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  • Buffalo Grove's Alberto Eloyza, right, battles with Prospect's Alex Schnepf last season in sectional semifinal action at Palatine. Eloyza, an all-MSL midfielder last season, is one of several returners who bear watching at BG.

       Buffalo Grove's Alberto Eloyza, right, battles with Prospect's Alex Schnepf last season in sectional semifinal action at Palatine. Eloyza, an all-MSL midfielder last season, is one of several returners who bear watching at BG.
    JOE LEWNARD | Staff Photographer

 

By Mike Garofola

Daily Herald Correspondent

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MID-SUBURBAN EAST

Buffalo Grove

Coach: Rick Carlson (second year, 12-5-6).

Last season: 12-5-6 (6-3-2), regional champions, lost 3-2 (PKs) to Prospect in sectional semifinals.

Graduation losses: Markus Fiordaliso (MF, all-area, 2-time all-MSL, Loyola Chicago), Nick Landsberger (GK, Bowling Green), Alex Masciopinto (MF, F), Erick Kotlyar (D, Elmhurst College), Matt Bloom (D, all-area, all-MSL), Joey Madio, Luiz Marquez.

Ones to Watch: Seniors Irving Eloiza (MF, all-area, MSL, all-sectional, 10 goals, 7 assists), Alberto Eloyza (MF, all-MSL), Demo Drakoulis (F, 9 g), Alexix Herrera; junior Allan Santiaguillo.

New Faces on the Pitch: Senior Irving Balboa (F, MF); junior Daniel Ramirez (D, F); sophomore Zach Masciopinto (F, MF).

Lowdown: The division trophy-less run has now stretched to 12 years, however an impressive roster has been established by Carlson, which on paper, appears very capable of lifting, at the very least, the East trophy for the first time since 2000, and perhaps bigger hardware later on. "There's a nice core of returning players, and it's a team that likes to (and can) knock it around, and I feel like we can build off what we started last year, and challenge in the division, and much more after that," says Carlson, who may have the best player in the league in Irving Eloiza, but a few question marks to answer after the loss of its captain Fiordaliso, his starting keeper, and two-thirds of the back line. Eloiza is the talk of many coaches around the MSL, and the reason most anoint the Bison as the favorite as he builds excitement with every touch, with fanstatic passing and creativity to surprise the opposition. Key losses aside, the Bison have already made a statement of its firepower, striking for 14 goals in its first three matches, to go along with 2 shutouts.

Elk Grove

Coach: Joe Bush (8th year, 49-72-17).

Last season: 3-11-5 (1-8-2).

Graduation losses: Eddie Rodriguez (Robert Morris), Jesse Schultz (D, all-MSL), Mike Ragano, Tyler Popp, Jesus Lara, Zach Solorio.

Ones to Watch: Senior Conor Murphy (F), Guillermo Anaya (D); juniors John Azeta (MF, 4 g), Sergio Aguirre (D), Gio Garcia (MF), Manny Pillado (D), Daniel Alvarez (GK), David Bahena (F), Ben Castellanos (MF).

New Faces on the Pitch: Senior Anthony Gonzalez (MF); juniors Avery Cheng (MF), Hugo Sanchez (F), Keyshawn Brown (F), Arnold Agular (MF), Deion Morales (D), Alberto Centeno (GK), Jenson Pachar (MF), Stephen Brand (D); sophomores Tony Romero (D), Carlos Miranda (F).

Lowdown: This 2010 MSL East champion outfit did not enjoy the best of times last fall, struggling to find its form one year after losing 14 players from its history making club. "Our weakness is that we are so young," said Joe Bush. "There is so much enthusiasm and excitement around this team, and there a lot of players who are looking forward to putting their stamp on the their game, and the competition in camp thus far has raised the bar during our training sessions." Bush adds a favorable early schedule should help his lads build some much needed confidence and consistency before the bulk of the fixtures against MSL clubs take place. "Often times last year we played well for 30-35 minutes, then we would give up a set-piece goal and fall apart," Bush said. "Conor Murphy is the lone player back from that 2010 team (the Grens lost three players to club) and he wants to try to get that feeling back from that season, so we'll lean on him for leadership that we need so badly."

