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posted: 5/29/2012 6:37 PM

Hard-hittingBalzano thrives at Loyola

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A year ago, Jessica Balzano set a school-record hitting streak that lasted 42 games for her Elk Grove softball team.

This spring, Balzano was still a hit -- for Loyola University.

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The freshman second baseman finished as the Ramblers' third-leading hitter with a .322 batting average, including 3 doubles, a triple, 15 RBI and 26 runs.

"It was fun," Balzano said of playing Division I softball. "It's a lot harder than high school with schoolwork because you are on the road a lot."

Balzano is deciding between psychology and business for her major.

She was named second-team Horizon League all-conference and was selected to the league's all-newcomer team.

The Ramblers finished second in the Horizon League and ended up 26-23 overall.

In the 2-1 loss to top-seeded Valparaiso (42-17) in the Horizon League championship game, Loyola sophomore Lauren Zaworski (Fremd) collected the clutch RBI single to right that brought home the run that tied the game at 1-1. Zaworski was named to the all-tournament team.

• University of Chicago junior pitcher Kim Cygan (Barrington)was named to the National Fastpitch Coaches Association All-Great Lakes Region Team as a first-team selection.

Cygan posted a 16-5 record with a 0.99 ERA and 4 shutouts in 25 appearances (20 starts). She struck out 112 batters in 134.2 innings and held opponents to a .177 batting average. Cygan made her second straight All-Great Lakes Region appearance. She was a third-team pick in 2011.

Women's golf

Valparaiso freshman Kelly Muskat (Barrington) tied for fourth on the team in total rounds played with 15. She finished with an 87.6 stroke average and began the year tying for 52nd at the Cleveland State Invitational after recording scores of 90 and 88. Muskat closed the season in 49th at the CAA Championship with rounds of 84-91-88.

Men's soccer

Palatine senior goalkeeper Evan Held and Harper College's Lorenzo Savino (Fremd) have signed letters of intent to play for Saint Xavier University.

Held helped the Pirates to a 13-9-1 overall record and a trip to the championship of the Class 3A Libertyville regional as well as earning special mention on the Daily Herald all-area Northwest soccer team.

His older brother, Kyle, has been the Cougars' starting keeper for the past two seasons. Evan Held plans to pursue a degree in finance starting next fall at Saint Xavier.

"Evan's signing gives this program something I don't think it has ever had in its history -- three goalkeepers," said SXU men's soccer coach Ed Vucinic. "All kidding aside, Evan's abilities were all-area quality at Palatine High School and he has shown at the high school and club level that he has the potential to be a difference-maker.

"At 6-foot-4, he brings us another big presence in the penalty area and depth at a crucial position. It will be nice to have competition at that spot and interesting to see how that competition sharpens all three guys. One of those guys will be his brother, so I'm sure there will be more than a few stories told about how they handle the competition with one another."

Savino, a sophomore transfer from Harper, played one season for coach Jason Diebold with the Hawks.

A forward and outside midfielder, he led Harper with 5 goals and 4 assists in 2011 and earned first-team honors on the N4C All-Conference Team in his debut season as a collegiate student-athlete.

Vucinic is excited about the addition and the college playing experience that Savino already brings to the program.

"Lorenzo's decision to join us is another boost to our ability to attack, but maybe more importantly, I believe that his approach to the game fits in well with the culture of our program," Vucinic said. "He has proved he has the ability to put the ball in the goal during his time in high school and junior college.

"I'm pretty optimistic that trend will continue here because of his passion for the game, how hard he competes and his drive to succeed. Those are a few of the key qualities we look for and cultivate in student-athletes who represent Saint Xavier."

Women's swimming

Hope College senior Sarah Sohn (Prospect) received the John Schouten award during the college's annual Honors Convocation.

The award is presented annually to the outstanding woman athlete in the senior class. The school's athletic staff and physical education department faculty makes the decision, looking for one of the top athletes in the women's athletic program who has been an able and conscientious student during her four years at Hope College.

Sohn was the co-captain of the Flying Dutch women's swim team as a junior and senior. An education (special education emphasis) major and Spanish minor, Sohn was a standout distance swimmer.

She received All-MIAA honors four consecutive years, and was the conference champion in the 1,650-yard freestyle every year, becoming the ninth Flying Dutch swimmer in the school's history to win an event at the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association championships all four years.

Sohn is the current MIAA record holder in the event, as well as the Hope College record holder in the 400 IM. During her collegiate career, Sohn was an MIAA championship gold medalist 13 times, nine times as an individual, and four times as a member of a relay team. Sohn competed at the Division III National Championships two years, finishing 16th in the 400 IM in 2009, and finishing 17th in the 1,650 freestyle, and 12th as part of the women's 800 yard freestyle relay in 2012. In 2011, she received All-District Academic Honors from the College Sports Information Directors Association.

Academically, she has been honored for achievement and has been initiated into the Zeta of Michigan chapter of Phi Beta Kappa. Sohn graduated summa cum laude on May 6.

Men's track and field

John Wood (Fremd) was one of three North Central pole vaulters to clear 16 feet, 6 inches at the NCAA Division III Outdoor Championships.

He and a teammate cleared 17-6 on the second attempt, tying the Division III Championship meet record.

The Cardinals also got a third-place finish in the 1,600-meter relay which included Dionte Hackler (Schaumburg) and Marlen Hamilton (Hoffman Estates). They came within a half-second of a national title of their own, turning in a time of 3:10.99, the second-fastest in school history. It was also fastest a North Central team has run in a national championship meet.

"We definitely stepped up big-time," said Hamilton, who stepped in as an alternate after Bai Kabba was unable to compete due to injury. "We were fourth coming out of the prelims, and we just went out and put it all on the line. We put it together and were able to pop off a sick time."

North Central wound up fifth in the 84-team field.

Baseball

Ben Menich (Prospect) made a quick adjustment to college baseball after helping the Knights finish third in the state in Class 4A last spring. Menich helped Rose-Hulman University to its first Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference regular-season title since 1996 and earned first-team all-league honors as a pitcher. Menich was 6-1 with a 2.98 ERA and 38 strikeouts in 57 innings.

• Please email Sports Notes items to jleusch@dailyherald.com or FAX to (847) 427-1173.

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