MID-SUBURBAN EASTBuffalo Grove Coach: Pat Dudle (7th year, 71-57-11).
Last year: 25-4-1 (10-1-0), MSL East champions, 4th place finish at 3A state tournament.
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Graduation losses: Carly Brown (MF), Shannon Guercio (D), Jay Jay Lowery (D), Kelly VandeMerkt (MF), Kirsten Erickson (GK).
Top returnees: Seniors Sara Brawley (D), Elizabeth Chan (D), Megan Gardner (F), Skylar Groth (MF, all-state, all-sectional, all-MSL, MSL POY, 8g, 6a), Kim Herzog (MF, 8g), Allie Ingham (F, all-area, all-sectional, all-MSL, 15g), Colleen Zickert (MF, all-area, two-time all-MSL, 8g, 9a), Kelli Zickert (F, all-state, two-time all-area, all-MSL, 31g, 11a); juniors Jessica Ahumada (MF), Sara Busse (F, 7g, 10), Jessica Kovach (MF, all-area, all-MSL, 7a), Sarah O'Connor (GK, 16 shutouts).
New faces to watch: Junior Lauren Ward (GK); sophomores Dani Blechman (D), Karla Diviesti (F-MF), Sabrina Guercio (F-MF), Amanda Kowalski (D); freshmen Danielle Allaire (D), Hannah Cole (F), Georgette Topalis (MF).
Outlook: The Bison reached the zenith of their season with a first trip downstate after capturing the prestigious Pepsi Showdown crown and before winning the MSL East crown during a terrific run last spring. The scary thing for 2014 opponents is that dynamic side which became so much fun to watch last season returns nearly intact, making them the clear favorite to not only win the division, but perhaps the biggest trophy of them all come state tournament time. "There's a lot of talent here, and everyone that's back had a taste of getting so close to winning it all. But our intention is to take it one game at a time, and not get too far ahead of ourselves, and with this great group of individuals that we have, I know that's the way it will be all year long," said Dudle. The coach will need to reconfigure most of his backline after the loss of two quality starters, but the addition of club player (Kowalski) will make things easier. Top-heavy in attacking talent with Kelli Zickert and with offensive skill all over the field, the Bison have no clear weakness from the top of the box forward. Groth, Kovach, Collen Zickert and Ingham were all-area players last season, and Busse is back and better than ever after suffering a season-ending injury in the sectionals. Junior Sarah O'Connor is capable of the spectacular for the Bison in goal, and was yet another pleasant surprise last season.
Elk Grove Coach: Dan Klaus (13th year, 116-119-16).
Last year: 8-8-1 (6-5-0).
Graduation losses: Emily Wary (D, all-area), Kelly Naughton (MF, all-MSL, playing basketball at Jacksonville State, AL), Sarah Stram (MF, all-MSL, playing soccer at Bemidji State, MF), Sarah Kinnard (MF, playing soccer at St. Mary's, MN), Stephanie Solis (D), Danielle Czyzewksi (F).
Top returnees: Senoirs Nikki Zaino (F, 8g, 5a), Kelly Regan (MF), Jocelyn Potratz (D), Melissa Solorio (GK, 8 shutouts).
New faces to watch: Sophomore Cassie Slattery (MF).
Outlook: Yet another year of high graduation losses met coach Dan Klaus this spring, but the return of a strong group of seniors and sophomores will help ease the departure of several starters from his 2013 squad. "The seniors who are back are all very good leaders, and those five sophomores who were with us last year could be the key to our season as they jump into primary roles, along with the heavy minutes we'll ask them to play," says Klaus, who recently was named the men's soccer head coach at Harper College. The Grens may potentially have a dynamic duo up top, with a true finisher in Zaino, who already has 4 goals in the first two matches of the season. She'll play alongside Slattery, a sophomore who Klaus says has grown by leaps and bounds during the off-season. The club also has the underrated Solorio in goal; she has already has a program-record 24 shutouts.
Hersey Coach: Darren Llewellyn (1st year).
Last year: 14-5-5 (7-2-2), regional champs, lost to Buffalo Grove (3-0) in sectional final.
