Coach: Mike Gecan (9th season)
2012 record: 17-4-2, 10-1-1 (BNC East champions)
Top returning players: Seniors Brett Rau (GK), Jacob Schutta (D), James Raney (MF), Matt O'Connor (MF), Paolo Sespene (MF), Steven Saletta (D), Jose Uribe (D), Sean Fitzgerald (F), Austin VanAcker (D), Ryan DeTamble (D), juniors Chris Leberecht (MF), Alan Camarena (MF), Nate McMahon (MF), Stefan Jochum (MF), Nathan Moxness (D), sophomores Cole Tecza (MF), A.J. Gouriotis (F)
Key newcomers: Senior Nikola Filipac (GK), junior Aaron Burnside (D), sophomores Ryan Fitzgerald (GK), Daniel Hall (D), John Murphy (D), Dan Roscher (D), Michael Passi (MF), Tony Tompson (D), Elijah Abejide (D), Anthony Passi (MF)
Outlook: The Rockets do return some firepower from last year's conference championship team. Camarena is the team's top returning goal scorer with nine. O'Connor had 8 goals and 13 assists, while Fitzgerald had 8 goals and 3 assists. Rau made 68 saves in goal and had a hand in 4 shutouts last year. "The team's main goal is to win our sectional final," said Gecan, who noted Central will be a sectional host this season. "Our guys want to win conference and both tournaments we participate in. Our biggest strength is possessing the ball. The obstacles standing in our way will be to make sure we continue to score goals early and often."
Coach: Ben Beary
2012 record: 2-17, 0-6 UEC Valley
Top returning players: Seniors Justin Busch (GK), Joey Butler (D), junior Andrew Gott (MF)
Key newcomers: Senior Steven Kobylinski (MF), sophomores Igor Zwada (F), Josh Merkel (MF)
Outlook: Busch, an honorable mention all-conference pick as a junior, made 135 saves last year. "He will be an elite keeper in the conference this season," said Beary. The coach likes the depth of the team this season. "We have a deep offense so we expect little letup from our first to second rotation," said Beary. "We want to score in a variety of ways so we can work around our opponents' defense. We may not have a single player with huge stats, but we have enough players to spread the stats around." The Hawks return four starters on defense. "We have a tough and experienced line in the back," said Beary. "We also will expect our front line to play an intense high pressure game that will force our opponents to relinquish the ball early in their possession." Beary feels teamwork also will be a key factor. "We need to play as a team and as a group," he said. "If we get all 11 to start acting as one, we can overcome a lot of things that may be stacked against us on the field. The second key is the midfield. I think we match up well with anyone on our front and back lines, but we will need more and more from our middles as the season progresses. This essentially is the same team as last season with the exception of a few additions. This group has worked extremely hard since last season ended and is anxious to demonstrate how much it has improved."
Coach: Mark Olson
2012 record: 17-1-2, 6-0 (FVC Valley champions)
Top returning players: Seniors Kevin Wilde (MF-F), Dale Oppasser (MF-F), Tyler Szydlo (D), sophomore Brett Schuerg (MF)
Key newcomers: Seniors Kevin Cooke (MF-F), Luis Palencia (MF-F), Joey Klawitter (F), Danny Kinnerk (F), juniors Kevin Budreck (D), Ethan Csoka (GK), Brad Sigsworth (D), Israel Lopez (D), Patrick McKune (MF), Matt Scott (MF), Casey Charbonneau (MF), sophomores Max Green (D), Michael Arenberg
Outlook: As always, Olson feels team play will be a key for the Trojans. "Our goal every year is to first and foremost come together as a team with our chemistry so we can continue to improve and compete each and every game," he said. The eighth-year coach sees another close race in the FVC Valley. "Like every conference team, we all start out 0-0," said Olson. "The parity in our conference will make it a very competitive year where each school has the ability to win conference."
