Metea Valley suffers big loss in tourney win
One of Metea Valley's best wins of the season came with a price.
During the Mustangs' victory against Oswego East Dec. 29 to clinch the program's first tournament title, senior forward Anna Petersen landed awkwardly on a rebound and hurt her knee.
A subsequent MRI revealed a torn ACL. It's doubly bittersweet for Metea Valley. Petersen, an All-Area shortstop committed to Northwestern, also will miss her final softball season at Metea.
"It's mixed emotions coming out of the tournament," said Metea coach Kris Kalivas, who also coaches Petersen in softball. "Anna is a kid everybody likes and everybody enjoyed playing with her."
Petersen was averaging 5.6 points and was second on the team with 9.5 rebounds per game, but those numbers don't fully measure the importance of the rugged, versatile 6-foot-2 forward.
"Anna is the kind of kid you can't replace. She was a stable, calming factor, the kind of kid you hate to see go down," Kalivas said. "She does all the little things ó she can handle the ball, shoot, rebound. Whether it's one player or a committee, kids will have to be willing to take on that grunt work."
One player who stepped up big-time in Petersen's absence that last game was Lori Obendorf.
Obendorf, a 6-2 senior, scored a personal-high 28 points with 11 rebounds and played all 32 minutes against Oswego East.
Obendorf, like Petersen a third-year varsity player, seems to have taken her game to the next level this year, averaging a team-high 14.4 points and 9.9 rebounds a game.
"Lori's a kid that we really can't afford to take off the court right now, and she's done a nice job of fighting through moments of fatigue," Kalivas said. "She's at the point where she doesn't want to come off the court. I really can't say enough about her. She is very coachable, asks a lot of questions and obviously works hard.
"From her freshman year we knew she was talented and had the size, but she's continued to get better and better. Coming into the year we knew she wanted to dominate in the post, and for this to be our year."
Petersen's loss is a setback, but the Mustangs seemed to have turned the corner the last month.
After losing late leads in losses to Naperville Central and Neuqua Valley to drop to 4-3, Metea Valley has reeled off 10 straight wins.
Kalivas noted that sophomore point guard Nia Flowers has settled into her role running the team.
Metea does have some stiff tests ahead. The Mustangs play Wheaton North Tuesday night, host Neuqua Valley on Friday and then get Chicago Public League power Morgan Park at the McDonald's Shootout the following weekend.
"I think we're showing composure, more than anything," Kalivas said. "You never want to lose, but I think facing some of those good teams right off the bat we did learn some in those moments, the importance of staying composed. Our seniors like Lori and Bria Walker have stepped up, been a little more vocal to calm everybody down."
Kroehnke joins WW South's walking wounded:
Not even Rob Kroehnke, it seems, is immune from the injury bug afflicting his program.
While spending a few days in Wisconsin between Christmas and New Year's, Wheaton Warrenville South's coach slipped while walking, fractured his fibula and chipped his tibia, also tearing two ligaments. Kroehnke cut short his vacation and returned to Illinois to have surgery Dec. 30. He'll be off his feet for a while and is scheduled to have a hard cast put on it Wednesday.
Tigers assistant coach Phil Culcasi has been running practice with Kroehnke gone. Kroehnke missed Saturday's game with Glenbard North and won't be at tonight's contest at Neuqua Valley, targeting this Saturday's showdown with Wheaton North as a possible return. Even then, don't expect Kroehnke to do his usual stalking of the sidelines for a while.
"It's going to be very weird sitting at home watching on the computer," said Kroehnke, who had never missed a game. "We'll see how it goes from here."
During a stretch in December, WW South lost a player at every level of its program to a torn ACL with junior forward Maggie Dansdill on the varsity team. Then Kelly Langlas reinjured a knee against Benet.
Most recently, senior Diamond Thompson tweaked a knee against DeKalb on Dec. 21. Thompson, who played some of her best basketball of the year at the Benet tournament, is expected to miss 2-4 weeks with a torn meniscus. On the positive side Langlas has been cleared and could return in the next couple weeks.
