Aurora Central Catholic
Coach: Kristy Kane (first year)
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Last season: 3-14; seventh in Suburban Christian Conference; eliminated by Hinckley-Big Rock in Class 1A regional final.
Top returnees: Bryana Mandarino, soph., keeper; Jordyn Sundberg, jr., center-mid; Annalisa Velasquez, sr., midfielder.
Top newcomers: Kiley Bruss, fr., defender; Megan Crabb, soph., forward; Jasmine Mandujao, fr., defender.
Outlook: Kane inherits a young group after moving over from Rosary last year to take an administrative position with Aurora Central. Sundberg earned all-conference honors last year with her 10 goals and 5 assists. "We can't focus too much on wins, I don't think," Kane said. "(But) we're definitely looking to improve upon our record from last year." Mandarino will be asked to keep the Chargers in games, and Kane said Velasquez is a multidimensional player in terms of playing different positions. "(We will play Velasquez) wherever we need her," Kane said. Kane also envisions using newcomers Bruss and Mandujao on both sides of the ball. "Both can make a difference offensively as well," Kane said. "From the first day of practice, it was clear that this team has an incredible work ethic and great team chemistry."
Coach: Mark Gianfrancesco (third year)
Last season: 13-5-3; tied for third in Upstate Eight Conference River; eliminated by St. Charles East in Class 3A sectional semifinals.
Top returnees: Alexis Bryl, jr., midfield; Ali Grimm, jr., defender; Megan McEachern, soph., forward; Karina Rosales, jr., forward; Emily Stanczak, sr., midfielder; Kim Stanczak, sr., defender, center-mid; Lauren Suhi, sr., keeper.
Top newcomers: Mackenzie Foster, fr., midfielder; Alyssa Knutson, soph., midfielder; Jenny Scara, fr., keeper.
Outlook: Batavia captured its third regional championship in program history, only to bow out to conference rival St. Charles East in the sectional semifinal last season. "It is time to take the next step up and show we can be successful against quality opponents," Gianfrancesco said. McEachern and Rosales are the Bulldogs' primary offensive weapons; the former led the squad last year with 15 goals, and the latter has more than 20 scores during her two-year varsity career. Even with its near-breakthrough campaign last year, Batavia enters this season with a noticeable lack of experienced seniors. "The bulk of our team is sophomores and juniors," Gianfrancesco said. "That's where the bulk of the talent pool comes from." Bryl and Grimm augment McEachern as the Bulldogs' primary playmakers. The triumvirate combined for 20 assists last year.
Coach: Megan Owens (seventh year)
Last season: 15-9-1; tied for third in the Upstate Eight Conference River; eliminated by St. Charles North in Class 3A sectional final.
Top returnees: Maggie Bodine, sr., defender; Megan Fitz, junior, midfielder; Hope Goodman, sr., midfielder; Samantha Hauser, sr., keeper; Tory Herbst, sr., defender; Mary Landry, jr., midfielder; Michaela Loebel, sr., forward; Molly Stanfa, sr., defender; Annie Waldoch, sr., defender.
Top newcomers: Megan Albrect, jr., forward; Bre Magpantay, fr., forward; Maddy Rapach-Logowski, fr., midfielder.
Outlook: The Vikings were another local team to make a strong postseason run last season. Optimism is as prevalent as the winter is waning as Owens returns eight members of her starting lineup from a sectional finalist. "This group of seniors is one of the largest and most talented that Geneva has ever seen," Owens said. All but Loebel started in the Vikings' 1-0 loss to St. Charles North in the playoffs. But Loebel missed all of last year after incurring a season-ending basketball injury. Geneva, which posted 12 shutouts last year in forging a 70-23 goal differential, has several additional bench players with varsity experience. Owens cites "leadership and experience" as the Vikings' bedrock. "We have 11 seniors on the team," Owens said. Ally Mikos, Taylor Williams, Briar Schwardt, Megan Newingham, Courtney Lardas and Anna Tegge will also vie for to crack the Vikings' top 11. Owens has 15 players with varsity experience. Quincy Swanson, Katie Hope and Hallie McQueeny are other newcomers to watch.
Coach: Scott Parillo (10th year)
Last season: 11-5-3; second in the Northern Illinois Big XII East; eliminated by Rosary in Class 2A regional final.
Top returnees: Jess Coia, sr., midfielder; Courtney Diddel, jr., midfielder; Nicole Koczka, soph., defender; Madison Jurcenko, jr., midfielder; Brittany Olson, sr., forward; Michelle Ortiz, sr., midfield; Kiandra Powell, soph., midfielder; Delaney Stryczk, sr., defender.
Top newcomers: Holly Collingbourne, fr., midfielder; Paige Guyton, fr., midfielder; Lauren Ortiz, fr., midfielder; Taylor Zitkus, fr., defender.
Outlook: The Knights have a gaping void in their lineup with the departure of star keeper Jordan Ginther to Purdue University. But Kaneland could very well be a greatly improved offensive collection this year behind a plethora of talented front-field players. "It's a nice problem to have," Parillo said of the infusion of freshmen midfielders Collingbourne, Guyton and Lauren Ortiz to augment Coia and Diddel. Olson and the elder Ortiz, another midfielder, were the Knights' leading scorers last season. They were both in double figures as Olson led the way with 15 goals. "A lot of talent on paper," Parillo said. "Hopefully we will be there pushing for the conference (championship)." The veteran coach of both genders at Kaneland cannot wait to further tutor Olson. "She has got that uncanny ability to be in the right place at the right time," Parillo said. Kaneland will have plenty of in-team competition starting slots. "It will push everyone for playing time," Parillo said.
