Top teams: Downers Grove South, Metea Valley, Naperville Central, Naperville North, Neuqua Valley, St. Francis, Waubonsie Valley, Wheaton Academy, York.
Top players: Rachele Armand (Waubonsie Valley, Jr., D), Flo Beshiri (Downers Grove, South, Sr, D), Jamei Borges (Benet, Sr., MF), Taylor Bucaro (St. Francis, Jr., MF), Madie Burke (Benet, Sr., F), Hope D'Addario (Neuqua Valley, Jr., MF), Jill D'Amico (Naperville Central, Sr., GK), Gianna Dal Pozzo (Neuqua Valley, Jr, MF), Hunter Drendel (Naperville North, Sr., MF), Veronica Ellis (Naperville Central, So., MF), Kate Fowee (Wheaton Warrenville South, Sr., F), Makenzie Fuller (Waubonsie Valley., So., MF), Megan Geldernick (Metea Valley, Jr., GK). Zoey Goralski (Neuqua Valley, Jr., F), Jenna Kentgen (Metea Valley, Jr., MF), Jen Korn (Naperville North, Sr., D), Sarrah Ludwig (Downers Grove South, Sr., F), Meredith McEniff (Naperville Central, Sr., MF), Courtney McHugh (York, Sr., F), Alexis McKay (Metea Valley, Sr., D), Erin Mrazek (Glenbard East, Sr., M), Kristen Morency (Wheaton Academy, Sr., GK), Christina Ordonez (York, Sr., F), Lindsey Paganucci (Glenbard East, Sr., M), Lexi Peterson (Wheaton Warrenville South, Sr., F), Dani Pitaro (Glenbard South, Jr., F), Jenna Romano (Waubonsie Valley, Jr., D), Sydney Sharkey (Wheaton North, Sr., MF), Katherine Short (Naperville Central, Sr., F), Zoe Swift (Naperville North, Jr., D), Christa Szalach (Naperville North, Sr., D), Sydney Tappin (Neuqua Valley, Sr., D), Crystal Thomas (Wheaton Academy, Sr., M/F), Tiffany Traxinger (Wheaton North, Sr., MF), Ally Witt (Wheaton Academy, Sr., F).
Outlook: The usual players are expected to be near the top of the standings in the DuPage Valley Conference this spring, but it wouldn't be surprising to see of the other teams make some noise. Naperville North, which placed second in Class 3A last season, returns six starters, including Hunter Drendel, Christa Szalach and Zoe Swift. In addition, they welcome the return of senior Jen Korn (Northwestern), who played her freshman year for the Huskies but played club the past two years, and new coach Steve Goletz. The combination of returning several starters, the addition of Korn and depth with its reserves has the Huskies thinking about another return to state. Naperville Central returns the core of its team and should be a much better scoring group thanks to the return of seniors Merdith McEniff and Katherine Short, along with all-sectional junior Veronica Ellis. Defensively, the Redhawks have a goalkeeper who is as good as they come with three-time all-state selection Jill D'Amico.
Wheaton Warrenville South should also be in the running for a conference title. Four-year players Kate Fowee and Lexi Peterson return to give the Tigers two legitimate scorers. Peterson should be itching to reprove herself after missing last season due to an ACL injury. Junior defenders Natalie Jensen and Kelly Langlas also are back, as well midfielders Katrina Geannopoulos and Dana Miller and five notable underclassmen. "Our speed of play should have us competing for another DVC title, regional final and hopefully a sectional final," Tigers coach Guy Callipari said. "We'll have a good mix of young and experienced players, coupled with team depth should carry us deep into the playoffs barring injury."
Glenbard East will look to improve on last year's 10-10-2 record, and with three experienced and talented seniors back to lead them, the Rams should be able to compete in the DVC. Seniors Erin Mrazek, Lindsey Paganucci and Jessie Grumstrup are the veterans of this group. "We have a very experienced team, returning 15 varsity players from last season," Rams coach Kent Overbey said. "We will rely heavily on our strength through the center of the field, especially from our three senior captains who have 189 varsity starts between them."
Senior midfielders Sydney Sharkey and Tiffany Traxinger will look to help Wheaton North pick up victories this spring. The Falcons may not be as deep as some of their fellow DVC schools so they'll need strong seasons and leadership from seniors like Sharkey and Traxinger. Freshman forward Lexi Pelafas will be a key addition, while junior midfielder Anne Denz and junior defenders Madie Fagan and Linnae Giuliano will also play crucial minutes.
