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updated: 9/1/2011 9:14 PM

Golf suits Naperville Central's Lieser

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Pitching arm or pitching wedge?

Tim Lieser chose the latter.

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The Naperville Central senior recalls the highlight of his baseball career as the self-described "ace" of the sophomore club. He pitched the Redhawks to victory over Wheaton Warrenville South in the heat of a DuPage Valley Conference sophomore pennant race.

By junior year baseball was no longer part of Lieser's repertoire. Neither was basketball, which he'd played in middle school.

Discussions with now-retired Hall of Fame baseball coach Bill Seiple and current Redhawks varsity coach Mike Stock had no affect.

"The next year I got a lot of talk from the two head coaches to try to get me to play, but I turned it down," Lieser said.

Baseball's loss was golf's gain. Lieser is the No. 1 player and co-captain for Naperville Central boys golf coach Barry Baldwin.

"I always loved the thrill of (baseball and basketball), and participating as a team, I always loved that," Lieser said. "But also being able to play for myself is a great part."

No man is an island. Lieser added that a big hook of Redhawks golf was simply playing with his buddies on the team, like Cole Charboneau, Kyle Faulkner, co-captain Peter Mandich and Henry Conforti, with whom Lieser has played the longest.

Individual focus, which makes sense for a 2- to 3-handicap golfer aiming to play the sport in college, is essential.

"It's also relaxing for me," he said. "When I play by myself I just kind of think things over and kind of relax."

There are few weaknesses in his game. Lieser said he's long off the tee, "pretty good" near the greens and out of bunkers and is a decent putter.

In this humbling game there's always room for improvement. Particularly, for Lieser, from 10-15 feet from the pin.

"I can 2-putt most of the time, but making birdie putts is always a struggle for me," said Lieser, who carded a 35 on the outward nine and a 37 coming home to place fifth with a 72 at the Geneseo Invitational on Saturday.

Lieser started playing baseball at an early age -- tee ball -- then was introduced to golf at the age of 10 by his father, Joseph, at Naperbrook Golf Course. The lad fell in love with it. His best round, 70, was accomplished at Naperbrook, Naperville Central's home course.

He also played perhaps his most frustrating 18 there. A rough late-round hole at the 2010 sectionals led to a "domino affect" that left him 3 strokes off the sectional's state-qualifying cut of 74.

He remembers being "heartbroken."

It was a temporary state. Disappointment has fueled determination to reach downstate as a senior.

"It's been motivating me every day," Lieser said. "I just don't want to be in that position again."

Wednesday night lights

Years ago Neuqua Valley boys cross country coach Paul Vandersteen came up with the idea of running a meet at night, under lights.

"I just thought football, basketball, they're very fan-friendly in that they're at night on a weekend," said Vandersteen, who coached Class 3A state championship teams in 2007 and 2009.

Finally, it is a go. It won't be on a weekend, but it'll be under lights.

Tied into Neuqua Valley's Spirit Week, on Oct. 5 both Wildcats boys and girls squads will host those of Waubonsie Valley, Metea Valley, Naperville North and Naperville Central on a lit course traversing the Neuqua campus.

"We're keeping it small, keeping it local," Vandersteen said, "so that hopefully we can develop a tradition that's sort of a city championship."

The course, plotted on computer by Neuqua Valley assistant principal Lance Fuhrer, the Wildcats' first track coach, will start near 95th Street, heading to Frontier Park. Encompassing three practice fields, runners will navigate a chicane next to Neuqua's freshman center and run the last 600 meters on the high school track.

Representatives from Nike, the shoe company, have been in discussion with Vandersteen on such aspects as bringing in the lights and perhaps even a rock band as part of the event.

The coach said his runners are excited about the whole thing. They're not the only ones.

"The coaches from the other schools gave an emphatic 'Yes' when I presented the idea to them," Vandersteen said.

