It's the big-time now for Bartlett, which will field a varsity team for the first time. The Hawks also expect to be competitive, despite the fact that they're a young team. One of the biggest keys is their stingy defense, provided via the leadership of senior captain Tyler Steichen. "We have a talented, hungry group of underclassmen, looking to make some noise this year," Bartlett coach Mike Fernandez said. "The boys have been working hard getting into shape for the season and learning multiple offensive sets." Big seasons are expected from midfielders Jake Hernandez and Nick Andreuccetti and attackmen Mike Coleantonio and Greg Tamburello.
Formerly known as Aurora Christian/Batavia, this Batavia team is mostly comprised of students from Batavia High School, although there also are a few from Aurora Christian, a couple from Burlington Central and one from Yorkville. The team lost a few significant players from last year's 12-4 NILAX squad but has a lot of experience returning too. "We have very high expectations and are deep in the midfield," Batavia coach Scott Salvati said. "It should be a good year." Senior attackmen Connor Eberhardt and R.J. Banker should be able to find the net, while sophomore goalkeeper Pat Collinshas proven to be one of the better players to keep it out of the net.
Senior attackman Brendan Brosnan, midfielder Patrick Fallon (Babson) and longstick defenseman Conor Moran (Randolph Macon) are expected to lead a talented Benet squad that's aiming for an ESCC title and deep post-season run. New head coach Richard Moran expects Jack Moran, Peter Fallon, Matt Koziol and Jason Schmittgens to control the midfield, Will Mann and Liam Simes to lead the attack toward 12-15 shots per quarter and for John Mazza, Riley Mann and Declan McGuire to provide protection for senior goalkeeper, Ryan Rowley. "Benet is relying on senior leadership of a young group of talented sophomores and juniors to be game-changers this season," Richard Moran said.
Downers Grove was depleted on graduation day last summer as it lost 20 players to diplomas. Still, coach Jon Gargiulo is confident that the team can continue its winning ways in the Northern Illinois Lacrosse Association (NILAX). "We are bringing up a large group of very experienced juniors," he said. "We are very confident we will have another successful winning season." In addition to those juniors, Downers Grove has four key seniors that will be counted on hugely, including attackman Paul Carlquist, midfielders Mark Harbauer and Zach Pressley and defenseman Nic Tysiak.
The Vikings hope to be one of the top teams in the B Class this season even though they lost standout Ryan Solon (Michigan State) to graduation. A defense that includes Austin Nobregas, Logan McConnell and Ryan Deisz is one of the key reasons why the Vikings should be tough to beat. The midfield features four lines consisting of no superstars, but simply fundamentally sound, hardworking team players. As for the attack, look for the ingenuous Matt Landry and Andrew Schreiber to find the net in creative ways and frequently.
Featuring players from Glenbard East, Glenbard North and Glenbard South, Glenbard LAX is beginning its third full season in the Northern Illinois Lacrosse Association (NILAX). "I'm very pleased with our practices so far," Glenbard LAX coach Peter Crichton said. "The guys are working harder than ever." The program is home to 41 players this spring, including senior midfielders Brett Hegarty and Brian Sanborn, as well as defenseman, Donnie Wichman. Last year the team doubled the number of victories it had in 2010. It hopes to continue that trend this spring.
Lacrosse is booming at Glenbard West where its program will compete at the freshmen, JV1, JV2 and varsity level this spring. A full staff of in-district, in-building coaches, as well as the support of the school board, administration, athletic department and the boosters are making things happen. On the field, coach Carl Landi had little to say about who will lead the squad. "Just know that the goals for the program are to work hard, improve, have a great time, and to keep it in the circle."
Like most teams, Hinsdale Central will look to improve on last year's record and make a deep run into the post-season. A new era begins as coach Tom McBridge Jr., has inherited the program, where he's hopeful that tri-captains Cole Potkul (defenseman), Zach Kerrigan (midfield) and Brendan Flaherty (attackman) lead the team toward success. "Our defense looks to be strong," McBride said. "Our offense will be bolstered by some talented underclassmen moving into some positions vacated by last year's graduating seniors."
