Aurora Central Catholic
Coach: Jennifer Sovacool-Smith
Last year: The Chargers finished the season 6-12-1.
Key losses to graduation: Emily Blaser, MF-F Sr.; Lisa Gaffino, Sr. F; Erin Canning, Sr. MF.
Top returnees: Jordyn Sundberg, So. MF; Amanda Scarpitti, So. D.
Top newcomers: Briana Madarino, Fr. GK; Megan Crabb, Fr.; Kiley Bruss, Fr.
Outlook: There's no denying the credentials of Aurora Central's latest girls soccer coach. Jenny Sovacool-Smith was one of the most decorated girls soccer players in Illinois history in the late 80s, had a successful college career and, more importantly to the 2013 prospects for the Chargers girls soccer program, has had an outstanding record as a club coach. She is Aurora Central's third coach in as many years and inherits a team that won its first match in 2011 and played for a regional title in 2012. Sovacool also inherits a true talent in sophomore Jordyn Sundberg, who scored 10 goals in 2012.
Coach: Mark Gianfrancesco
Last year: The Bulldogs finished 11-7-1 and lost a regional championship match 4-0 to Conant.
Key losses to graduation: Alex Hanna, Sr. MF; Jordyn Cikesh, Sr. D.
Top returning players: Nicki Seiton, Sr. GK; Shelby Stone, Sr. MF; Anna Zeyen, Sr. F; Lindsay Spears, Sr. F.
Top newcomers: Emily Stanczak, Jr. MF; Kim Stanczak, Jr. MF; Megan McEachern, Fr. F.
Outlook: In his second season as Batavia's varsity girls coach, Mark Gianfrancesco can look at every area on the pitch and see depth and talent. A year ago, the bulk of the Bulldogs' roster were underclass players, and the sophomore class is still the largest on the roster. But move of those players have a full season of varsity experience. "We've got 13 returners and they know what to expect," Gianfrancesco said. "We brought in people like (freshman Megan McEachern), who's fitted in well. But we've got some seniors who have fitted in well and provided leadership as well." McEachern is a talented freshman as well -- she scored both the Bulldogs goals in the team's season-opener against Wheaton Warrenville South. Returning players with goal-scoring pedigree include a trio of seniors: Anna Zeyen (7 goals, 3 assists in 2012), Shelby Stone (4 goals, 2 assists) and Grace Andrews (4 goals, 2 assists). Defensively, the teams outside backs -- Allie Grimm and Kayla Stolfa are players who bring as much to the attack as they do the back line. "Both outside backs are capable of getting forward into the attack and helping out," Gianfrancesco said. "They look to create opportunities for other people and also themselves. That's what we want them to do."
Coach: Megan Owens
Last year: The Vikings finished 15-5-4, won the Upstate Eight Conference River Division title, won the West Chicago Regional and lost to St. Charles North in the sectional semifinals.
Key losses to graduation: Catherine Allon, Caitrin Griffin, Kailey Rote, Kristin Rodriguez, Marissa Schroyer.
Top returning players: Amanda Lulek, Sr. F; Annie Waldoch, Jr. D; Hope Goodman, Jr. MF; Tory Herbst, Jr. D; Molly Stanfa, Jr. D; Molly Axen, Sr. MF; Megan Kozlow, So. D; Megan Fitz, So. MF; Sam Billek, Sr. MF; Maggie Bodine, Jr. D; Courtney Larads, Jr. D.
Top returning players: Mary Landry, So. F; Sam Hauser, Jr. GK; Maureen Kozlow, Fr. MF; Allie Mikos, Fr. F; Taylor Williams, Fr. D; Anna Tegge, Jr. MF; Megan Newingham, So. D; Hannah Hudepohl, Jr. D.
Outlook: Graduation hits different programs in different ways, and Geneva was one of the programs that suffered some heavy losses last year, especially in those positions that create the "spine" of a team, central defense, central midfield and forward. "We obviously graduated a lot of players from key positions last year," Geneva coach Megan Owens said. "There are some big shoes to fill. This is a big learning curve for this year's team and we'll take some lumps this year. But that's what the regular season's about. It's like a puzzle, figuring out who fits where." The Vikings have some solid players returning, including a trio of junior defenders who in their third seasons as varsity players -- Annie Waldoch, Tory Herbst and Molly Stanfa. "Our defense has been solid the past three years," Owens said. "We have three kids back there who are three-year varsity starters and while we have some plans to maybe change that around a bit, we've always had a solid defense. They've been extremely reliable." Junior midfielders Hope Goodman and Molly Axen have played varsity players since they were freshmen and Goodman has been a starter for both seasons. In attack, four-year starter senior Amanda Lulek scored 14 goals and added 6 assists in her junior season. "(Lulek's) going to be a big target," Owens said. "We have some younger kids who I'm excited to see what they can do offensively at the varsity level. I think scoring's always a challenge for any high school team, but I think we'll be all right."
Coach: Scott Parillo
Last year: The Knights finished 13-6-1 and lost in the Class 2A regionals.
