By D.J. Wanberg
Daily Herald Correspondent
Top local teams: Naperville Central, Naperville North.
Top games: Neuqua Valley at Waubonsie Valley, March 20; Naperville Central at Waubonsie Valley, March 25; Hinsdale Central at York, March 26; Oak Park-River Forest at York, April 9; Hinsdale Central at Lyons Township, April 9; Naperville Central at Naperville North, April 10; Hinsdale Central at Hinsdale South, April 14; Naperville North at Neuqua Valley, April 15; York at Waubonsie Valley, April 15; Neuqua Valley at Naperville Central, April 17; Hinsdale Central at Naperville North, April 22; Metea Valley at Waubonsie Valley, April 24; Naperville North at Lyons, April 29; Waubonsie Valley at Lyons, May 1; Waubonsie Valley at Stevenson, May 7.
Top players: Lucas Becker (Neuqua Valley, Jr.); Nick Benedict (Hinsdale South, Jr.); Joe Biggenwald (Naperville Central, Sr.); Tauras Buzelis (Waubonsie Valley, Sr.); Casey Callans (York, Sr.); Dan Cepeda (Hinsdale South, Sr.); Joey Dalesandro (Neuqua Valley, So.); Billy Delaney (York, Sr.); Ryan Donahue (Naperville Central, Sr.); John Dorrance (Hinsdale South, Jr.); Dean Driggers (Hinsdale South, Jr.); Gianmarco Duin (Naperville North, Sr.); Philip Emden (Naperville Central, So.); Logan Frendreis (York, Jr.); Lewis Hollopeter (Metea Valley, Sr.); Wil Hubert (York, Sr.); Adam Hunter (Naperville Central, Sr.); Kyle Jackson (Naperville Central, So.); Joe Kesslering (York, Sr.); Wade Kinney (Hinsdale Central, Sr.); Bradin Krug (Waubonsie Valley, Jr.); Luke Landiak (Naperville North, Sr.); Jimmy Lee (Hinsdale Central, Jr.); Tim Matsas (York, Sr.); Christian May (Naperville Central, Jr.); Drake McClure (Naperville North, Jr.); Christian Moresco (Metea Valley, Sr.); Nathan Morris (Waubonsie Valley, Sr.); Garrett Nash (Naperville North, Sr.); David Roake (Metea Valley, Sr.); Michael Roake (Metea Valley, Sr.); Nolan Roberts (Naperville North, Sr.); Matt Rodriguez (York, Sr.); Jared Schreier (Waubonsie Valley, Sr.); Simon Shatinsky (Neuqua Valley, Jr.); Jake Sprong (Hinsdale Central, Sr.); Cameron Steel (Waubonsie Valley, Jr.); Michael Tadros (Hinsdale South, Sr.); Joe Tomashek (Naperville North, Jr.); Chris Urquhart (Hinsdale South, Sr.).
Outlook: When we last saw Naperville North, it had just put the finishing touches on a 30-3 record and third-place finish in state. Key players from last season graduated, but plenty of experience remains. Luke Landiak earned first-team all-sectional honors and second-team all-state honors as a junior. Gianmarco Duin was a second-team all-sectional pick and received honorable mention all-state honors. Nolan Roberts was honorable mention all-sectional. "We have a lot of senior leadership. It will be impossible to fill the holes created by graduation with other individual players. Our team will have to work together to make up the difference," coach Martin Bell said. "Our game knowledge and depth will be important in big games."
Naperville Central looks to improve upon last spring's 20-10 record and sectional semifinal finish. Returning veterans include seniors Ryan Donahue, Joe Biggenwald and Adam Hunter. Donahue and Biggenwald can both play center and center defender. Hunter is an all-around/utility player. Junior Christian May is a left-handed shooter and passer who plays the perimeter and is quick. Key new varsity players are sophomores Philip Emden and Kyle Jackson. Emden offers size and Jackson is quick and likes to shoot, according to Naperville Central coach Bill Salentine.
"We have a good mix of veteran and new players. We should be in the mix at sectional time to qualify for state," Salentine said.
Waubonsie Valley has five returning starters from last year's 16-11-3 sectional quarterfinal squad. The returning senior starters are 6-foot-7 Tauras Buzelis, senior utilities Nathan Morris and Jared Schreier along with junior all-sectional center Cameron Steel and junior utility Bradin Krug. "We are pretty optimistic about our chances this year. Unlike years past, the western suburbs don't have a powerhouse coming into the season," coach Matthew Niemeier said. "We have been a young team the past three years and finally have the opportunity to use our experience as a weapon against lesser teams. I think it will be close, as it usually is in the area, but if we get into a streak heading into sectionals I like our chances."
Neuqua Valley returns a veteran team after finishing 14-14-1 in 2013 with a sectional quarterfinal appearance. Junior Simon Shatinsky, the team's third-leading scorer last year, returns along with junior Lucas Becker, who had one of the team's top shooting percentages last spring, and sophomore Joey Dalesandro, one of the leaders in steals. Also crucial for the Wildcats is returning starting center Ian Ivkovich, Mike Delsignore, Jon Dusenberry, Scott DePuy, Carter Edwards and Brett Whaley. John Hedderman and Austin Mollway will split time in goal. "Most of the varsity team has returned and is bolstered by the addition of a few new juniors and sophomores to the lineup. Their strong swimming and intelligence should make them a tough opponent in every game," said Neuqua coach Adam Hoffer.
Metea Valley takes to this season with plenty of experience, including five seniors on the roster, the most the Mustangs have ever had. The seniors include goalkeeper Christian Moresco and field players David Roake, Michael Roake and Lewis Hollopeter, and they will be key in overcoming the loss of three from 2013.
Coach Tom Musch hopes that the experience, good goaltending and the solid teamwork he has seen so far will help the team improve upon last season when the Mustangs won just six games and didn't get past the sectional first round.
"I expect that we will win more games than we should because of effort and the never-give-up attitude of the players," Musch said.
York lost its top three scorers to graduation, but plenty of experience returns to improve upon the Dukes' 14-13 record last season and sectional semifinal finish. "Wil Hubert will likely be our offensive leader, and Joe Kesslering and Tim Matsas will anchor our defense," said York coach Brian Drumm. "We are hoping to place higher in conference than we did last year and move further along in the state playoffs than we did last year."
Hinsdale South has a good combination of depth, experience and team unity as it tries for a better 2014 season after finishing 6-22 last year with a sectional first-round appearance. The top seniors include Dan Cepeda, Chris Urquhart, Michael Tadros and Nick Benedict. Cepeda is versatile on offense, and Tadros is a major factor on defense. Urquhart provides the team speed, and Benedict is a strong shooter and provides skilled defensive play. Junior John Dorrance is expected to make contributions at the center position and junior Dean Driggers is on top of the list on the Hornets' deep goaltending chart. "We are looking forward to a great season. We have set team goals and are working hard. Every year the men are motivated to be more successful than the previous one. They know that there are big shoes to fill, but are excited about the challenge and are ready to rise to the occasion," coach Beth Walker said.
Hinsdale Central was one win away from the state quarterfinals last year, and first-year coach Mike Gibson believes the Red Devils have the talent to get another chance at state. "Although we have lost a lot of key contributors in last year's senior class, we still have a lot of potential to make it back to sectional finals this year," he said. "It all comes down to who will step up to fill big shoes and work hard in practice to build that sort of team again." Top players returning are seniors Wade Kinney and Jake Sprong and junior Jimmy Lee.
-- D.J. Wanberg