Just in its second year, the Immaculate Conception program will once again field a JV team this spring. "We're still building and I don't know if we're there yet," Immaculate Conception coach Tom O'Brien said. "The youth leagues are really growing and we're seeing some of that with the incoming freshmen." About 20 athletes are a part of the team this year with senior defenseman Kevin Lambdorn and sophomore Riley Ricobene leading the way.
As lacrosse continues to grow throughout the state, programs continue making great strides every year. Such is the case at Marmion, where the Cadets took advantage of an in-house conditioning program in January and February in their new field house. Approximately 80 athletes have shown serious interest in lacrosse at Marmion. Junior goalkeeper Tyler Estes and fellow juniors Sam Ford and Angelo Carbonara are anticipated to be the key players for a Marmion squad that has a lot of depth and is well prepared for the upcoming year.
Montini has some rebuilding to do but is hoping senior Taylor DeSanto and juniors J.P. Palasak and Billy Spingola can help ease the transition. "Our young, talented freshmen and sophomores will get a lot of playing experience," Broncos coach Patrick Larmon said "With our fast and strong juniors and seniors, we are looking to compete and get some wins in our conference."
Naperville Central saw one of its rivals, Waubonsie Valley, win a B-Class title last year. Now it might be the Redhawks turn. "While the competition for the B championship will most likely be intense, we believe that our team is capable of rising to the challenge," said first-year coach Tim Hurst. "The boys have been working hard on and off the field developing their skills and their understanding of the game." Hurst coached at Hinsdale Central last year. Senior Jack Coakley will led a strong and speedy defense. "Our attack crew is quick and nimble; led by senior John Ostrom," Hurst said. "We'll push from the top with our talented middie group, led by seniors Matt Moore and Ted Turner."
Naperville North coach Kevin Benages is very blunt about what it'll take for the Huskies to be successful. "If the guys want to win, they are going to collectively be a strong group of young men who are hungry to win the DVC and contend for a state championship in 2012." Benages has been impressed with the intensity and communication of his team throughout the pre-season and is hopeful it carries over into the season. Senior captains include goalie Jeremy Voyda (Milwaukee School of Engineering), attack man Simon Leclerc and longpole defenseman Dan Shisler.
The Wildcats rebuilding begins with new head coach Brendan Gorman and assistant Chris Rhine. Gorman compiled a 71-6 record at Cary Grove. Seniors Davio Rovitio and Mike Heimann have skills and experience to guide the offense while J.P. Quinn and Joey Rhattigan, two standouts on the gridiron, will look to lead the defense in front of Sammy Sanko, one of the best goalkeepers in the state. "Even with the changes at coaches, we return several key seniors and a young core of sophomores and juniors who will help this team gel as the season goes," Neuqua Valley director of lacrosse Brian McGinnis said.
St. Charles East
Chris Conner, a 2002 graduate of St. Charles East, is coming back, but it's not for his 10-year reunion. Conner is the first-year coach of the new St. Charles East program, which originated after the St. Charles club split into teams at both East and North. "This should be a big year for us," Conner said. "We are very excited to make a lot of noise starting under the radar because no one knows what to expect." What is expected is lots of goal scoring as the Saints have senior attackmen Matt O'Brien and Stephen Link and sophomore midfielder Nate Campana to lead the way.
St. Charles North
The combination of graduation and the split of the St. Charles program will give the North Stars a unique and young look this spring. Only six varsity players return for coach Andy Thompson and only junior attackman Riley Martin started a season ago. Look for junior Michael Rerko, who played little in 2012, to lead the defense and for smooth-sticked senior Austin Patrick and speedy Nick McCullough to patrol the midfield. "I don't believe in a rebuilding season and therefore would not call this a rebuilding season," Thompson said. "We expect to compete with every team we have on our schedule."