Graduation losses: Casey Weyhrich (F-MF, all-area, all-MSL, 33 career goals, Carroll College, WI.), Kaitlyn Smetana (F, DePaul), Amy Kappelman (MF, Carthage College), Sarah Mulroe (F, Loyola).
Top returnees: Seniors Lauren Gierman (MF, all-state, two-time all-area, all-MSL, 16g, 14a), Morgan Harris (GK, all-MSL, 13 shutouts), Megan Brant (D), Claire Schwaba (D), juniors Kayla Knauss (D), Annie Korff (D), Sara Magnuson (MF), Emma Cooke (MF), Jessica Schmidt (MF), Danielle Papa (F), Emma Slosar (MF), Abby Wendell (MF).
New faces to watch: Freshmen Kelly Weyhrich (D), Claire Callahan (F).
Outlook: After an early drubbing against eventual division champ Buffalo Grove last spring, the Huskies found success, one week at a time, leading to a regional title before finally falling one victory short of reaching the supersectionals. The highly successful Brad Abel stepped down following the season as head coach, with the respected boys coach Darren Llewellyn coming over from Wheeling to take charge of a team which is full of talent, beginning with all-stater Gierman, truly one of the best attacking players around. "It's a new year, with a little different look, and although we lost (20 goals) through graduation, there are some really tough young players with varsity experience still here, including Gierman, who if we find a striker for her to play with, will be even more dangerous than ever," says Llewellyn. On paper, the Huskies are their strongest along the back, with an all-star cast, starting with Harris and the ferocious trio of Knauss, Korff and Brant in front of the four-year keeper, who was also an all-area basketball star this season.
ProspectCoach: Tom Froats (12th year, 123-84-31).
Last year: 13-7-2 (5-5-1).
Graduation losses: Rachel Suarez (F, playing at Concordia University, WI), Emily McTigue (GK, Notre Dame), Hannah Trezise (Michigan State), Lauren Rickett (Illinois).
Top returnees: Seniors Emily Novak (F, all-area, all-MSL, 13g), Elena Cukurs (D, all-MSL), Sarah LaCost (F, 9g), Kim Welk (F-MF), Jenny Novak (D), Trish Benson (D), Danielle Hamzeloo (D), Kristen Frasco (D); juniors Rosie Pettenuzzo (MF, all-area, all-sectional, two-time all-MSL), Maggie Sullivan (D); sophomores Martina Kowalczuk (F, 4g, 5a), Andi Marfilius (MF, 4g).
New faces to watch: Seniors Elaine Tomko GK), Kelly Bucher (D); juniors Sammy Minasian (MF), Marika Maggos (MF), Kaitlyn Gries (MF), Jenna Leane (D), Kathryn Brooks (D); sophomore Meghan Rickett (GK); freshmen Alyssa Cwidak (MF), Alyson Kobler (F).
Outlook: The Knights have quality along the backline with Cukurs, firepower and pace in Novak and work rate and tactical awareness from Pettenuzo in the midfield to exploit the opposition. All of which has Prospect targeting a top-half of the table finish by season's end. "Experience and depth on both sides of the ball should be our strength, and the return of the majority of our goal scorers from a year ago should allow us to be a very capable side in our conference, which I feel has plenty of talent from team to team," says coach Froats. Pettenuzzo will be the central figure and will provide the heartbeat in the middle for a club which always goes touchline to touchline for 80 minutes. With Novak leading the way, along with the speedy duo of Kowalczuk-Mafilius, the Knights should be dynamic in the attacking third.
Rolling Meadows Coach: Michael Drenth (3rd year, 15-23-4)
Last year: 6-12-2 (2-9-0).
Graduation losses: Evelyn Lopez (F, all-MSL), Monika Cinch (MF)
Top returnees: Mary Collins (MF), Allie Kemph (D), Sarah Ott (D)
New faces to watch: Freshmen Madeline Rebsamen, Katherine Perille, Natalie D'Souza
Outlook: The Mustangs made some inroads last spring despite their lack of depth, which was stretched to its limit due to a variety of injuries which tested an already thin roster. "It doesn't get easier playing in this conference, and the challenge will be just as tough for us this season, but for the first time we have a terrific group of young players with us, which by the end of the season could see us starting 5-6 freshmen," said Drenth, who lost his leading scorer (Lopez) but has three solid veterans (Collins, Kemph and Ott) who he will lean on heavily, especially in the early going.