Key losses to graduation: Katie Taylor. Abby Bend, Taylor White, Melissa Bohorquez.
Top returning players: Jordan Ginther, Sr. GK; Brooke Harner, Sr. D; Anne Marie Giese, Sr. D; Courtney Diddell, So. MF; Madi Jurcenko, So. F; Michelle Ortiz, Jr. MF; Heather Ortiz, So. MF.
Key newcomers: Gabby Cano, Fr. MF; Nicole Koczka, Fr. D.
Outlook: This year's poor weather through tryouts and the first week of the season has hurt all area teams, but one of the squads hurt the worst is Kaneland, which needed the time to allow its young players a chance to start finding cohesion. "We've got eight freshmen and sophomores and they're very talented," Kaneland coach Scott Parillo said. "We've got girls who can handle the ball like we haven't had in a long time. Unfortunately, we've been stuck in a small gym and we've been hoping to go outside where we can have a little space to work on things." Kaneland has built a very strong program in recent years -- the last 3 seasons, the Knights are 40-18-8. A trio of key seniors -- keeper Jordan Ginther and defenders Brooke Harner and Marie Giese -- will be counted on to not only solidify the back line but also to help those young players a chance to settle into varsity high school soccer. "They're our captains," Parillo said of his seniors. "They've got that leadership role and they're going to do a great job with it. We're going to need that leadership." In an area that has some solid goalkeepers, Ginther is one of the best, and she returns for her third high school season this spring, and she will have a chance to prepare the Knights for 2014 when she will be in college. "We've got a freshman goalie we kept on the JV so she could get some reps in, but she's going to work with (Ginther) and she's a decent goalie," Parillo said. Kaneland has upgraded its schedule this year, adding matches with Geneva and St. Charles East to an already strong series of matches. "It's good to face those really good schools," Parillo said. "It helped our boys team to play six or seven 3A schools -- we made the final 16. That's what we hope will happen with the girls by playing those schools again."
Coach: Kristy Kane
Last year: The Royals finished 18-6, won a regional title, then won a sectional match for the first time in school history before falling to Benet in a sectional title match.
Key losses to graduation: Courtney Bila, Sam Duarte.
Top returning players: Laren Frasca, Jr. GK; Stephanie Ebert, Sr. D; Taylor Gibson, Sr. MF; Haley Kilbride, Sr. MF; Kaitlin Johnson, Sr. MF-D; Molly Piech, Sr. F; Quincy Kellett, So. F.
Outlook: After a record-setting season in 2012, the question might be "what can Rosary do for an encore?" And that's exactly the wrong question to ask -- because Rosary has many areas in which it can still improve this year. "I think they're really confident and want to do even better," Rosary coach Kristy Kane said. "I think that's they're motivated to top what we did last year, to win more games and to go deeper into the state tournament. They're definitely not thinking last year was the top of what they can do." Rosary tied a school record for victories in a season last year and advanced further in the tournament than any squad in school history. Reality was brought to the team as they still finished third in the Suburban Christian Conference behind Class 2A state champion St. Francis and Wheaton Academy. "The girls are thinking they want to beat teams like Wheaton Academy and St. Francis," Kane said. "They want to make it to the state tournament. We can definitely improve on last year. Last year was extremely successful, but you can always improve." Not all the team's goal-setting has to do with on-field achievements. Even if the season is not numerically better than 2012, there are still areas in which the team can find success. "We did our goal-setting and they talk about things like growing as a team and respecting each other and growing as individuals as well as with the team," Kane said. "They want to focus as whole people -- soccer players and what they are when they are not playing -- it's all intertwined." As the season starts, the Royals have some injuries to overcome. Top scorer Quincy Kellett and Maria Witte are both still injured. "We want to get these girls healthy," Kane said.
St. Charles East
Coach: Paul Jennison
Last year: The Saints finished 13-7-4 and lost a regional championship match to St. Charles North.
Key losses to graduation: Rachel Pottle, Bailey Stengler.
Top returning players: Carly Pottle, Sr. F; Allie Arvizu Sr. D; Darcy Cunningham, So. F; Liano Imbrogno, Sr. F; Clara Stoffel, Sr. D; Hannah Rawson, Jr. F; Anna Corirosi Jr. MF; Amanda Hilton, Jr. MF; Morgan Settle, Sr. D.
Key newcomers: Kendra Sheehan, Jr. GK; Cathryn Augustine, So. D; Juliana Harmon, So. F.
