The Wheaton Warrenville South-Wheaton North United girls lacrosse team made a little history recently.
WWS-WN United went 5-0 in DuPage-Upstate Eight Conference play to win the program's first league title in its seven-year existence. The team was 12-4 overall through late last week.
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The United scored a 10-9 conference win in overtime against St. Charles and edged Neuqua Valley (10-8) in another league tilt.
"Those were big victories for us," said United coach Charles Solomon. "There have always been tough teams in our conference and to be able to beat Neuqua, which is always a very solid team, for the first time in our program's history was a huge step for United lacrosse."
Junior attack Jeannine Fischer was leading the team with 66 goals, 17 assists, 35 groundballs and 21 draw controls. Junior goalie Celeste Jenkins had a 56 save percentage and a 7.00 goals-against average. Sophomore middie Susannah Lauber had 23 goals and 4 assists, while sophomore middie Nikki Togami had 23 goals, 17 draw controls and 2 assists. Junior defender Jamie Lawinger had 35 draw controls and 27 groundballs.
Solomon cited consistent strong play from Jackie Ciufo and also praised the contributions of freshmen Mary Budz and Brooke Polak.
"As young as Mary and Brooke are, they are two of the most aggressive girls on the field," said Solomon. "Their hard work, speed and knack for getting to any loose balls have definitely been a spark plug for us."
The United graduated 13 varsity players from last year, including four now playing collegiately (Kelly Stelzer, Alex Palmisano, Nattali Shelton at Augustana and Kaity Coyle at Robert Morris) and returned only four varsity players.
"We were not sure what to expect this season," said Solomon. "What we wound up with was our most athletic, determined, selfless and hard-working squad. It has been an incredible journey for all involved. And then beating Neuqua Valley and winning conference this season has been unbelievable. The best part is we lose only three seniors and their leadership, which will be tough to replace. But we will continue to become an even bigger threat in 2013."
Playoffs this week: The IHWLA state playoffs begin this week. Sectional semifinals will be held Thursday with sectional championship games slated for Monday, May 21. Supersectionals are May 23 at Loyola and Hinsdale Central.
Hinsdale Central was voted the No. 4 seed overall. Montini is the No. 6 seed. Neuqua Valley is the No. 9 seed. Benet is No. 10, while St. Charles is No. 12. Stevenson is No. 13 and Barrington No. 14. Glenbard West (No. 15) and Wheaton United (No. 16) round out the seeded teams. Coaches seeded the top 16 teams in the state.
Neuqua Valley update: The Wildcats were 10-5 through late last week. Neuqua recently downed Montini, 10-8.
"Montini is a very strong team," said Neuqua Valley coach Ronni Appenbrink. "We were coming off a losing streak and were ale to put it together and hold them the whole game. It gives us great momentum as we head into playoffs."
Senior middie Kendall Maduro was leading the team in scoring with 48 goals. She also had 48 groundballs and 18 caused turnovers.
Sophomore attack Leah Neumann had 39 goals and 15 assists through late last week, while junior attack-middie Kelly Leibovitz was leading the team in assists with 19 and also had 34 goals. Sophomore defender Val Schroeder was leading the team with 9 interceptions.
"We are working together, celebrating each other's victories and picking each other up after failures and playing all 50 minutes of every game as a team," Appenbrink noted.
The coach also lauded the play of sophomore attack Haley Champion and junior Ali Gosselin.
"Haley recently hit her stride, putting up some great points in our recent games," said Appenbrink. "Ali has been struggling with some injuries for a majority of the season, but still does everything she can for her team and comes up huge for us in tight games."
Gosselin was selected to the national tournament team for a second year in a row.
St. Charles update: St. Charles was 13-4 heading into its regular-season finale against Conant over the weekend on senior night.
St. Charles, ranked 12th in the state, recently scored a 15-6 win over Waubonsie Valley-Metea Valley.
Senior goalie and co-captain Margaret Zimmer had 15 key saves in the game, while junior center mid Maddie Smith and sophomore middie Mary Fehey also played well.
"We have learned a lot the last few weeks and realized we can play competitively against any team in the league and the year's team has the leadership to accomplish that," said St. Charles coach Peter Bogle.
Junior defender Emily Arvia has anchored a relatively young defense and the team has benefited from strong leadership from the likes of senior captains Zimmer, Samantha Link and junior Ashley Trippiedi.
"Even though Ashley has been injured, she has been a great motivator and certainly a great leader off the field," said Bogle.
Of St. Charles' 4 losses, three have been by a single goal and the other was in double overtime.
Benet Academy update: After a loss to Neuqua Valley, Benet was 10-4-1 overall.
The team holds wins over Wheaton United, Mother McAuley, Glenbard West, Marian Catholic and St. Ignatius.
"They are tough teams, especially defensively," said Benet coach Kendall Vail. "They were ranked fairly high last year and it was a good boost for our team morale."