Hersey

Coach: Darren Llewellyn (seventh year, 63-48-14).

Last season: 6-9-3 (3-5-3).

Graduation losses: John Krok (MF, all-area, all-MSL), Jared Martin (MF, all-MSL), Chase Monkton (D), Matt Brant (D).

Ones to Watch: Seniors Irving Velasquez (GK), Steven Barrios (MF), Nikola Vukovic (F); junior Michael Freda (D).

New Faces on the Pitch: Juniors John Cappuccitti (F), Charlie Davenport (MF), Dan Gramer (MF); sophomore Campbell White (D).

Lowdown: Hersey found itself in unfamiliar territory on the MSL table last fall as it chased both eventual champ Prospect and Buffalo Grove nearly all season long after dominating the East year after year. "We didn't have the right pieces to compete at a level that we normally have, and we never defended anywhere near the way we (did) when we were MSL champs four times in six years," said Llewellyn. Famous for a disciplined style and determination, the Huskies' style still remains the same, but with the trio of Cappuccitti, Davenport and Gramer all back from club for their final year, the Huskies should be more dangerous going forward, once Llewellyn settles into a formation which best utilizes the strengths of his club.

Prospect

Coach: Kurt Trenkle (seventh year, 67-40-9).

Last season: 21-1-2 (10-0-1, MSL East champs), defeated Schaumburg in MSL Cup, regional, sectional champs, lost to Fremd 4-0 in sectional final.

Graduation losses: Bill Cooney (F, all-area captain, all-MSL, Brad Reibel (GK, all-area co-captain, all-MSL, UIC), Patryk Ruta (MF, all-MSL), Alex Schnef (MF, all-MSL, Illinois), Richard Lenke (F, all-area) Ihor Lehkiv (MF).

Ones to Watch: Ethan Graven (D), Matt Burikas (D), Avi Chitman (MF), Matt Wruskyj (D), Kennedy McNamara (F), Joe Tuczak (MF).

New Faces on the Pitch: Junior Jack Cooney (GK); sophomores Bryan Velasquez (MF), Alex Whiteman (D).

Lowdown: The Knights became champions of the MSL for the first time -- and did so in such a dramatic fashion -- which would continue later with heart-stopping victories in shootouts to in the regional finals and sectional semifinals, until league rival Fremd ended their season. Gone from the record-setting club is the dynamic duo of Cooney and Reibel, who shared captain honors for the Daily Herald all-area team, as well as the wonderfully talented trio of Ruta, Schnepf and Lenke. "It was just an amazing group, and one that was so focused as a team to achieve success," said Trenkle. "But even with all of those losses, we still have 14 seniors on our roster this season, a handful of them who played a big role in what we did last year." Two such players are Burikas and Graven, who will give the club experience and leadership along the back line, while Chitman and Wruskyj are the focal point in the middle of the park. Much of the 2012 version of the Knights were from a championship team as sophomores, who were stingy in their own end in front of starting GK (Jack Cooney), who takes over between the sticks. "They played our system, and now it's their turn as varsity players," Trenkle said. "It should be fun."

Rolling Meadows

Coach: Peter Mikulak (ninth year, 39-81-15).

Last season: 4-10-1 (2-8-1).

Graduation losses: Josh Galvin (MF-D, all-area, all-MSL, sectional, Luther College), Miguel San Roman (F, Harper), David Giedrojc (D), Kou Glaser (MF, club).

Ones to Watch: Seniors Noe Zarate (MF), Freddy Zarate (D), Liam Brady (MF).

New Faces on the Pitch: Sophomores David Zarate (F), Brett Gibson (MF).

Lowdown: Much like MSL West counterpart Hoffman Estates, the Mustangs can ill afford injury or loss of players to club soccer if they hope to climb into the middle of the table each season. Last year, health and too few experienced players took a toll on the overall record, but much to the credit of Mikulak and his staff, the club continued to give opponents fits for 80 minutes with gritty play and a high work rate, despite lacking enough star power to compete with the big boys in the league. Mikulak must somehow find a way to replace the gifted 2-sport star Galvin (tennis), who was versatile in any role he was asked to play, and a natural-born leader, which proved key with a roster so young and inexperienced. That major loss, in addition to Glaser moving on to full-time club takes away another talent, but the Mustangs head coach has high hopes for senior Noe Zarate, who takes on a more prominent role this fall. "Zoe showed at times last year he could be the guy we play through, and during the summer, and all throughout training this fall, he's been the guy I feel can be among the best, not only in the MSL, but the area as well," Mikulak said.