Crystal Lake South
Coach: Brian Allen (7th season)
2012 record: 11-11-1, 2-4 FVC Valley
Top returning players: Seniors Gus Alvarez (GK), Matt Tobolt (F), juniors Charlie Ruff (MF), Orlando Tapia (MF)
Key newcomers: Junior Ryan Rasmussen (MF), sophomores Jake Canfield (D), Mike Woeste (MF), Kennan Grissom (D), Jeff Kishenbaum (D), Zach Schmidt (MF-D)
Outlook: Tobolt is South's top returning goal scorer with nine. "Great team chemistry and an honest work rate will key a young, but technically gifted team with potential when they start to gather confidence in themselves and each other's abilities," said Allen. Like other coaches, Allen sees a number of teams in play in the FVC Valley. "Cary will look to defend their crown and Huntley again will be very solid after having the best season in school history and plenty of talent returning," he said. "Dundee-Crown once again is a very talented dark horse. The FVC Valley is loaded."
Coach: Rey Vargas (9th season)
2012 record: 16-4-1, 4-2 FVC Valley
Top returning players: Seniors Ben Stone (MF), Eduardo Arellano (D), Carlos Ramos (D), Alex Ramirez (MF), Francisco Nava (D), Paul Buch (F)
Key newcomers: Juniors William Campos (MF), Jose Gonzalez (GK), Jason Horcher (D)
Outlook: Dundee-Crown is fresh off a successful 2012 season and has no thoughts of slowing down. "Coming off a great run last season we are looking to continue to be competitive and improve," said Vargas. "We have a good foundation of players who are competitive and are looking to make an impact this year. We are looking to some of our newcomers to fill in for the seniors we lost and hope they can make an impact." Vargas sees a competitive conference schedule this season. "Once we get into conference divisional play every game will be tough and there will be no easy teams," he said.
Coach: Dave Borg (11th season)
2012 record: 5-15-2 (10 forfeits)
Top returning players: Seniors Flavio Jimes (GK), Edwardo Zavala (MF), Caleb Perez (sweeper), Juan Perez (OD), Jon Martinez (OD), sophomore Eleno Montes (GK)
Key newcomers: Sophomore Tony Geary (F), freshmen Eric Whiteman (sweeper), Roberto Martinez (MF)
Outlook: Borg is excited about this year's team. "We have a good mix of youth and experience. Our freshmen players are legit talents and will help us immediately," he said. "Our defense is pretty much set. They played significant minutes last year and we can't go wrong with our two goalies. We feel real good about this year. It might take half the season for our freshmen to get going, but once we get them going I think we will be able to play with anybody. When those younger guys get six or seven games under their belts, they'll understand high school is a little different from any previous action." Borg said team speed is likely the best it's been since he's been coaching at Elgin. The Maroons were 0-0-2 in their first two games against Bartlett and Ridgewood."We're excited about this year and the next couple of years," he said.
Coach: John Gosling
2012 record: 5-15-1, 1-5 FVC Fox
Top returning players: Senior Paul Novacovici (CMF), juniors Peter Panagakos (D), Andy Pederson (GK),
Key newcomers: Senior Chris Goc (D), junior Jose Hernandez (F), Giovanni Suarez (D-MF)
Outlook: Novacovici led the team with 8 goals and 6 assists. Hernandez scored 15 goals and had 5 assists his freshman year, but did not play last year. He already scored 3 goals in Hampshire's first 2 games this year. Suarez is a transfer from Tennessee who adds size and skill to the starting lineup. "Jose returning is one of strengths this year. He is one we missed last year," said Gosling. "Paul provides great service to Jose and a few other forwards. Another strength this year is we are deeper on our bench. We have good hardworking role players, which is something we were missing last year. So far this year we've had some good perseverance, a stick-to-it-ness and we've worked for a full 80 minutes." Coming together as a team will be another key for the Whip-Purs. "In order for our team to be successful, we need to have a better understanding of each other quickly," said Gosling. "Players who have not played together have been on different pages during games. We need to minimize our opponents' opportunities and maximize ours. If we can click better from our backs to our mids to our forwards, we will be pretty good. We're looking forward to getting into our conference side and showing that two years ago (FVC Fox champions) was not a fluke."