The Spartans are fielding a varsity squad for the first time and expect to hold their own in the B Class. The team dropped a 6-3 decision to A Class Naperville North at the start of the season so coach Dan Tuskey is optimistic that his team will be competitive most nights. "We're still a young program but we've got some kids with good backgrounds in the sport as well as talent," he said. Having sophomore standout Jake Los in goal is a great safety net for the Spartans. Jake Webb will anchor the defense, Max Porter should pace the attack, and freshman John Vargyas and sophomore Zak Kohley should play key roles.
The B-Class champions are still loaded and should be one of the top teams after moving up to A-Class. All-everything Zach Wood is back along with speedy twins Brett and Blake Erwin. Also returning are face-off magician Blaze Miller, stingy keeper Scott Brown and Alex Hurst, Connor Mersch, Kyle Fortsch and Nick Rodgers. "We lost five guys from last year, but we pretty much have the same squad as last year," Waubonsie Valley coach Mike Julius said. "The biggest thing for this team is going to be fighting off complacency. The step up to the A division means tougher competition so we need to be more disciplined and execute."
West Chicago is in rebuilding mode. New coach Brandon Kutilek will ask senior captains Justin Olson (MF) and Zach Lenning (GK) along with sophomore twin brothers, Colin Lelito (D) and Jordan Lelito (MF) to guide the team. "We have a lot of young guys, a lot of sophomores," Kutilek said. "A lot of them are learning about the lacrosse game itself still, but we also have some returning starters like Justin who the kids look up to." The Lelitos have a lot of talent while Lenning will need to have a lot of patience and bravery as he mans the goal in front of an inexperienced defense.
The program at Wheaton Academy is still in its infancy as it only begins its second season. Coach Bruce Wilson is hoping that after most of the team played indoor lacrosse over the winter that it'll help the team get off to a strong start, especially against rivals such as Marmion and St. Francis. Junior Jon Prichard and sophomore Sam Wilson will lead the attack, freshman Jake Taylor and Thomas Oster will pace the midfield and junior Austin Rose and freshman Scottie McLean will anchor the defense for a team that's making great progress but is still very young.
Graduation has brought change to the Falcons who lost 23 players to diplomas but also added 24 new players. The team welcomes the return of all-conference midfielder Brendan Dunlap and junior defenseman Danny Caponi. Ten underclassmen have been added to the roster, including three freshmen. "The Falcons look to build upon what has fast become a winning tradition on the north side of Wheaton," Falcons coach Chris Weed said.
Wheaton Warrenville South
There's quite a bit of excitement at Wheaton Warrenville South, where the Tigers will field one of the best teams in program history. The Tigers return 15 players, including senior captains Tyler Cook (High Point) and longstick defenseman Sam Prete (110 ground balls in 2011). "Expectations and goals are high for this senior class," Tigers coach Mike Blouin said. "This is one of the most balanced teams I've had here at South in the past few years. We are deep both offensively and defensively with difference-makers at all positions."
It should be a fine season in Elmhurst as the Dukes return most of their starters after losing just five players overall to graduation last spring. "We are looking to build on the progress we made last year and continue to get better," York coach Don Canfield said. With defensemen Zach Ubriaco, Joe Hlavacek and Evan Mack playing in front of senior goalkeepers, Nick Bacidore and Tony Kuhn, the Dukes should be able to always be within striking distance. Offensively, Austin Kliebhan and Colin Grubbs and midfielders Brewer Callahan, Pat Sheehan and Brian O'Malley will lead the way.
• The Daily Herald has two lacrosse applications -- one for boys and one for girls -- that will help you follow the high school lacrosse season. The apps, available in Android and iPhone formats for 99 cents each, will contain all the lacrosse coverage from our printed sports editions, plus timely results and more photos. Girls lacrosse season preview information and boys previews for Lake County, suburban Cook County and northern Fox Valley schools will appear next week.