Wheeling

Coach: Ed Uhrik (ninth year, 49-70-6).

Last season: 7-15-1 (3-7-1).

Graduation losses: Sergio Nunez (F, all-area, MSL, all-sectional, 10 g), Alfonso Noveron, Irving Balboa (MF, transfer to Buffalo Grove).

Ones to Watch: Senior Alfredo Jimenez (MF); juniors Jose Garcia, F-MF, 8 g, 8 a), Nathan Laude (D).

New Faces on the Pitch: Senior Ryan Steinberg (D); juniors Mitchell Hernandez (F), Luis Herrera (F); sophomore Frankie Estrada (MF).

Lowdown: More new faces, more new faces, more new faces. The loss of one of its best players to crosstown rival Buffalo Grove in Balboa via transfer, plus the graduation of others far too long to list, including the wonderfully talented Nunez, gave Uhrik and his staff plenty of extra to work on as they blended together several varsity newcomers with a few holdovers for yet another season. What the longtime coach does have in the junior Garcia is a real gem in the midfield, who is full of cleverness and trickery to make others around him better, including the 'Cats duo up top (Hernandez and Herrera) whom Uhrik has high hopes for. "As usual we lack experience, so chemistry will be a problem early on, but we are technically very good, and we have speed and quickness," said Uhirk, "and with a standout defender like Nathan (Laude) it might be reasonable for us to shoot for .500 finish when it's all said and done." Laude will provide the type of physical play for his club to survive in the MSL, while giving some much needed leadership to such a young club.

MID-SUBURBAN WEST

Barrington

Coach: Scott Steib (13th year, 225-72-27; career, 285-100-34).

Last season: 11-9-3 (7-2-2).

Graduation losses: Reid Strain (F, all-area, all-MSL, 14 g, University of Indianapolis), John Gallagher (D, all-MSL), Colter Williams (F, all-MSL), Bryan Adams (MF, 7 a), Tyler Deacon, Jacob Dreiling (GK), John Guntin, Grant McAndrew (MF, 7 a), Mark Plescia, Brett Qualiardi, Max Redpath (GK, 5 shutouts), Brian Sheetz.

Ones to Watch: Senior Craig Zahour (MF, all-area, 2-time all-MSL, 4 g, 6 a), Ethan Clues (MF, all-MSL), Jack Hoots (MF, F), Danny Jaderholm (F), Dylan Nelson (D), Zach Rowe (D); junior Connor Hennelly (MF).

New Faces on the Pitch: Seniors Fernando Telles (D), Alex Broderick (GK); juniors Danny Balleno (D), David Conrad (MF, F), Logan Morris (MF); sophomores Tyler Anderson (D), Pat Deroche (GK), Jason Frenk (D); freshmen Sean Kim (MF, F), Kendall Stork (F, MF).

Lowdown: A stunning second place finish in the MSL West last season was a deserved reward for the Broncos, who looked down and out after a 2-6-2 start threatened to end its season too early. But an 8-0-1 run shot them back into contention, until a late regular-season loss to eventual MSL champ Prospect ended their storybook run. "We are young and lacking experience, like so many others in the MSL this fall, but this group likes to play, and has some skill to do so, and if they play as hard as they have thus far, and outwork our opponents, then I believe we can be very competitive this season," says Steib, who has an outside chance of reaching 300 career victories this season. In the Ohio State-bound Zahour, the Broncos' have one of the most complete midfielders around, and alongside the four-year starter is the all-MSL Clues, who will complement his teammate perfectly with pace, energy and tackling prowess. The future may be bright for the Broncos' rookie duo of front-runners Stork and Kim, and the back line, at least early on, appears to have the confidence to build the attack or go forward when asked.

Conant

Coach: Jason Franco (fifth year, 52-38-20).