The big question for West Chicago this year is, Who is going to replace the school-record 25 goals Meagan Radloff had last year? "We have 13 returners, but we're missing our goal scorer from last year and somebody is going to have to do it, and it might take us some time to find it," West Chicago coach J. Cesar Gomez said. Co-captain Bianca Navejas and junior Andie Lazzierini are two of the players who might be able to find the net for the Wildcats, while senior Jessica Quinn will likely be a key player in the midfield or defense.
Glenbard North will look to rebound from a 7-12-2 season, which never comes easy with a rugged conference schedule. Much of the team's leadership will come from seniors Jessica Kras, Jocelyn McDonnell and Nicole Strawn.
It should be an interesting and competitive year in Upstate Eight Conference Valley, primarily for how the teams named Valley -- Neuqua, Metea and Waubonsie -- fare. Neuqua Valley graduated eight players from last year's team, but that won't fool anybody, as this is once again one of the top teams in the state. "We will not be as deep as we were last year, but we have potential to be very good," Neuqua Valley coach Joe Moreau said. Some lesser experienced players will likely have to step up for the Wildcats, but they'll have plenty of assistance from their veteran teammates as senior Sydey Tappin and juniors Zoey Goralski, Gianna Dal Pozzo and Hope D'Addario give the team an impressive nucleus. The Wildcats roster welcomes five freshmen, but that's nothing in comparison to Waubonsie Valley, where 12 of the 25 roster spots end in "Fr." The Warriors made great strides as the season went along last year, winning 10 of its final 11 matches. Juniors Jenna Romano and Rachele Armand will lead the way, along with talented sophomores Makenzie Fuller, Kristen Brots and Kristen Dodson and the freshmen, several of whom are expected to start. "I think from the top to bottom this is a talented group," Warriors coach Julie Bergstrom said. "We just have got to find the right places and what our style is." Metea Valley returns everyone from last year's team that went 12-10-1. For the first time in program history though, they'll have a sense or urgency with seniors. "I think it's opened some eyes that for some of these kids this is it here," Mustangs coach Pat Feulner said. "It's a bit different. There's a little bit of urgency we've never had before." The Mustangs fought through a difficult schedule last season and were competitive through most of it. Now they'll look to avenge some of the close losses. "We've got another year under our belt," Feulner said. "The kids are pretty confident and their focus is good." The talent up top is rather good with Kristina Tomares, Alyssa Fox and Jenna Kentgen all capable of finding the back of the net. On the other side senior Alexis McKay leads a defense highlighted by standout junior Megan Geldernick in goal. Lastly, there's Lake Park, which just hopes to keep the remaining players it has healthy. The team lost sophomore Jessica Berkshire, junior Megan Lindbert (Kent State) and seniors Kelsey McNeela and Jessica Franz to knee injuries and also has three other players fighting through knee injuries or concussions in the early going. "We are the walking wounded," Lancers coach Chris Fruehling said. "We knew about some of them long enough ago to know we'd have to adapt, so some freshmen and others will have to fill some roles." Seniors Brianna Small's and Nicole Moore's roles on the defense will become bigger due to the injuries, while freshmen Lexi Ruffolo, Casey Harris and Caitlyn Ryba have now been afforded with opportunities to play right away. Fruehling's fingers are crossed that they stay healthy.
Wheaton Academy and St. Francis are expected to battle for supremacy in the Suburban Christian Conference. Wheaton Academy beat St. Francis in a Class 2A supersectional to get to state a season ago. This year the Warriors have Dave Underwood replacing Scott Marksberry as coach and they return their top three players in all-stater Crystal Thomas, Ally Witt and goalkeeper Kristen Morency. Thomas has signed at Notre Dame, Witt to Wheaton College and Morency to Brown University. Newcomers Meredith Matson and freshman Molly Thorson will play crucial roles as part of a new back line. "I feel we should be pretty decent and go deep in the postseason if everyone stays healthy," Underwood said. St. Francis lost scorer Andi Matichak as she graduated early to pursue a modeling career. Despite that loss, though, the Spartans return plenty of talent, including senior Sydney Fox, junior Taylor Bucaro and goalie Jenna DiTusa among several others. "The goal now after getting to supersectionals is to get through it and get down there," St. Francis coach Jim Winslow said. Montini only has a few seniors and a lot of new faces. "We're real positive with this team," Broncos coach Barry Briggs said. "The team effort has been outstanding. They like playing with each other and it's working out well for us. A lot of good things are in store for us, I think."
