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updated: 11/29/2013 5:27 PM

Catching up with a long list of college achievers

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Let's give thanks this week to a bunch of area graduates doing well in college ...

Like Southern Illinois senior linebacker Juan Avila (Marmion). Though the former Junior ROTC commander lost each of his last two football seasons to injury he's remained with the Salukis as a student assistant. In November he was named one of the Missouri Valley Conference's 10 fall student-athletes to receive the Leadership & Service Award. Among Avila's many qualifications were: SIU dean's list, Habitat for Humanity, Good Samaritan House Painting, "Just Read," Southern Illinois Heart Walk, a toy drive for a children's hospital in St. Louis, and vice president of the school's Student-Athlete Advisory Committee.

Augustana senior soccer defender Maggie Hoscheit (St. Charles East) earned her second straight Academic All-America honor by the Capital One/College Sports Information Directors of America. A third-team selection, the biology major has a 3.88 grade-point average and her service activities range from a seven-day mission trip in Washington, D.C., to working as a hospice volunteer. A first-team regional selection academically, Hoscheit also earned repeat first-team honors on the field in the College Conference of Illinois & Wisconsin, the top defender on a team that allowed just .59 goals a game with 12 shutouts.

One of Hoscheit's (hopefully) friendly rivals, Wheaton College's Leah DeMoss (St. Charles North), was named the CCIW player of the year. The senior midfielder led the Thunder with 31 points on 10 goals and 11 assists. She ends her college career tied for 11th in Wheaton history with 31 goals, tied for 12th with 83 points.

At the end of the last academic year, returning members of Yale's tennis team elected their captain for 2013-14. The choice was Kyle Dawson (St. Francis). Now a senior, Kyle became the third brother to be voted the Elis' captain, following older brothers and St. Francis graduates Jeff and Connor. Entering his captaincy, Kyle was the winner of the program's Ludlum Memorial Award for spirit and leadership.

Edgewood College junior Tori Fortney (Geneva) was the goalkeeper on the Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference all-conference soccer first team. Helping the Eagles play for a league title, she led the NAC in save percentage (.859), goals-against average (0.75) and wins (13). Fortney made 15 saves in a scoreless tie against St. Norbert, and 12 in a 1-0 win over Aurora.

Dean Griffing (Aurora Christian), a senior defensive tackle at Rose-Hulman, repeated as a first-team selection in the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference. The team co-captain made 52 tackles with team highs of 16.5 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks, plus 2 blocked kicks to help the Fightin' Engineers to their most wins (7) and first conference title since 1988. Griffing, who will play in the D3 Senior Classic Dec. 13 in Salem, Va., finished third all-time at Rose-Hulman with 20.5 sacks.

Ball State senior Jacqui Seidel (St. Charles East), earned second-team Mid-American Conference honors in women's volleyball. The setter ended her season with 50 assists and 11 digs in a loss to Western Michigan in the MAC quarterfinals, Seidel's 12th double-double on the season. The three-year letter winner ranks ninth in program history with 6.97 assists per set, 10th with 1,554 total assists. Against Toledo she amassed 64 assists; against Western Michigan on Nov. 16 it was 63 assists.

Augustana senior football player Eric Dratnol (Kaneland) was a second-team CCIW offensive pick. The 230-pound center anchored a line that ran for 228.7 yards per game and 5.1 yards per carry. Dratnol also is a two-time Capital One Academic All-District selection.

Notre Dame midfielder Sammy Scofield (Geneva) ended her junior season having played her 67th straight soccer game for the Irish -- every one all three seasons -- and aside from the keeper, playing the most minutes on the team.

Wheaton College junior defender Noah Anthony (St. Charles North) was named to the CCIW's first team in men's soccer for a second straight season. Anthony scored 5 goals with 8 assists in 22 starts for the Thunder. His 94th-minute goal against Carthage sent Wheaton into the DIII tournament.