Last year: 6-11-3 (3-7-1).

Graduation losses: Billy Belmonte (D, all-area, all-MSL, Dubuque), Dan Ruzich (D, North Central College), Joe Bosco (MF, F, St. Mary's, MN.), Zack Conrad (MF, all-MSL, Occidental College), Mike Natalino (F).

Ones to Watch: Seniors Curtis King (D), Kevin Quinn (D), Giovanny Rocha (F), Eduardo Ocampo (D), Hugo Zarate (MF).

New Faces on the Pitch: Seniors Blake Fairbanks (MF), Vic Moskal (MF); junior Patryk Openchowski (GK); sophomores Chase Hermanson (F), Joey Connely (F).

Lowdown: After a tough season, Franco is determined to reshape and freshen up his club by welcoming 13 new players to go along with six returning veterans. "This is (almost) an entirely new varsity group, which will have to rely on hard work and tough defending in order to remain competitive in the conference this fall," begins Franco. "Rocha has the experience to do well up top, and Curtis (King) is an experienced, athletic defender, and I feel that Fairbanks can cover a lot of ground for us in the middle to make things happen. If this group can buy into what we are asking them to do, they could be a very tough out." The Cougars will greatly miss their leader (Belmonte), who defended strongly, and jumped into the attack with ease, but the all-area back line star could do nothing about the seven shutouts his club would suffer en route to its first sub-.500 season under its fine coach.

Fremd

Coach: Steve Keller (15th year, 187-103-51).

Last year: 17-6-2 (7-4-1), regional, sectional champions, 3rd place Class 3A).

Graduation losses: Brian Hindle (MF, all-area, 2-time all-MSL, all-sectional, 17 a, DePaul), Yusuke Kanada (F, all-area, all-MSL, 10 g), Eric Leonard (D, MF, all-area, 2-time all-MSL, all-sectional, club soccer), Nick Tambellini (MF, club soccer).

Ones to watch: Seniors Jeremy Kosacz (MF, all-MSL, 5 g), Eric Scott (D), Spencer Janes (D), Michael Eschbach (F), Lucas Cholewa (MF, F, 4g), Jon Magnusson (MF, F, 4 g), Nate Hellworth (MF), Steven Soltykiewicz (GK, 1.04); junior Brock VonHolt (MF, D).

New faces on the pitch: Seniors Michael Debellis (MF, D), Tyler Sell (F, MF), Nathan Duffield (GK), Clayton Schmidt (MF), Kamil Grudzien (F, MF); juniors Jon Smith (MF, D), Nathan Dolan (D, MF), Connor Peters (F), Kelgo Oharu (MF); sophomores Danny Burton (D), Zach Schoffstall (MF, F).

Lowdown: The results were spectacular for Fremd as they triumphed with one exciting victory after another down the stretch on its way to a well earned third-place finish at the 3A state tournament. The Vikings will be hard-pressed to match their sensational postseason run after losing three of the brightest stars in the area (Hindle, Kanada) as well as junior Eric Leonard, who easily was considered one of the best in the state until a late decision to play club soccer put a dent in the hopes of repeating. "We lost some very good players, and we will need to find an offense because of those losses, but we are senior heavy and experienced, and we should be solid defensively," offers Keller. The first rule of the MSL is you must get it right on the defensive side of things, and that's where Keller and the Vikings excelled last year, especially down the stretch, and this will not be any different with the return of Scott and Janes in the back. The Vikings also have an 80-minute warrior in the midfield (Kosacz) to run the show, and there's plenty of others who contributed last year who are poised to play more prominent roles this season. "Again, yes we lost a lot, but this is a good group that works and plays together very well, and when you have that type of camaraderie, you are able to succeed as a team," adds Keller.

Hoffman Estates

Coach: Matt Sriver (ninth year, 50-94-19).

Last year: 5-14-2 (2-9-0).

Graduation losses: Michael Gordon (GK), Kevin Castro (MF, all-MSL), Nick Cardenas (MF, all-MSL), Oscar Salas (D), Alex Corona (F), Andres Pena (D), Michael Wnek (D).

