valuable player since his freshman year.
Coach: Jim Mueller
Last year: 3-17-1 overall, 3-2 in Northeastern Athletic Conference lost 8-2 to Burlington Central in Class 2A Burlington Central regional semifinal
Top players: Yinka Onayemi, Sr., F, Anthony Cado, Jr., D, Robert Schurz, Jr., F, Anthony Ortiz, So. M/F
Outlook: IMSA graduated 15 seniors last season and doesn't have the luxury of most area schools which play together in summer leagues or get together for camps and a more thorough preseason. "It's tough to not say you're rebuilding when you graduate that much, but we also had a lot of kids in JV last year," IMSA coach Jim Mueller said. "So a lot of guys got a chance to play which was a good thing." The program continues to grow at IMSA with 42 athletes playing this year. "We're excited about our numbers," Mueller said.
Coach: Scott Parillo
Last year: 11-11-2 overall, 5-3-1 in Northern Illinois Big 12 Conference, East Division, lost 3-2 in triple OT in Class 2A Belvidere sectional semifinal.
Top players: Jordan Escobedo, Sr., MF, Alex Gil, Jr., MF/F, Tyler Siebert, So., MF/F, Pedro Perez, Sr., D/MF, Sam Rymarz Jr., D/MF, Anthony Parillo, So., MF/F.
Outlook: Kaneland's overall record wasn't anything special last year, but it didn't tell the story of the wonderful run by the Knights into the postseason, which included them winning their first regional title since 2004. The Knights also took the roller coaster route by playing nine overtimes during a three-game run in their second season. "We've got a lot of the guys who were a part of last year back, so they remember sharing in that kind of excitement," Kaneland coach Scott Parillo said. "I added about 40 gray hairs to my beard and had hair falling out of my head because it was so nerve wracking."
Parillo will accept the premature graying and hair loss as long as the Knights can continue their recent trend of being competitive during the regular season and in conference, and then making a considerable run in the postseason. "I think the kids are excited and should be competitive in most of our matches," Parillo said. "We'd like to get beyond a sectional semifinal and vie for a sectional title and maybe pull off that miraculous run like Burlington Central had." All-conference selections Jordan Escobedo, Alex Gil and Anthony Parillo all return to lead a Knights team that remains relatively young with just six seniors but six sophomores and eight juniors. Replacing keeper J.P. Minogue is a preseason question and Julian DelReal and Marshall Farthing could split duties.
Coach: Kevin O'Connor
Last year: 13-6-6, 6-2 in Suburban Christian Conference, lost 1-0 to Burlington Central in Class 2A Burlington Central regional championship.
Top players: Mike Maley, Sr., D, Mike Frasca, Sr., MF, Matthew Switzer, Jr., MF, Bradley White, Sr., GK, Joe Romanos, Sr., F
Outlook: It was already two years ago when the Cadets advanced all the way to the Class 2A Barrington supersectional. Mike Frasca, Mike Maley, Matthew Switzer and Joe Romanos were all members of that team as underclassmen. Now, they're the veteran leaders of the team with all but Switzer playing in their final high school season. "We have a lot of game experience back and a lot of high-level expectations," Marmion coach Kevin O'Connor said. "I think our core players are good players but they can't do it on their own. Our support players have to fulfill their roles too if we want to be successful." Players like senior Luke Elder, junior Alex Lopez and sophomores Eddie Graham and Flynn Collins, among others, need to step up.
"We have a chance of having another special season," O'Connor said. "It's a process though and the players have to learn what it takes. It's a process of developing over the course of the season and if it takes hold then hopefully we'll field a team that can have a nice postseason run. But right now we need to make the connections between our experienced and less experienced guys."
St. Charles East
Coach: Paul Jennison
Last year: 12-8-1, 5-1 and first place in Upstate Eight Conference River Division; lost 1-0 to Leyden in Class 3A Glenbard North regional championship.
Top players: Austin Jackman, Sr., MF, Zach Cramer, Sr., MF, Robert Stackhouse, Sr., MF, Brian Gielow, Jr., MF, Michael Macek, Jr., D
Outlook: Defending conference champion has a nice ring to it for St. Charles East coach Paul Jennison. "I think we surprised some people and no one gave us a chance last year," he said. "It was nice to spruce some people up with that." The Saints will be young, with a roster of eight sophomores and one freshman. "The quality of players we've got is very good," Jennison said. "We hope to defend the title and try to get over the hurdle of not being able to win a regional title."
Standout Austin Jackman is back for his final season and will look to control possessions for a Saints team that but has plenty of youth and speed. "We've had the big physical guys which is the team and style I like to play," Jennison said. "I like to get the ball down and pass and move and possess to build the plays and get it wide and deliver." Don't be surprised if freshman Tyler Robbins makes a name for himself earlier in his high school career.
St. Charles North
Coach: Eric Willson
Last year: 16-6-4; 3-3-0 in Upstate Eight Conference River Division; lost 1-0 to Bartlett in the Class 3A St. Charles North Regional championship
Top players: Tyler Davis, Jr., MF, Conor Lefelstein, Jr., M, Drew Smith, Sr., D, Mike Winhoffer, Sr., M
Outlook: The North Stars are only have seven players on this year's roster who were on the team last fall. The team lost 13 seniors to graduation, including standout Noah Anthony (20 goals, 17 assists in 2010), but returns seniors Mike Winhoffer and Drew Smith, junior Connor Lefelstein, as well as junior Tyler Davis who had dedicated himself to club competition previously. St. Charles North broke the trend of posting a mediocre regular season record and then having a lengthy postseason run last season. Bartlett upset the North Stars in a regional title game. Plenty of less familiar faces should have an opportunity to get plenty of minutes on the field for a program that has become one of most consistently successful ones in the Tri-Cities.
Coach: Joe Sustersic
Last year: 16-6-1, 4-3 in DuPage Valley Conference; lost 1-0 to West Chicago in the Class 3A West Chicago regional semifinal.
Top players: Matt Koth, Sr., D, Daniel Rotolo, Jr., MF, Collin Malina, Sr., D, David Quinones, Sr., D
Outlook: West Aurora coach Joe Sustersic admitted that the returnees for the Blackhawks only accounted for about 20 goals last fall. "We only have four returning players so it's going to be a young, unproved group, Sustersic said. "And the returning guys are moving around a bit to give us the best chance for success." One such player is senior Matt Koth who played sweeper back last season. In this year's opener, Koth split time as sweeper and up front. While being incorporated into the offensive attack, Koth produced three assists. The Blackhawks will need special efforts from their few returning lettermen, but just as significant will be the actions of the newcomers. A positive for the Blackhawks is that they prepared themselves for the new season by playing in tournaments in Roselle and Moline as well as every Tuesday throughout the summer at Wheaton North.