Harvest Christian Academy
Coach: Jason Acres (3rd season)
2012 record: 8-8-1, 1-5 conference
Top returning players: Seniors Adam Salowitz (F), Zach Harbaugh (MF), Ethan Maughan (D), Dan Turpin (D)
Outlook: Salowitz was a first-team all-conference pick and an honorable mention all-sectional selection last year. Salowitz finished the year with 7 goals and 2 assists, while Harbaugh was inverted at 2 goals and 7 assists. "Our goal is to finish in the Top 3 in conference and get to the regional final," said Acres. "We'll see what happens if we accomplish that first. We are a young team and lack important experience, so we stand in our own way. With a bit of luck and hard work, we'll see where we finish." Acres said Keith School is a favorite in the conference.
Coach: Kris Grabner (11th season)
2012 record: 17-7, 2-4 FVC Valley
Top returning players: Senors Eduardo Gonzalez (CMF), Jakub Rys (D), Austen Emery (GK), Jaime Quintana
Key newcomers: Sophomore Michael Zambruzski (MF), freshman Jack Bessey (MF)
Outlook: Gonzalez returns after scoring 5 goals and registering 8 assists last year. Emery notched 12 shutouts and had a 0.81 goals-against average. "This is the deepest and most technical team I have ever had," said Grabner. "If we score goals, we will be very good."
Coach: AJ Cappello
2012 record: 10-11, 1-5 FVC Valley
Top returning players: Seniors Austin Ryan (MF), Nick Paganucci (D), Tim Hubner (F)
Key newcomers: Seniors Mitch Materna (D), Spencer Dixon (GK), sophomores Daniel Kim (MF), Ean Wilson (MF), Andrew Kauffman (MF)
Outlook: Hubner scored 5 goals and notched 2 assists last year for the Golden Eagles. "We have a quick young squad that should be able to move the ball around with some pace," said Cappello. The coach noted his team has good size and strength on defense. "If we can defend tough and move the ball as a unit, we are going to have a successful year," said Cappello. "We have a good mix of senior leadership with some talented younger players. As the season wears on, we look to improve each game and develop in the right direction. Our goal is to hit our stride by the time conference and the state playoffs come around."
Coach: Ken Hall
2012 record: 19-5-1, 3-1-1 UEC River
Top returning players: Seniors Tito Velazquez (CD), Jesus Avilla (MF), Griffen Perez (D), Freddy Alvarez (MF), sophomore Diego Ramirez (MF)
Key newcomers: Seniors Gonzalo Garcia (F), Josh Garcia (D), junior Leo Perez (GK), Freddy Junga (MF), sophomore Alex Cruz (F)
Outlook: Velzaquez is a returning all-conference player, while Ramirez scored 6 goals as a freshman. Perez is a transfer from Elgin Academy, while Josh Garcia is back from ACL surgery. "Our defense will be our strength," said Hall. "Last year we won games 6-2. This year we have to win games 2-0. To be successful this year some young players have to score for us. They have at the lower levels and now they have to do it at the varsity level. I think we have a very strong team that can be as good as last year."
South Elgin Storm
Coach: Nathaniel Bowman
Top returning players: Seniors Adam Smith (MF), Owen Bott (D), Luke Bohlin (D)
Key newcomers: Senior Juan Lujan (F)
Outlook: Bowman likes how the team is improving its patience in moving the ball forward. "It's not about launching long balls and chasing them," he said. "It's about strategic passing and possession." Bowman also is impressed with what he sees on the defensive end. "We have a solid defense that works hard," he said. "They are a wall. They win everything in the air and on the ground. Our defense starts up font. We all pressure as a team." The coach added ball possession and communication are key talking points this season. "We have to possess the ball and implement what we practice," he said. "Communication is going to be key in this style of play. We need our leaders to step up and take command. I'm excited. We have a talented and driving team. We're capable of keeping our heads in the game even when things aren't going well at the moment. That takes strength of character and it shows what they are made of."
