Scouting postseason girls soccer / Northwest
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at Hoffman Estates
Top 4 seeds (in order): St. Charles North (15-3-1) , St. Charles East (13-5-1), Batavia (11-4-3), Conant (10-4-5).
Lowdown: Conant made sure the top two seeds here should pay attention when it defeated then-unbeaten Buffalo Grove in its regular-season finale. Yet even with that impressive 1-0 victory over the high scoring Bison, Cougars coach Jason Franco is quick to remind everyone who his favorite is, aside from his club. "North is the clear team to beat. They have 11 players on the field that play at a college level, they make few mistakes, and concede very few goals," says Franco, who has done a marvelous job reconstructing a club which lost All-American Courtney Raetzman into a challenger for the MSL crown until the final days of the season.
"I feel us, East and Geneva seem to have the best chance of matching up with North, but there is no way we will look past Streamwood or Elk Grove, so that's our focus right now."
No. 7 seed Geneva (12-8-1) and junior striker Amanda Lulek shouldn't be overlooked. The Vikings finished with 31 goals in their final 5 games, while No. 6 Lake Park (14-5-1) is another who could spring a surprise with all of its scoring power. No. 5 Elk Grove (8-8-0) comes into the tournament on a five-game losing streak, but would love to play MSL rival Conant in the final this Friday.
Top 4 seeds: Barrington (13-4-1), Boylan (18-2-2), Huntley (15-4-1), Crystal Lake South (8-4-1).
Lowdown: This sectional begins with four sub-regionals, so there's no true 1-16 seeds. But if there were, it would be difficult to believe that Barrington and Boylan are not 1A and 1B.
"With the No. 1 seed, and our recent MSL championship, each of our players know every team we play would like to upset us -- so our focus is not to take any team lightly, regardless of records or their seed," said Barrington coach Ryan Stengren. "For the first time that I can remember, we are healthy and at full strength, and that will be key for us in each and every game."
Top defender Emily Morin returns after missing nearly three weeks with an injury, while her backline mate, Emily Decraene is almost 100 percent as well to help give an already stingy defense even more of a boost. The Fillies are coming off one of their best efforts of the year in a 2-0 win over Buffalo Grove in the MSL title game. If Barrington gets past Round Lake and NSC champ Lake Zurich to win its regional, the Fillies would next meet Fox Valley power Huntley, whom Barrington eliminated in the sectionals last year, and in 2011.
The other top seed, Boylan, is every bit as good as advertised. The Titans have two D-1 prospect with Abby Reed (100 career goals) and superb DMF Sydney Rumple, along with an impressive statistic to hang its hat on: 107 goals scored, 14 allowed.
Top four seeds: Buffalo Grove (20-2-1), Carmel (17-1-1), Hersey (11-4-5), Prospect (13-6-2).
Lowdown: If the IHSA had waited just one more week to seed, there's no doubt Fremd (11-5-3) would have cracked the top four after a strong finish, which included wins over Hersey and Prospect and a draw with New Trier to close its season on a 5-0-1 run while conceding just 1 goal during that time. The No. 7 Vikings are a dangerous side, and the ESCC champs from Carmel will be the first to see just how tough this club might be should both reach the final this Friday.
"We've been playing well lately, so we have a chance, but we have to get by two tough teams to make it to the sectional, beginning with Glenbrook North, then Carmel, who everybody I talk to says is good, fast and tough. So it's one game at a time right now for us," said coach Steve Keller of Fremd.
No. 4 Prospect earned its highest seed in recent memory, and rightly so. But the Knights have No. 5 Glenbrook South (18-4-1) just ahead of them, and coach Seong Ha always does a wonderful job of preparing his club for the postseason.
"The MSL is always tough at this time of the year, and if it's not Hersey, it's Fremd who gives us a lot of trouble in the postseason," says Ha, who led the Titans to a CSL title and has a top-flight scorer in April Cronin (26 goals). She is the second leading scorer in GBS program history.
"This is a deep and talented sectional, but (Buffalo Grove) is still the class of this group, and in my mind, the team to beat," said Brad Abel of Hersey.
The Huskies have improved each week after a tough start to the season, including a 5-0 pasting from the MSL East champion Bison. So if a rematch occurs with its division rival, it would be in the sectional final.
"We still have a bad taste from our last postseason," said Abel, "but we are treating each training session like it's our last, because we know if we play Highland Park or Stevenson, then hopefully either Fremd or Carmel, if you don't show up to play, your season is over."
at New Trier
Top four seeds: Loyola (18-2-2) New Trier (13-3-4), Lane Tech (17-4-0), Maine South (11-3-6)
Lowdown: Nos. 10 and 11 seeds Leyden and Maine West, along with nearly the rest of this sectional, will be hard-pressed to match the play from Loyola and New Trier. During the last four years, the Ramblers and Trevs have faced each other in knock-out situations, with the Trevians winning three times, including a 1-0 victory in the 2012 sectional final. This year will be no different, although No. 3 (Lane Tech) and its dynamic duo of Sofia Pavon and Jasmin Carrera believe they have a chance. But the Public League champs have lost to Lake Zurich and Plainfield North, as well as Deerfield and Lake Forest, the Nos. 1 and 2 seeds at the 2A Lakes sectional.
Top four seeds: Deerfield (13-5-2), Lake Forest (7-2-6), Grayslake Central (11-3-2) St. Viator (9-7-0)
Lowdown: The last time St. Viator wasn't anointed a top 2A seed was when the Cubs last won the World Series. All kidding aside, a rough stretch just before the seed committee went to work likely prevented that from happening this season for the No. 4 Lions. But regardless of where Mike Taylor's club was placed, this was always a four-team race, with No. 5 Vernon Hills (9-4-2), the NSC runner-up, on the outside looking in.
"We've had our ups and downs as we continued to sort things out, changed our formation, got ourself healthy, and we're coming together at the right time," said Taylor. "As I've told the girls, the won-loss record means nothing, because if we go 5-0, we are playing in the last weekend of the season."
Seniors Chloe Luthringshausen and Erin Renee Murphy will need to provide leadership as two of the returning veterans on the club, while a much improved backline looks to continue its strong play.
The Lions will need to go through CSL runner-up Deerfield, then more than likely No. 2 Lake Forest, whom they beat 1-0 in the sectional final last season. The Scouts are led by all-state candidate Lucy Edwards and fine coach Ty Stuckslager, whose 2012 club was a runner-up to Loyola in the Pepsi Showdown.
"Obviously, we would enjoy a chance to play St. Viator once again," Stuckslager said. "You always want to play the best, to be the best, but we cannot overlook Antioch in our regional, or Lakes (8-8-0), who is always well-prepared and ready for the postseason because of their coach, Kevin Kulby."
-- Mike Garofola