Even through all the injuries, WW South (14-2) has won 13 straight games heading into Tuesday night's game.
"It had to have been a tough couple weeks for Diamond. Hopefully, this time off she'll get healed up," Kroehnke said. "We're just holding on right now."
More tournament action for Lisle:
Lisle gets pretty used to tournament action this time of year.
Fresh off a second-place finish at their holiday tournament, the Lions jump back in this week at the Interstate Eight Conference Tournament. Top seed Lisle gets a first-round bye and will play the Manteno-Dwight winner on Thursday in Wilmington.
Lisle (16-3) had a 13-game win streak snapped in a 40-39 loss to Newark in its championship game, but it was still a good week. Trailing most of the game against Newark, the Lions came back to take the lead in the fourth quarter before falling short.
"Whenever you get in that kind of environment you have to show a lot of resilience and I thought we did that," Lisle coach Dan Murray said. "I thought the girls really showed some great resolve, continued to battle. Obviously, you want to win the tournament, but I feel better coming out of it."
Seniors Kelly Urban and Kristina Fernette have carried much of the load for Lisle this year, but Murray noted others' significant contributions. Kate Twaddell exerted herself offensively, and Sierra Birdsell and Sarah Mogensen also had impact tournaments.
The I-8 tournament, unique in that it falls in the middle of the conference season, is not always predictable in its outcomes. Lisle, seeded high the last couple years, has lost in the first round both times.
More than redemption, Murray is focused on his team adopting the tournament mindset with the playoffs just a month away.
"The one thing we talk about all the time is the tournament mentality," Murray said. "You have to find ways to win, you have to fight through it and keep yourself alive on nights that you might not be playing your best. I thought we did that against Wheaton Academy at our tournament, taking nothing away from Wheaton Academy. The conference tournament is another opportunity to get used to that atmosphere."
Lisle has been at or near 20 wins in Murray's first two years, finishing second in the I-8 and advancing to a pair of regional finals.
"We've kind of been teetering on the verge, and we want to take our program to the next level," Murray said. "We're trying to prove that we belong as the No. 1 seed in this tournament and are one of the better teams in the area."
Panicali playing at a high level:
Part of a great West Chicago guard trio last year, Laura Panicali knew she'd get defenses' undivided attention this year.
It doesn't seem to be slowing her down.
The Wildcats senior guard is averaging close to 18 points a game for a 3-12 team that beat Glenbard East Saturday. Panicali's put up some huge individual games, going for 27 against South Elgin and 26 in a win over Addison Trail at the Oswego East Tournament. Panicali's been relatively efficient, shooting in the mid 40s from the field and close to 80 percent on free throws.
And Panicali has done it despite a host of defenses designed to stop her, from box-and-one to double-teams. One of just two varsity players returning off a regional champ, it's certainly been an adjustment.
"Teams will key on her because there's not as much scoring around her," West Chicago coach Kim Wallner said. "For the most part she's handled it pretty well. She's worked really hard even since last year, done a lot of individual training, improved her outside shooting."
Ready to go after the summer, Panicali had to deal with a thyroid condition that Wallner said cost her a lot of conditioning and knocked her for a loop. Then she suffered a high ankle sprain.
Panicali's now getting back to full speed, as is West Chicago as a whole.
Junior Shelly Molskow, expected to be the Wildcats' starting point guard, missed the first six weeks with a broken leg. She just returned and scored 11 points against Glenbard East. Senior Ashley Nevitt just was cleared to come back from an ACL injury.
West Chicago has a demanding schedule ahead, with four games over the next eight days.
"We like to have the ball in Laura's hands, but at the same time we want to get to the point where we're not relying strictly on her," said Wallner, who also noted that her team could benefit from limiting teams better defensively. "We're looking to pull some upsets in the second half of the conference season, see what we can do to shake some teams up."
Follow Josh on Twitter @jwelge96
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