Washington University senior Kevin Sparks (Geneva) earned his second straight all-American honor in Division III cross country with his 18th-place finish at the national championship. The Bears, who also sent junior Ryan Senci (St. Charles North) to run at Hanover, Ind., finished fourth overall.

In his fourth and final trip to the Division I cross country Midwest Regional, Minnesota senior co-captain Andrew Larsen (Marmion) earned all-Region honors with an 18th-place finish in Iowa. His position and his time of 30 minutes, 51.6 seconds over the 10-kilometer course both were personal bests.

Brittany Avonts (Kaneland), a 6-foot-1 freshman middle blocker at Lake Forest College, earned selection to the all-Midwest Conference women's volleyball team. She led the league in hitting percentage at .342 and in kills per set at 3.05. And she's a neuroscience major!

One of Avonts' old Kaneland teammates, sophomore libero Kylie Siebert was Augustana's all-conference representative in the CCIW, on the third team. She led the Vikings' in digs with 567, which translates to 5.30 per game to rank fourth in Augustana history. Last year's Vikings freshman of the year helped the team to a second straight record above .500.

Sam Szarmach (St. Charles East) made the CCIW's first team, an Elmhurst College junior outside hitter. Also netting first-team all-region and honorable-mention All-America for the 37-5 Bluejays, Szarmach led Elmhurst in kills with 433 and ranked fourth in digs and third in blocks. She was on the all-tourney team at four college tournaments this season, plus the NCAA regional.

Lewis University sophomore soccer player Jessica Chavez (West Aurora), who owns a 3.90 GPA in chemistry, was named to the DII Capital One Academic All-District first team in her district. Already the 10th leading scorer in program history, the forward scored 9 goals with 3 assists to land a spot on the Great Lakes Valley All-Conference second team.

Valparaiso senior goalkeeper Kristen Manski (St. Charles North) led the Horizon League both in shutouts (8) and goals-against average (0.78) to earn second-team honors. (Who was first team, Pele?) The Crusaders' career leader in both categories, Manski finishes her career second in league history with 30 shutouts, fifth with a goals-against of 0.85.

Old school: Southern Illinois announced its All-Century Team for football, and the members were honored at a banquet in September. On the squad was running back Tom Koutsos (Marmion), a 2003 Saluki graduate. At the ceremony he recalled the lasting memory of beating Youngstown State for a share of a conference title and a 10th victory after seasons of 1 and 3 wins. He was quoted: "Walking off McAndrew Field, that was the last game I ever played, and it was probably the best one."

Meanwhile, back in preps

Those who don't want the girls volleyball season to end, relax. The fourth annual Sportstown Illinois High School Girls Volleyball All-Star Game, and a separate "senior showcase" of players not presently committed to play in college, hits Wheaton College on Saturday.

The showcase starts at noon; the nearest players are West Chicago's Devan Orr and a trio from Huntley, Eilish Regan and sisters Alex and Rachel Kisten.

The All-Star Game at 1 p.m. has St. Francis coach Peg Kopec heading one side that includes Spartans libero Sam Dubiel and Burlington Central's Allie O'Reilly. St. Ignatius' Erik Eastman coaches the other squad, which features St. Charles North outside hitter Taylor Krage, St. Charles East setter Carly Jiminez and Batavia outside hitter Heather Meyer.

Through the muck

Twelve Illinois senior boys and girls cross country runners and like numbers from Indiana, Michigan and Ohio ran Nov. 16 in the 26th annual Mideast Cross Country Championships in Kettering, Ohio.

It's considered a senior all-star meet and St. Charles North's Ashley England followed suit. Matching her result at the Class 3A Waubonsie Valley sectional -- but not quite her title at the Wheaton North regional -- England placed fourth overall and was the first Illinois finisher.

On the boys side Mooseheart's Wal Khat, fourth in Class 1A this fall, was the sole area representative. Aided by Red Ramblers coach Torinn Pope on Team Illinois' staff, Khat finished fifth among Illinois boys and 15th overall on what was reported to be a wet and sloppy course.

Follow Dave on Twitter @doberhelman1

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