Seniors Taylor Valentine, Maya McKeown and Nikki Valentine have been leaders on the offensive end. Mrogan Birck, another senior, has helped the team in the midfield, at center and on defense. She's also among the team leaders in goals, assists and caused turnovers.
Junior goalie Gina Pintozzi has enjoyed a productive season in net.
"Gina is having an outstanding season," said Vail. "She is becoming aggressive when coming out of the cage seemingly showing no fear."
Seniors Audra Siliunus and Kim Simmons have also contributed.
"We are working well together," said Vail. "We have a very unified group of girls. I am fortunate to have many talented players. We're not relying on one attacker or midfielder so opponents can't pinpoint and watch just one girl. My third year at Benet has proved to be one of the best. I truly say I love coaching this group of girls."
Naperville Central update: Naperville Central's Jana Sztuk scored 9 goals in a 2-game stretch recently against Benet (5 goals) and Wheaton United (4 goals). Bridget Maloney had a 4-point game (1 goal, 3 assists) against Wheaton. Sztuk was recently selected to the all-DuPage-Upstate Eight Conference team.
"This team has shown they know how to play great lacrosse against some of our tougher opponents," said Naperville Central coach Adam Washington. "Our turnover numbers have been much lower against Benet, Neuqua and St. Charles where we kept our turnover number below 15. Against Metea Valley we turned the ball over 25 times."
Washington added the team's 0-14 record is not a reflection on the bigger picture.
"It's tough to look at 0-14 and see a silver lining, but this team has shown a great deal of heart and has refused to quit all year," he said. "A coaching friend of mine, Tom McPherson, reminded me that you can't measure the success of a season by wins and losses but by how much a team learns about itself. This group has definitely shown they have plenty of character. I feel we can win a couple of games here at the end of the season."
Sztuk was leading the team in scoring with 20 goals. Maloney had 14 goals and 5 assists and Nicole Pinnella had 25 caused turnovers.
Sztuk, Maloney and Megan Shoemaker combined for 24 points in a recent 4-game stretch.
"Jana, Bridget and Megan have been the spark this offense has been looking for the last three years," said Washington, who also praised the defensive work of Pinnella and Veronica Destefano.
Glenbard West update: Glenbard West was 8-7 through its first 15 games but picked up a victory Friday over York and three more in tournament play on Saturday. The Hilltoppers have only 2 senior starters and boast 3 freshmen and a sophomore.
Glenbard West, which has lost 4 games by a single goal, recently scored a 12-11 overtime win over Oak Park-River Forest in a game that helped move them into a tie for second place in the conference.
Coach Bob Regan noted his team beat Lyons Township last year and lost to Oak Park-River Forest and OPRF defeated Lyons Township.
"The West Suburban Conference is pretty tough having four teams--Hinsdale Central (No. 4), OPRF (No. 7), Lyons (No. 8) and Glenbard West (No. 13) all being in the top 15 in the state," he said.
Through those 15 games, senior goalie Clare Byrne had 197 saves (59 percent saves) and 750 minutes in goal. Freshman defender Katy Ludington had 47 groundballs, 4 interceptions and 21 caused turnovers.
Junior attack Sara Letmanski had 49 goals, 8 assists and 33 draw controls. Jamie Bishop had 28 goals, 7 assists, 38 groundballs and 31 draw controls. Senior middie Kirsten Ward had 13 assists, 56 groundballs and 16 caused turnovers, while Hailey Walch had 6 interceptions. Kathleen Caffrey had 5 interceptions and Ella Zurawski had 40 ground balls and 15 draw controls.
"This team has a lot of heart and has played tough in situations when we were without starting players," said Regan. "They battle in every game and compete hard. I knew having a young team that it would be a challenging year, but we would win more than we lost. As anticipated, we have been competitive and I think this year of experience will go a long way."
Regan has been especially impressed with frosh-soph contributors such as Katy Ludington, Jamie Bishop, Hailey Gorski and Ella Zurawski.
Waubonsie Valley-Metea Valley update: The Waubonsie-Metea co-op team finished the regular season 7-8 overall and 2-3 in conference play.
The team, which went 6-1 during a 7-game stretch at one point, dropped a 15-6 game to St. Charles and a 14-7 decision to Eagles co-op.
"Both Eagles and St. Charles played very strong midfield pressure, which caused up problems in transition," said Waubonsie-Metea coach Mike Wegrzyn. "We are hoping to learn from both of these losses and make the changes to be successful when the playoffs start (this week)."
Olivia Javornick excelled against St. Charles with 5 caused turnovers and 6 groundballs.
"Olivia had the best game of her career against a very strong opponent," said Wegrzyn.
Kim Rowell and Emily Haynes continue to lead the team's attack.
"They work with each other to create scoring opportunities for each other," said Wegrzyn.
Sophomore goalie Anvi Ahora also has been a key contributor.
"Anvi has stepped into the cage and really improved her play," said Wegrzyn. "Her play in the net has allowed us to still be in many games with the opportunity to win."
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