Ones to watch: Seniors John Kubota (D) Luis Ortiz (MF), Jose Sanchez (MF), Alex Tooren (D); sophomore Misael Vargas (F).

New faces on the pitch: Junior Andres Cueva; sophomores Jorge Bravo, Adam Schultz, Angelo Sarti; freshmen Mark Hauser, Conrad Kieruzal, Ricky Choi.

Lowdown: The Hawks free fall in the MSL table had much to do with their continued bad luck on the injury front, as one mishap after another would drain an already thin and inexperienced roster which was struggling to find its form while learning on the job as well. "There's a lot to be positive about this season, especially the work ethic this group has brought right from the very beginning, but once again we are so young (only five returning players) and this team will have to learn as we go, and hopefully stay cohesive if and when the going gets a little tough," said Sriver. The loss of their two best field players, and all-MSL stars Castro and Cardenas hurts the club in the middle of the park, and Sriver will need to find a new starter between the sticks after three-year starter Gordon moved on.

Palatine

Coach: Willie Filian (22nd year, 301-134-41).

Last year: 13-9-1 (5-5-1), lost to Libertyville (3-0) in regional final

Graduation losses: Jon Clark (MF, two-time all-area, all-MSL, all-sectional, 22 career goals, 28 assists, Wheaton College), Evan Held (GK, 6.5 shutouts, St. Xavier), Jack Reynolds (MF, all-MSL), Tim Murphy (Minnesota), Piotr Karpierz (Loyola), John Livaditis, Jason Palmas, Will Nowacki (Elmhurst College).

Ones to watch: Seniors Josh Lee (F, 4 g), Matt Fleischauer (D), Ulises Alcaraz (D), Dave Clark (MF), Johnny Enriquez (MF), Jeremy Velinski (MF, D), Luis Vargas (MF), Matt Ryan-Darrah (MF); Juniors Kyle Clancy (D, all-MSL), Kyle Leber (GK).

New faces on the pitch: Senior Marco Arreola (MF); juniors Sergio Hernandez (MF), Abdul Azziz (F), Dan Cushing (F); sophomore Gavin Folotico (MF).

Lowdown: Willie Filian-coached clubs are never short on guts, belief or work rate, and this side should be no different, despite the loss of its top three scorers and the shot-stopping expert Held between the sticks. Four-year star Jon Clark was generally the man to pull the Pirates through when the chips were down, but others, such as the superb junior sweeper Clancy and the underrated keeper Leber are ready and willing to take on the role filled by Clark. "We should be well-organized and strong (defensively) with three returning starters, particularly with Kyle (Clancy) but it's our finishing that is a concern for now with Jon (Clark), Piotr (Kapierz) and Jack Reynolds all off to college," says Filian. "We'll try to keep things close by not giving away too many chances, and I look for us to improve as the season progresses, and as we get healthy." The longtime Pirates coach will call upon the services of two returning players in Lee and Valdez to furnish some striking power, while Velinski gives the club size and strength in the middle of the park, in addition to another weapon as an expert long thrower. With plenty of veterans back along with a splash of newcomers all ready to play with the usual high work rate in which the faithful have come to expect, the Pirates might be one of the surprise packages this fall.

Schaumburg

Coach: Hamid Mehreioskouei (8th year, 111-70-11).

Last year: 15-5-1 (10-1-0) lost to Prospect (2-1, PKs) in MSL Cup, regional, sectional champions, lost to Warren (3-0) in supersectional final.

Graduation losses: Joe Faleni (MF, all-area, all-state, 2-time all-MSL, 21 career goals, North Central College), Jake Savino (F, all-area, all-MSL, all-sectional, 14 g, 11 a, Loyola), John Franco (MF, all-MSL, Roosevelt), Nick Abel (D, all-MSL, Millikin), Ben Beard (GK, all-MSL), Peter Piers (D, Miilliken), Drew Simon, Mike Chase.

Ones to watch: Seniors Kacper Wasilewski (MF), Raul Alcala (MF), Christian Huerta (F), Carlos Sarasti (MF); Christian Michalowski (D, all-MSL, all-area), Alan Santana (MF), Kristian Pawlikowski (D).