All-around athletes

West Chicago resident Matthew Fazio, a golfer at Marmion, Benet swimmer Chris Stiegal of Wheaton and Addison's Kasia Wlodarkiewicz, a basketball player and track athlete at Fenwick, are among 30 Chicago-area student-athletes who are finalists in the Positive Coaching Alliance's Triple-Impact Competitor Scholarship Program. They'll be recognized at a Wednesday dinner at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago.

The Positive Coaching Alliance is a nonprofit founded with Stanford University's athletic department in 1998. It boosts the potential of athletics as a character builder and salutes athletes who excel in athletics, school and community. Pro basketball coach Phil Jackson is the national spokesman.

Fazio and Stiegal have a shot at two of the six $1,000 scholarships that will be awarded that night.

Leaders on the pitch

On Aug. 23, Top Drawer Soccer listed its top 100 college male and female players. Several local graduates made the list.

The women include heavy hitter Casey Short, the Florida State senior midfielder from Naperville Central. A three-time Atlantic Coast Conference All-Academic Team selection, Short enters Top Drawer's list of seniors, juniors and sophomores at No. 18.

A junior who made all-Big East last year, Waubonsie Valley's Bri Rodriguez is listed at No. 61. She is a midfielder at West Virginia, where she was the Mountaineers' MVP last season.

Skyrocketing to No. 72 among women is Vanessa DiBernardo, just a sophomore at Illinois. A midfielder, she made all-Big Ten and was named the conference's freshman of the year.

The highest-ranked local man was Naperville Central graduate Greg Jordan. He's a junior midfielder ranked 74th on Top Drawer's list of top college men.

Just a couple spots below Jordan at No. 78 is Kirk Urso. The North Carolina senior midfielder is listed as a Lombard resident born in Downers Grove, but he attended the Edison Academy in Bradenton, Fla., as a member of the United States' Under-17 National Team Residency Program.

Hinsdale Central graduate David Tiemstra, a senior defender at Ohio State, pulls in at No. 98.

These and other soccer tidbits -- such as Neuqua Valley graduate Bryan Gaul of Bradley being named Top Drawer's Men's College Player of the Week on Aug. 29 -- can be had by checking TopDrawerSoccer.com.

College achievers

Former Lisle football star Josh McLeod, a senior at North Central College, was accorded a preseason honor by D3football.com. McLeod was one of two safeties on the defensive second team. As a junior McLeod made the website's second-team North Region after tying a North Central record with 8 interceptions, earning his second straight first-team honor in the College Conference of Illinois & Wisconsin.

This one goes way back, but what the heck. Another North Central footballer, senior receiver Joe Antonacci, was selected as a member of the National Football Foundation's Hampshire Honor Society Class of 2011. He majors in accounting, finance and economics. Last fall he was on the receiving end of an 88-yard pass play, longest in Cardinals history.

North Central women's golfers Marisa Miko, a junior out of Neuqua Valley, and Mary Kate Rohn, a sophomore from York, were each selected to the National Golf Coaches Association's All-America Scholar Team for 2010-11. They each needed to own at least a cumulative 3.50 grade-point average. Crikey!

Cardinals women's track graduates Melissa Savino (Naperville North) and Amanda Laesch (Wheaton North) each earned All-Academic honors from the United States Track and Cross Country Coaches Association last month. For Savino it was the fourth straight year, for Laesch her second.

A little old but worthy: Downers Grove South graduate Johanna Schnitzler was named one of Augustana's two freshmen of the year in women's track. Schnitzler recorded team bests in high jump and heptathlon during the 2011 outdoor season. Current junior Jennifer Prazak (Naperville North) shared the program's Viking Spirit Award.

And Bryan Allingham (Wheaton Warrenville South), who graduated from Taylor University as its record holder in the 400-meter dash and part of Taylor's record-setting 1,600 relay, was an Capital One/CoSIDA College Division Academic all-district.

More recently, Illinois State senior soccer player Jill Carlson (Hinsdale South) was among six Redbirds nominated for the Jill Hutchison Female Athlete of the Year. Carlson, second all-time in goals, assists and points at Illinois State, in 2010 became the program's initial first-team all-region selection.

doberhelman@dailyherald.com

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