Scouting sectional soccer
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Top seeds: Palatine (16-1-3), Buffalo Grove (12-6-0), Stevenson (14-3-1), Libertyville (14-2-1).
Storyline: Mid-Suburban League champion Palatine is riding high following its MSL Cup shootout thriller over Buffalo Grove, and while No. 4 seed Libertyville recently earned its first NSC title in 10 years, Darren Llewellyn still likes the chances of the MSL team. "I might be biased, but I really feel it's going to be an all-MSL sectional final," said the Hersey coach. "We've got a very good, and competitive soccer conference." Even if it's not a Palatine-Buffalo Grove rematch later this month as the seeds suggest, a team such as No. 7 Fremd (8-8-3) could surprise the field and book its place in the Oct. 26 sectional final. "We might be the best team in the state without a win," suggested Vikings coach Steve Keller early this season, on the day his team drew 1-1 with Peoria Notre Dame to put its record to 0-6-2. Since then, the Vikings have done a remarkable turnaround, going 8-2-1 and scoring 26 goals (after getting just 6 in their first 8 matches). Fremd has allowed only 12 in that same span to climb to third place overall on the MSL table. No. 6 seed Hersey (9-9-2) and No. 11 Waukegan (8-8-2) offer contrasting styles in their regional opner at Stevenson, where the defensive-minded Pats take on NSC rival Lake Zurich (6-9-2). Elk Grove (4-6-6) is far better than its No. 14 seed and could begin a trend of good results for the MSL on the first day of the tournament when it hosts Libertyville on Tuesday afternoon.
Looking ahead: The Conant sectional champ advances into the Glenbrook South supersectional, where it will meet the New Trier sectional champion on Tuesday, Oct. 30.
AT NEW TRIER
Top seeds: Maine West (17-2-3), Maine South (12-4-5), Leyden (13-6-2), Lane Tech (12-5-2)
Storyline: All is quiet at Maine West which is dealing with recent hazing accusations, so the top-seededWarriors are eager to do their talking on the pitch, where they've been nearly flawless. West has played as expected throughout the fall, and with top-flight striker (Nelson Herrera, 25 goals) and a superb duo in the back in goalkeeper Jecsan Torres and back-line veteran John Deleon, this group has been resolute in defense, and dangerous whenever it can get the ball to its all-state candidate up top. "Maine West still has all the talent and weapons to go far in this sectional, and for us, we're just hoping to get back to playing the way we're capable of in order to make our run in the postseason," says Leyden head coach Mark Valintis. The Eagles will lean heavily on Juan Recendez and Tony Guzman to help guide an inexperienced group. Keep an eye out for No. 8 Evanston, which showed it could play with the big boys following recent victories over MSL champ Palatine (2-1 in PKs) and St. Viator (2-0). No. 6 New Trier still must be watched -- especially by Maine West, which is on a collision course to play the Trevians on their own turf in a sectional semifinal. Craig Fairburn's lads are looking to give their retiring coach a memorable going-away present. Lane Tech has the brother duo of Jose and Mario Fuentes leading the CPL runners-up.
Looking ahead: The New Trier sectional champ advances into Glenbrook South supersectional where it will play the Conant sectional champion on Tuesday, Oct. 30.
AT ROCKFORD AUBURN
Top seeds: Warren (15-5-3), Boylan (14-6-1), Huntley (14-5-1), Cary-Grove (16-0-2).
Storyline: If No. 2 Barrington (15-3-3) can find a way to erase the ghosts of first-round disappointments, then the Broncos might well be on its way to playing for its own regional crown, and later on its home turf in the supersectional final. "I believe we have the team and right ingredients to go on through, but our record for first-round exits of late is something we've got to overcome," said Barrington coach Scott Steib, who two weeks ago earned his 300th career victory. The second-place overall MSL finisher has an air-tight back line, a midfield which can hold the ball, distribute and defend, and a first-class striker. The only problem for the Broncos is it happens to be in quite a star-studded group, including Fox Valley Conference Valley Division champion Cary-Grove; that's who the Broncos would face should they get past Dundee-Crown. The Trojans' terrific season is notable, especially considering that they lost all-state midfielder Drew Connor, now at Wisconsin, yet still outlasted Dundee-Crown (16-3-1) which has turned things around 180 degrees this season. "Sebastian Falinski, who was an all-state defender at Conant several years ago, has really transformed D-C in the back, and with their talented keeper they are a very difficult team to play," said Crystal Lake South coach Brian Allen, whose Gators (11-9-1) begin at the DeKalb regional to take on Huntley and fine scorer Lucas Baker (19 goals). This deep and talented sectional also includes a pair of technically superior clubs from the North Suburban Conference, Warren and Round Lake, and two potential all-staters Daniel Szczepanek (Warren) and Mauricio Salgado (Round Lake), who led the area with 23 goals.
Looking ahead: The Auburn sectional champ advances into Barrington supersectional, where it will meet the York sectional champion on Tuesday, Oct. 30.
Top seeds: St. Charles East (16-2-1) Addison Trail (14-4-1), Larkin (14-6-2), Streamwood (11-7-0)
Outlook: There is plenty of firepower in the upper half of this sectional, but perhaps the most dangerous team is way down at the No. 12 seed: Schaumburg. The Saxons are 6-7-3 but will still spell trouble for those who take them lightly. "Everyone from the 8 seed down is under .500, but that doesn't make this a weak sectional, just one that will likely see a lot of surprises early on," said Schaumburg coach Hamid Mehreioskouei, whose club is nearly back to full strength after a season rife with injuries hurt the Saxons' talented back line. Schaumburg standout Kacper Wasilewski (12goals) leads a team that's had postseason success recently; if all goes well for the Saxons, they will take on No. 3 Larkin in their own regional final this weekend. Erik Rodriguez (Larkin), Jorge Leyva (Addison Trail) and Mario Rodriguez of Streamwood can and will cause problems as the focal point for opponents, but the story at this venue is the top seeded Saints, led by 23-goal scorer TC Hull, who come into play 11-0-1 in its last 12 matches.
Looking ahead: The York sectional champ advances into Barrington supersectional, where it will play the Rockford Auburn champion on Tuesday, Oct. 30.
AT GRAYSLAKE CENTRAL
Top teams: St. Viator (14-3-3), Burlington Central (16-3-2), Lakes (12-4-3), Vernon Hills (9-4-3), Prairie Ridge (10-6-2), Johnsburg (11-3-5).
Outlook: St. Viator is a clear favorite to advance into the Final Four of the 2A state tournament, but even long-time Lions coach Mike Taylor has some reservations when talk centers around where he might book the Lions' hotel stay around state tourney site Lincoln-Way North during the first weekend of November. "Do I believe we can make it to the state tournament?" he said. "Yes. Will it be as easy as some think? No, especially if we don't bring our game and work rate for 80 minutes, which we didn't do in our last two games of the year against Evanston and Benet Academy." Still, the Lions' high end nonconference schedule, packed with plenty of 3A opponents, is a big advantage, as are the brilliant play of junior Spencer Moore up top and Troy Wheeler, who leads a well-organized unit along the back. Big Northern champ Burlington Central, No. 1 seed Kaneland, led by striker Anthony Parillo, who bagged a program record 26 this fall, and three-time FVC Valley champ Johnsburg are ready to show they earned their top billing. Regional host Vernon Hills would love nothing more to stun St. Viator should it reach the final next Saturday on its new field turf.
Looking ahead: The Graylake Central sectional champ advances into Hampshire supersectional, where it will play the Sterling sectional champion on Tuesday, Oct. 30.
-- Mike Garofola