New faces on the pitch: Sophomore Lucas Greco (D); freshmen Jessie Lopez (MF).

Lowdown: The Saxons finest moments of the season came with impressive regional and sectional titles, and the MSL runners-up nearly progressed into the final weekend of the season until eventual 3A fourth-place finisher Warren ended that dream in the supersectional. Excitement was building each week on the Saxons turf, as one opponent after another fell and the former prep and college star Mehreioskouei instilled such confidence within his club -- that his lads never felt they could not win a match, regardless of the opponent or deficit they would need to overcome. The postseason has been where this program has enjoyed plenty of glory. Twice in three years, the club has been within one victory of a state tournament spot, and last October, the all-state MF (Faleni) nearly sent his mates through. The three-year star has moved on, as have most of the championship team from a year ago, so there's work to be done by Mehreioskouei, and his longtime assistant and good friend Brad Stevens. "We still have some very good individual talent, and one of the best defenders around (Michalowski) but for now, we're looking at a finish in the top half of the table in the regular season, while hoping to be ready to make a run in the playoffs," Mehreioskouei said.

NORTHEASTERN ATHLETIC

Christian Liberty

Coach: Jed Bennett (fourth year, 30-24-2).

Last season: 20-1-0 (18-0-0), NAC and regional champs.

Graduation losses: Luke Comerouski (F, all-area, 49 goals, Lewis University), Mike Hennek (F-MF, 13 g, 18 a, Illinois), Kiefer Bennett (Harper) Mickael Kathan (TIU), Mike Milkowski (Harper), Cary Forsythe (Milwaukee School of Engineering), Johnny Karr, Noah Johnson.

Ones to Watch: Seniors David Colbert (F, 14 g, 15 a), Jack Salsgiver (GK, 8 shutouts), Tom Salsgiver (D), Beni Filimon (F, 3 g); juniors Travis Bennett (4 g, 4 a), Oskar Krawiecz (5 g), David Morrison; sophomore Alex Nikitan.

New Faces on the Pitch: Junior Aaron Karr (D); sophomores James Warda (D), Josh Nicholson (D/MF), Joel Arackel (F).

Lowdown: Scoring sensation Comerouski fueled what would be a season for the ages last fall when the Chargers, behind the 49-goal star, set countless program records, while winning their first conference and regional titles in its history. Comerouski, who with his stunning goal-scoring feats placed himself 19th overall in the IHSA records for most goals in a single season is gone, along with several from the original club, however coach Jed Bennett still likes what he has to build from. "Obviously replacing Luke, and so many others will be impossible, and we are not going to go 18-0 in the regular season, but many starters from last year are back, and all of them know what it takes to be a winning soccer team," Bennett said. Colbert and the Salsgiver brothers are all four-year veterans who Bennett will lean on heavily, especially in the early going.

WEST SUBURBAN GOLD

Leyden

Coach: Mark Valintis (sixth year, 63-38-17).

Last season: 16-5-4 (6-0-0, WSG champions), regional champs, lost to New Trier (1-0) in sectional semifinals.

Graduation losses: Fernando Camacho (D, all-area, all-sectional, St. Mary's, MN), Krystian Drozdz (F, all-area, 17 g, St. Mary's), Oscar Chavarria (MF, Illinois Wesleyan).

Ones to Watch: Senior Juan Recendez (F, all-area, 12 g, 12 a); juniors Tony Guzman (D), Moises Merlos (D), Christian Hernandez (F, 5 g, 4 a).

New Faces on the Pitch: Junior Noe Centeno (MF); sophomores Ricky Pimentel (D), Konrad Dziedzic (GK).

Lowdown: The Eagles have been a storming success during the past two seasons, thanks in part to splendid work by Valintis, who has the uncanny ability to blend his veterans with youth, while stressing team play. It begins with a defensive plan, led last season by one of the best around in Camacho, who helped mold a new unit which allowed a paltry 8 goals in the final 12 matches to help the club lift a division trophy. "We are a team predominantly made up of sophomores and juniors, so the learning curve, especially early on, will be a big one, but we have talent, skill, and individuals with plenty of technical ability, so the challenge is there for all of us," said Valintis. The Eagles will find and play through all-area returnee Recendez, a player bursting with pace and skill, while half of the back line of Guzman and Merlos is back from the 2011 first-11. Valintis believes his young lads can compete for another conference title, but a new and improved nonconference schedule will likely test their consistency along the way.