Outlook: After gelling in midseason last year and playing well down the stretch -- St. Charles East exited 2012 to crosstown rival St. Charles North knowing that there was great potential -- and the first chance to display that potential comes this season, when a massive number of returning players take the field. The Saints already showed their potential strength by giving a strong Fremd team all it could handle despite losing 1-0 in a snowy season opener. "We're very excited about this season," St. Charles East coach Paul Jennison said. "We had a core group of sophomores come through last year. Toward the end of the season, you could see the positives and the maturity level of the team. The senior class we've got is very solid and I'm excited to see how this junior class comes along." The Saints have a strong "spine" -- from defenders such as senior Allie Arvizu through a pair of talented junior central midfielders -- Anna Corirosi and Amanda Hilton and then to forwards such as senior Carly Pottle and sophomore Darcy Cunningham and junior Shannon Rasmussen. Corirosi and Hilton started to come to the forefront last year and are already off to strong starts in 2013. "We've got a good engine room -- the midfield is the key area," Jennison said. "You've got to be able to play box-to-box and I expect both Anna Corirosi and Amanda Hilton to have massive seasons. They do a good job for us and are a good one-two punch." Having a player who can score goals is sometimes an issue for high school teams, but the Saints have a scorer with strong credentials in Pottle, who scored 17 goals as a junior. One area where there is a newcomer is in goal. "We lost Bailey (Stengler) in goal, and that's a big loss," Jennison said. "But we have Kendra Sheehan, who was a junior backup last year and she's coming into her own."
St. Charles North
Last year: The North Stars finished 19-6-2 and finished second in the IHSA Class 3A tournament after a 1-0 loss in four overtimes to Naperville North.
Key losses to graduation: Lauren Koehl, Carly Dietrich, Lisa Manski.
Top returning players: Alex Gage, Sr. MF; Natalie Winkates, Sr. MF; Kenzie Rose, Sr. D; Alyssa Brandt, Jr. F; Kelly Manski, Sr. F.
Key newcomers: Lizzie Parrilli, So. MF, Rachel Michieli, Jr. MF-F.
Outlook: It's easy to push a huge level of expectation in the direction of St. Charles North this season, and the reason is understandable: the North Stars finished second in Class 3A last year, were more than a match against favored Naperville North in that match, return practically everyone and have two strong additions to the varsity this year. But since her time at St. Charles East in the early 90s through her 12 seasons as St. Charles North coach -- Vostal has never had state tournament success as a team goal. "As great as last year was, there was still that bitter feeling that we didn't accomplish what we wanted to," Vostal said. "But we do look at each season as unique and individual. I know, in the back of their minds, they want to back to where we were. But it's not a goal that we talk about." The North Stars goals have been remarkably similar since Vostal took over the program when the school opened in 2001. "We want to work hard and improve," she said. "The expectation is there. Talent-wise, we have a lot of talent and depth. The first couple of games have been eye-opening to us, the number of girls we can start. Even when we are getting everyone in, we still have good players who are not playing a lot. We are starting from a good spot." Getting the blend right is a key for the North Stars. In midfield, the team has Alex Gage, one of the top players in the area. But Kelly Manski is strong in central midfield and outside midfielders Natalie Winkates and Alyssa Brandt have pace and scoring ability. Adding depth are a pair of additions -- a move-in from Arizona in Rachel Michieli and Lizzie Parrilli, who opted to play high school soccer rather than club soccer this spring. Defensively, Jenny Barr, Kenzie Rose and Jorie Clawson form part of a strong group that is strengthened with Gage. And Megan O'Leary is one further strong returning player. In the forward line, returnees Sophie Pohl and Ashlyn Walter are strengthened by Michieli, who plays as an attacking-minded midfielder. In goal the North Stars have three varsity players -- sophomore returnee Shelby Stitz, junior Kathryn Stutesman and freshman Alexa Lievrouw. Overall, the North Stars had a record 77 players come out for girls soccer. "We tried to cut as few as we could and we overloaded many of the teams," Vostal said.
Coach: Laura Wagley
Last year: The Blackhawks finished 14-9-1 and fell to Metea Valley in a regional semifinal.
Losses to graduation: Jessica Saffell, Brynn Lehman. l
Top returning players: Daniela Bueno, Sr. D; Reilly Kulakowski, Jr. MF; Sam O'Brien, Jr. F.
Key newcomers: Jasmine Meija, So. GK; Mariyah Zeitz, Fr. D.
Outlook: Jessica Saffell graduated in 2012 and ended her very successful four-year career at West Aurora. And as Blackhawks coach Laura Wagley makes clear, "they know Jessica graduated last year." This is, in every sense, a new team -- and despite Saffell's graduation, there are some very talented players on the team. Junior Sam O'Brien is a proven goal-scorer; junior Reilly Kulakowski can hold up the ball and has a wide range of passing skills to move play from defense to midfield and sweeper Daniela Bueno is a solid defender who also has ball skills. The Blackhawks have also shifted to a 4-3-3 formation this year, which got its first public showcasing in the season-opener, a 2-0 loss to Plainfield South. "Practicing it is one thing but actually playing it is another," Wagley said. "I liked the way it worked, when we allowed it to work." Those Blackhawks created a number of chances against Plainfield South, and Wagley said this is something she expects to see continue through the season. "We're a lot more offensive now and we have more support," Wagley said. "That was the purpose of the new formation and it's working." What the Blackhawks lack is experienced depth in all areas of the field, and playing in the western suburbs and especially in the DuPage Valley Conference will challenge the team this season.