Coach: Tim Brieger (19th season)
2012 record: 10-13, 3-5 Suburban Christian
Top returning players: Senior John Gotheridge (GK), juniors Joe French (F), Joe Martell (sweeper), Austin Pfeiffer (F), Matt Hesch (MF), sophomore Alex Semler (CMF)
Key newcomers: Seniors Eduardo Carachure (F), Kevin Bardan (MF), juniors Santos Gomez (D), Emilio Guia (MF), freshmen Alex Uscila (CMF), Izzy Nottolini (D)
Outlook: The Green Wave are coming off a 2012 season where it won a regional title. St. Edward lost 4 starters form that squad, but returns 6 two- and three-year starters. Two-year starting goalie Hesch moves to midfield this season and Gotheridge steps between the pipes. "That's move that should add some firepower to our offense," said Brieger. French is the team's leading returning scorer with 10 goals. Freshmen Uscila, Nottolini and Sean Watkins move into the starting lineup with classmate Isaac Nordan coming off the bench early. "This could be one of our deepest teams in years with anywhere from 14-18 players seeing major minutes in every game," said Brieger. "One final run through the powerful SCC soccer lineup should help us be ready for another run at a regional title."
Coach: Matt Polovin
2012 record: 13-8, 3-3 UEC River
Top returning players: Seniors Nestor Ascencio (CMF), Alex Moreno (D-MF), Christian Vences (CMF), Phil Lewy (GK), junior Mike Delaney (D), sophomores Donnie Sosa (F), Edwin Rueda (MF)
Key newcomers: Seniors Rene Bracamontes (D), Armando Diaz (D), Ivan Leyva (MF), Brandon Malpartida (F), Juan Munoz (D), Christian Campos (MF), juniors Sergio Blanco (GK), Manny Carrillo (D), Julio Luna (MF-F), Christian Balbino (D), sophomores Brian Benitez (F), Erie Ortiz (D), Jasminko Dizdarevic (F), freshman Ivan Gonzalez (D)
Outlook: The Sabres are coming off a 2012 campaign where they won the program's first regional title and advanced to the sectional title game. "These guys came into tryouts in the best shape I've ever had for a group of players," said Polovin. Ascencio earned all-state and NSCAA all-American honors last year."Nestor has gotten even stronger and faster and added a nice offensive threat to his game," the coach said. "He will be one to watch this season not only in the state, but in the country." Malpartida is back this year after taking a year off. He started his first two seasons. Ascencio and Vences form one of the long-standing top midfield duos around. "The strength definitely will be in the middle of the field with Nestor and Vences," said Polovin. "They will take charge and play like they own that soccer field."
Westminster Christian Warriors
Coach: Erik Schwartz
2012 record: 11-5, 4-1 conference (2nd place)
Top returning players: Juniors Robert Kleczynski (F), Sam Carani (GK), Noah Gannon (MF), Michael Beusse (MF)
Key newcomers: Senior Alex Wocjic (GK), juniors Chase Woods (F), Tyler Mamrot (D)
Outlook: Kleczynski is a returning all-conference player after scoring 10 goals and notching 4 assists last year. Carani had 5 shutouts in goal. Wocjic is a transfer from Utah. "Our aim is to use our gifts to honor and worship our God," said Schwartz. The coach is impressed with the talent he has on the offensive side of the ball. "Offensively, we possess a few weapons that will be tough for opponents to defend," he said. "We have some skilled players who will help us possess the ball better than we have in the past. The biggest factor will be our ability to finish around the goal." The Warriors will be youthful on defense. "We are an entirely new unit, however the players we have in place are fast, athletic and are quick to grasp the concept of team defense," said Schwartz. "Discipline will be a key factor in our on-the-field success this season."