Downers Grove South appears to be the team to beat in the West Suburban Gold after an 18-4-1 season in 2011. The Mustangs have to replace 18-goal scorers, Keri Kujawa (now at Eastern Illinois) and sophomore Stephanie Zurales, who decided not to come out for the team this spring. "We'll have to replace some seniors, but I think we'll be OK," Downers Grove South coach Barry Jacobson said. "We feel like we're in good shape with good defense and the midfield." Senior Sarrah Ludwig, Flo Beshiri, Jess Pikul and Jess Bronke give the Mustangs several accomplished veterans while sophomore Emily Waver was a key part of the team's offense a season ago and will be expected to rise to the occasion once again. Hinsdale South went 5-1 in conference a spring ago and expects to contend for a title. The Hornets will be led by a proven defense with keeper Vanessa Niestrom and defenders Carolanne Pilch and Brenda Maugeria. Sophomore Maggie Nicoscia will look to lead the midfield.
Willowbrook only won three times in 2011, so improving upon that is an obvious team goal. Freshmen Natalie Wolski and Jamie Colella will be a part of the mix, along with sophomore defender Lauren Carroll and sophomore forward Lindsey Peterson, as well as seniors Jessica Nolen, Louisa Reese and Claire Criscione. "We have lots of players with diverse talents so we'll need everyone to come together and give everything they have to the team effort in order to reach our full potential this season," Willowbrook coach Pete Montgomery said. Addison Trail lost four key players to graduation but has quite a bit of experienced players returning along with freshmen Lexy Paleothodoros and Isamar Garcia. The Blazers have restructured their attacking midfield and strikers due to turnover. "If we can show progress with our new lineup and follow through on our finishes, we'll be an over-.500 team," Addison Trail coach Sergio Nunez said. Sophomores Devin Fruzyna and Tori Busse and juniors Sara Tomasello, Angie Bernal, Nancy Ramirez and Nikki Pacheco will all play key roles and look to Janet Garcia for leadership and experience.
York will be a marked team in the West Suburban Gold after advancing to a supersectional last year and posting a 21-5-1 mark. The Dukes are led by scoring machine Christian Ordonez, along with Courtney McHugh and Abby Wilkins. Hinsdale Central welcomes new coach Michael Smith. "The returning players have done a phenomenal job of making the newcomers comfortable, while also making sure they understand the level of focus necessary to be successful at the varsity level," Smith said. The Red Devils expect big seasons from sophomore Meghan Schick, juniors Jenn Jarmy, Casey May and Darby Moran and senior Lauren Shover. There's also a new coach at Downers Grove North as John Coumbe-Lilley has taken over the program, The Trojans only lost one player from last year. "We want to be on the high side of .500," Coumbe-Lilley said. "We'd like to return to the conference standings where we were four years ago but it's going to take some time."
Glenbard West lost eight seniors who started last year so there will be a lot of new faces for the Hilltoppers. Senior midfielder Maddie Nelson and junior Kaitlin Moore return along with a strong group of juniors. "We have a brand-new team so we're trying to put the pieces together," Glenbard West coach Maciej Kusmierz said.
In the Metro Suburban Conference, Glenbard South will look for another big season from Dani Pitaro. "She been really hungry this year and has worked hard on her game in the off-season," Raiders coach Glen Eggert said. "She's good to go this season." Junior midfielder Nicole Schutte, defender Jasmine Curry and goalkeeper Dana Jourdan are also members of the outstanding junior class that will lead the Raiders. Fenton lost seven starters to graduation, but returns seniors Katie Rubright and Olivia Umeadi, juniors Jessica Falco and Gissel Garcia and sophomore Tina Guarino. "We are going to be a team of a combination of experienced and non-experienced players," Fenton coach Victor Ruiz said. "I'm hoping that the newcomers feed of the energy and leadership of Katie Rubright. Once we get in rhythm and find the chemistry, we should do well and compete." The Bison welcome several key newcomers, including junior goalie Claudia Wolas.
Benet has a new coach in Bob Gros, and he'll have plenty of veterans to send onto the field as the Redhawks are a senior-laden unit with 16 total. Seniors Jamie Borges, Rachel Lovely and Madie Burke are the top returnees while notable newcomers include senior Catherine Caniglia and sophomore Rachel Pavlinec. Defense should be strong with three of the four in the back returning as well as better offensive abilities on the other side. Benet, which went 18-6-2 last year, is also now in 2A and should be battling with St. Francis and Wheaton Academy for a berth to state later this spring.
The smaller schools in DuPage will look to pull above .500 this season. Coming off a 9-11 season, Lisle has senior defender Lauren Priderville back to lead the defense and juniors Ashley Zurek, Skyler Tomko and Vanessa Roach to play prominently in roles as a midfielder, forward and goalkeeper, respectively. Timothy Christian will rely on a handful of experienced upperclassmen, including senior defenders Rose Clousing and Ciari Hoddenbach. Lastly, Immaculate Conception has a new coach in Stacy Slaughter. Senior goalkeeper Annie Navarrett, senior forward Rocky Salinas and junior midfielder Angela Toritto will have a big say in how much success the team has this spring.