Coach: Brian Frank (first year)
Last season: 16-4-2; Suburban Christian Conference champion; eliminated by Prairie Ridge in Class 2A sectional semifinal.
Top returnees: Lauren Frasca, sr., keeper; Quincy Kellett, jr., forward; Lizzie Kelly, jr., midfielder; Katie Phielen, soph., defender; Anna Sheen, soph., defender.
Top newcomers: Mackenzie Malley, soph., midfielder; Ella Wagoner, soph., forward.
Outlook: Kellett has already fashioned a remarkable goal-scoring career as an underclassmen for the Royals. The junior forward is on track for triple figures in career scoring after tallying back-to-back 28-goal seasons for Rosary in her first two seasons. Kellett was the conference player of the year last season after leading the team to an unbeaten run in league play. "Having really good players on the team really helps with that," Kellett said. "My teammates have got me in position to score. I really didn't have to do that much." But more than ever will be asked of Kellett as first-year coach Frank has to replace nine seniors who saw bountiful minutes last year. "There is a big void that needs to be filled," Frank said. But Kellett is undeterred. "Hopefully I can stay consistent with (my goal-scoring)," Kellett said. "We can get a little farther in the state tournament." Kelly is the Royals' other main offensive threat.
St. Charles East
Coach: Paul Jennison (fifth year)
Last season: 14-6-2; second in the Upstate Eight Conference River; eliminated by Geneva in Class 3A regional final.
Top returnees: Anna Corrirossi, sr., midfielder; Darcy Cunningham, jr., forward; Amanda Hilton, sr., midfielder; Shannon Rassmussen, sr., defender, midfielder; Kendra Sheehan, sr., keeper.
Outlook: Jennison is seeking to create another renaissance for girls soccer at the school, where the Saints have captured eight state championships in program history. "We're looking to get back to the heights where we have been," he said. Cunningham should be the focal point of the Saints' offensive attack this spring. "We're hoping Darcy is going to have a big year," Jennison said. There have been tough losses in recent years. "We have been right on the brink of bringing it to the next level," Jennison said. The Saints, Jennsion more than understands, will have keen competition from the other three local River schools. "We want to make sure that we get the year off to a good start," Jennison said. Jennison respectfully declined to name any potential breakthrough athletes among his underclassmen. But he did offer this: "For the first time in a long time we have a very strong group of sophomores."
St. Charles North
Coach: Ruth Vostal (14th year)
Last season: 19-4-1; Upstate Eight Conference River champions; eliminated by Barrington in Class 3A supersectional.
Top returnees: Jenny Barr, sr., defender; Alyssa Brandt, sr., midfielder; Hanna Durocher, jr., midfielder; Kathleen Murphy, sr., defender; Danielle Noverini, sr., midfielder; Megan O'Leary, sr., defender; Lizzie Parrilli, jr., midfielder; Sophie Pohl, sr., forward; Shelby Stitz, jr., keeper; Darcy Stoecklin, sr., defender; Ashlyn Walter, sr., forward.
Top newcomers: Morgan Rerko, soph., midfielder; Taylor Sypien, jr., midfielder.
Outlook: St. Charles North had high hopes last season coming off a Class 3A state runner-up finish in 2012. But the North Stars' season came to an inglorious end as host Barrington defeated St. Charles North 3-1 in a supersectional that took two days to complete. "It was definitely a heartbreaker," said Barr, a mainstay of the North Stars' notoriously stingy defense the last two years. "We thought we were going to make it back to state. It's harder to stay at the top." St. Charles North will be without the services of Rachel Michieli; the senior midfielder was lost to a season-ending torn ACL. But Barr and her equally seasoned returning starters are seeking to not only defend their conference championship but also make another patented postseason run. "Coach Vostal always tells us, 'We don't rebuild, we reload,'" Barr said. "That's a great quote. When playoff season comes around, we're going to step it up."
Coach: Laura Wagley (third year)
Last season: 7-14-2; seventh in the DuPage Valley Conference; eliminated by Neuqua Valley in Class 3A regional semifinals.
Varsity athletes: Lauren Barry, jr.; Sandra Chaidez, sr.; Yulissa Espino, jr.; Carli Hix, jr.; Sophie Martinez, jr.; Sam O'Brien, sr.; Hannah Pealstrom, jr.; Karina Rios, jr.; Alicia Rotolo, sr.; Daisy Sanchez, jr.; Christina Sosa, jr.; Karla Torres, sr.; Abriya Zeitz, sr.; Mariyah Zeitz, soph.; Jyleen Zepeda, sr.
Newcomers: Jocelyn Ferrar, fr.; Katharine Stephens, fr.; Taylor Truckenbroad, fr.; Bailey Ziman, fr.
Outlook: West Aurora enters its final season in the ultra-competitive DuPage Valley looking for greater consistency. O'Brien is the unquestioned senior leader; the forward has signed a Division-I scholarship to attend Northern Illinois University next fall. The elder Zeitz is an equally versatile athlete as a key figure in the Blackhawks' back-to-back conference-winning volleyball teams her sophomore and junior years. Zeitz was also a four-year varsity member in the basketball program. Zeitz is the last line of defense for the Blackhawks as the three-sport standout uses her height ideally to give freshman keeper Ziman added insurance. "For the season personally and as a team, I want to get more steady," O'Brien said. "We have had so many opportunities to win more games. We want to get the wins that we deserve in the long run." Stephens could be a fixture to come in coming years for West Aurora as an athletic right-side forward.