For the fifth consecutive autumn, something special is brewing in Naperville.
In 2008, Neuqua Valley was at the top of its game, claiming second place in AA.
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The Wildcats followed their great season with a perfect regular season in 2009, followed by regional and sectional titles before falling to Lyons in supersectional play for their only loss during a fantastic 28-1 campaign.
In 2010 it was Naperville North's turn to begin a tremendous run. The Huskies had an 18-game unbeaten streak that carried them into the Class 3A semifinals where they finally lost to Libertyville. Like Neuqua Valley, the Huskies came back stronger than ever the following season, duplicating the Wildcats' undefeated regular season, finishing 21-1-1, with their lone loss coming to Naperville Central in the Class 3A Naperville North sectional title game.
Such an upset victory by the Redhawks propelled them all the way to the Class 3A, finals where they dropped a heartbreaking 1-0 title match to Morton. Like their counterparts before them, the Redhawks have followed up a tremendous season with perhaps an even better one. In fact, through Sept. 24 the Redhawks are a perfect 12-0-0, ranked No. 1 by the Daily Herald and fourth nationally by the coaches association.
Could Naperville Central duplicate the undefeated regular seasons of 2009 Neuqua Valley and 2011 Naperville North?
"We have a lot of difficult games left in the season and none of the boys are concerned about being undefeated," Naperville Central coach Troy Adams said. "We've talked about not being complacent, and that when you haven't lost you might think you never will. Our attitude and focus will be two of the most critical components to our success during the remainder of the season."
Senior Pat Flynn has evolved into a potent scoring threat and already has a career-best 16 goals after scoring 14 a season ago. He had 2 as a freshman and 7 as a sophomore and has worked brilliantly alongside Jack Patrick, Jordi Heeneman, Mike West and Jay Tegge.
"He came into the season with a lot of confidence," Adams said. "And for goal-scorers, that's the key."
On the other side of the field, Connor Allen has stepped up to lead the defense, making a seamless transition from a former role as an attacking player. Drake Swope has also been a fixture in back while Jake Stadleman, Jack Burdett, Ajay Varghese, Corey Halford, Andrew Feightner and Pat Mallett have all played valuable roles on the unit.
"Any success that we have had, either offensively or defensively, has been a result of every player doing his part in games or practices," Adams said. "To be honest, the defense is light years ahead of where I thought we would be. I had nightmares this summer thinking about how we would be defensively."
The Redhawks have only allowed 6 goals so far this season and Waubonsie Valley is the only team to score 2 against them.
Gkotse goals? Glenbard South coach Melissa Pero said the Raiders would need Thomas Gkotse to increase his offensive productivity for the team to be successful.
The senior hasn't shied away from the challenge as he's already scored 11 goals and contributed 3 assists. In fact, of the 23 goals scored by the team this season, Gkotse has played a direct role in 14 of them.
"He's a great player with great talent and a ton of potential," Pero said. "He's done a lot for us this year after not being a big scorer last year. He's listening to what we're telling him and as a result he's getting opportunities to score."
Glenbard South (5-4-3) has had an up-and-down season thus far, but earned a hard-fought tie against a very good Addison Trail team recently and remains a perfect 3-0-0 in the Metro Suburban League.
Warriors on the rise: Wheaton Academy became the first team to defeat Geneva on its new home turf as the Warriors edged the Vikings last Saturday, 1-0, on a Grant Stoneman tally early in the second half.
"Winning at Geneva was a great step in our journey this season," Wheaton Academy coach Jeff Brooke said. "The new turf was fantastic and the guys played great. Grant is really starting to understand his role and is controlling more and more of what we do."
The Warriors have now beaten a trio of Class 3A schools in Geneva, Plainfield Central and Proviso East and upped their overall record to 8-5-0. Overall, they've won three of their last four.
"The guys are starting to come together and are beginning to understand the system that we want to play," Brooke said. "We are turning the ball over far less in dangerous positions which was a big problem early in the year. We have settled down against quality opponents and are beginning to create a lot of chances through getting to the width and playing possession-oriented soccer."
The Warriors will travel this weekend to play in the Mid-State tournament where they'll face Quincy Notre Dame as well as the winner of Wheaton North versus St. Viator.
"The Mid-State offer great experience with the state tournament right around the corner," Brooke said. "I want our guys to work through the challenges of a single elimination tournament."
Give me a light: Glenbard West played its first-ever home night game at Memorial Field last Thursday and the Hilltoppers undoubtedly looked great under the lights as they clobbered Lake Park 5-1.
Nathan Hall got the Hilltoppers off to a great start with two first-half goals. He added a goal in the second half to complete the hat trick. David Ortega and Shawn Herrera also found the back of the net.
Adios DVC: Word recently spread regarding West Chicago leaving the DuPage Valley Conference and joining the Metro Suburban. In most sports, the Wildcats have had a difficult time being competitive against larger DuPage Valley Conference schools, but they've been one of the better teams on the soccer field, posting a 6-1 record a season ago and considered by many as one of the top squads this fall.
"I am disappointed in leaving the DVC," West Chicago coach Jose Villa said. "I definitely know that our boys are capable of competing with the teams in the DVC and challenging for a DVC championship every year. However, the reality is that it is not our decision. We will continue to work hard wherever we go."
Villa said he's hopeful that the Wildcats can maintain annual contests with many of the teams in the DVC, but it's something that will need to be determined at a later date when sitting alongside athletic director Doug Mullaney.
Benet at its best: Well, Benet certainly has answered its only loss of the season in fine fashion.
After dropping a 1-0 decision to Naperville Central in the championship of the Best of the West on Sept. 1, the Redwings have won their next seven straight while outscoring the opposition, 29-2.
"We are playing our best soccer of the year," Benet coach Sean Wesley said. "Creating lots of chances in the final third and we have been dominant in the defensive third."
Overall, the Redwings own a 38-6 scoring advantage through 13 games.
They have conference contests against Carmel, Marian Catholic and Notre Dame and a nonconference match against Metea Valley before they get a rematch against Naperville Central.
Looking ahead: Several crosstown clashes are on the radar soon, beginning Thursday when Downers Grove North hosts Downers Grove South.
The first week of October is jam-packed with what should be a handful of competitive and exciting matches, some of which will also prove key in the conference races.
It begins on Tuesday, Oct. 2 with Naperville North and Naperville Central battling for the first time since the Redhawks knocked the Huskies out of the postseason last October.
The Huskies will be right back at it on Wednesday when they travel to West Chicago. Last year the Huskies held on for a 2-1 victory over the Wildcats in a fantastic contest. Not too far away in Wheaton, perennial 2A powers St. Francis and Wheaton Academy will battle as well.
Thursday brings Metea Valley and Waubonsie Valley battling for Eola Road supremacy while Friday night affords fans with a chance to opt for futbol over football with Wheaton North traveling to Wheaton Academy for a rare 8 p.m. start.
On Saturday, Naperville Central and Benet will meet again. The two squads met earlier this year in the Best of the West title game, where Benet lost for the only time this fall.
Finally, on Tuesday, Oct. 9, Wheaton Warrenville South will travel to Wheaton North. The Falcons will be looking for some redemption after surrendering 6 goals to the Tigers in last year's 6-2 loss