CENTRAL SUBURBAN NORTH

Maine West

Coach: Mike Divicenzo (12th year, 128-81-40).

Last Season: 16-6-1 (4-1-0, CSL North champs).

Graduation losses: Spencer Walton (MF, all-sectional, Illinois), Tommy Cerri (MF, Penn State), Tait Jensen (MF, Davidson), Agustin Bolanos (MF, Oakton), Xaxier Gomez (MF, all-area, all-sectional, club), Alex Herrera (F, club).

Ones to Watch: Senior Ozzie Fernandez (MF), Jerry Espinoza (MF), John Deleon (D), Josh Deleon (MF), Chyanne Trejo (MF), Alex Contreras (MF), Hubert Polinski (D), Dennis Chronopoulos (GK, 0.56); juniors Nelson Herrera (F, all-CSL, all-area, all-sectional, 24 g, 6), Jecsan Torres (GK, 20 career shutouts), Jason Gonzalez (D).

New Faces on the Pitch: Juniors Miguel Lopez (MF), Jonathan Schmitz (D); sophomores Christian Ayala (MF), Alex Landowski (D); freshmen Michael Podsiadly (F).

Lowdown: The Warriors challenge is clear. Defending its status as the best side in the CSL North once again, then making another serious postseason run to rival the one of two seasons ago. "The strength of this team is its unity and work ethic, and with us returning almost everyone from a conference winning team that won 16 games, we feel that we should compete for a conference title, and more beyond that," says Divicenzo. The Warriors might have the premier scorer in the area in Herrera (24 goals), who threatens to strike fear into those scrambling to keep close to the junior, and his mates in the middle, four-year veterans Fernandez and Espinoza are quite capable of easing the loss of all-area midfielder Gomez, who left to play full-time club soccer. Divincenzo also has in the senior Torres what a top-class keeper should be: wonderful reflexes, courage, quickness off his line in 50-50s and the ability to steal would-be goals out of the net with acrobatic ease. Depth, with a fine mix of youth and age, might be the difference down the stretch for the Warriors.

EAST SUBURBAN CATHOLIC

St. Viator

Coach: Mike Taylor (33rd year, 391-123-81; career, 454-183-102).

Last season: 13-6-5 (7-1-0, T1, ESCC).

Graduation losses: Adam Fetter (MF, 2-time all-area, all-sectional, co-MVP, ESCC, St. Louis University), Michael Decker, Kevin Patzke, Joe Ferrante.

Ones to Watch: Seniors Troy Wheeler (D, all-area, all-ESCC), Ashwin Cornelius (MF, all-ESCC), Mike McGrath (GK), Stefan Miller (GK), Jackson Owens (F) Mike Beletti (D); juniors Spencer Moore (MF, all-ESCC), Ryan Henry (MF), Mark Tun (D).

New Faces on the Pitch: Senior Ross Randon (MF), Michael Duszynski (D) Kyle Sukowitz (F); juniors Nick Winter (F-MF), Ethan Wolfe (D-MF), Mateo Ludeo (MF), Kevin Klinkenberg (MF), Kevin McMahon (MF).

Lowdown: Last seasons early exit in the regional final to Stevenson was not exactly what the Lions faithful expected, but with good strength in depth, Taylor looks to have the tools to develop a winning machine in his 33rd year at the Arlington Heights side -- but it just may take some time to find the right formula straight away. "There's plenty of talent, but it's going to take a few weeks of training and games to develop what we have, so we'll use our nonconference and tournament schedule to sort some things, and (to) figure out our rotation in time for the playoffs," says Taylor, whose club will compete at 2A this season after a slight drop in enrollment. The Lions will miss its captain, and the heartbeat of the club (Fetter), however, in both Cornelius and Moore, the Lions have two of the quickest's pair of MF's in the ESCC, if not the area while its all-area back (Wheeler) offers support when going forward to give the Lions the framework upon which to build the fast paced approach that could lead to success later on.

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