Wheeling Coach: Dwayne Cruz (1st year)
Last year: 0-11-0
Graduation losses: Cindy Castillo (MF, two-time all-MSL).
Top returnees: Senior Alex Fister (D); juniors Emily Peterson (D), Jesse Acosta (MF, Sonia Valencia (GK).
New faces to watch: Freshmen Jeanine Valera (MF), Emma Fister (F), Kelli Pietrowski (F-MF).
Outlook: The Wildcats' new coach will enter his 15th year at the helm for the women's program at Harper College next fall, and the hope is his experience on the collegiate level, which has included three trips to the NJCAA tournament, will help inspire a program which has had its share of struggles over the past few seasons. "We've got some new players coming in from club that we're high on, and if we can keep our shape defensively and defend with plenty of high pressure all over the field, I really believe we will surprise some people this spring, then build off of that going forward," says Cruz, who was an assistant under Darren Llewellyn during the 2007-2008 campaign.
MID-SUBURBAN WESTBarringtonCoach: Ryan Stengren (7th year, 112-31-10).
Last year: 19-5-1 (8-2-1). MSL champions, 3rd place (3A) state tournament.
Graduation losses: Molly Pfeiffer (MF, two-time all-state, three-time all-area, MSL, 2013 Daily Herald All-Area captain, Marquette), Emily Morin (D, all-area, all-MSL, Michgian Tech), Aimee Pierce (MF-D, two-time all-area, all-MSL, Iowa State), Meredith Slott (D, Northwestern), Hollis Anderson (MF), Jennifer Flannery (MF).
Top returnees: Seniors Elise Ackerman (F), Mia Calamari (MF-D, all-area, all-MSL, 12a), Emily Decraene (D), Cari Caplin (D), Kate Hoots (MF-F), Alex Avers (MF); juniors Jenna Szczesny (F, all-area, all-MSL, 25g), Hannah Luedtke (GK, all-state, all-area, all-MSL, 17 shutouts), Megan Fox (MF), Kelsey Muniz (MF), Annalise Avers (MF), Alexa Dargis (GK).
New faces to watch: Seniors Nicole Niro (MF), Carrie Madden (MF-D); freshmen Kayla Schutter, Haley Tausend, Sophia Spinell, Maesyn Poidomani.
Outlook: The Fillies became MSL champions for the second time in as many years last season, and might very well have been the best side in the area heading into the final weekend of the season, but Hinsdale Central dash Barrington's dreams with a 1-0 defeat in the state semfinals. Their thrilling march through the regular season and state tournament was all made possible with an abundance of talent, an organized defense, and souped up attack led by Molly Pfeiffer and exciting young striker Jenna Szczesny. The Fillies lost plenty of what was responsible for the 2013 success, and with so many changes, Stengren will preach patience in the early going as he connects the dots. "We have some very good players back, but the girls also know we have a lot of work ahead of us, and that we have to go out and have a purpose in each training session and match in order to reach our ceiling when the tournament begins." In addition to its leading scorer Szczesny, there are three players opponents should be keeping an eye on. The first is the acrobatic shot-stopping all-state keeper Luedtke, as well as the senior duo of Niro and Madden, who come over from the prestigious Eclipse Soccer Club to provide a strong presence central midfield presence in an effort to help the Fillies have a go at top-of-the table candidates Buffalo Grove and Conant.
ConantCoach: Jason Franco (9th year, 110-49-17).
Last year: 12-5-5 (7-1-3), regional champs, lost to St. Charles North (2-1 OT) in sectional semifinals.
Graduation losses: Alyssa Altosino (MF, all-MSL), Courtney O'Keefe (F), Kayla Severinsen (D).
Top returnees: Seniors Drew Wentzel (D, all-area, all-sectional, all-MSL), Bianca Madonia (MF), Nicole Lorenz (MF), Stephanie Buga (D), Lauren Lejman (MF); juniors Leah Celarek (F, two-time all-area, all-MSL, 13g), Katie Lomas (D), Sidney O'Keefe (F, 9g, 7a), Haley Anderson (GK, 14 shutouts); sophomores Zoe Shoro (MF), Rachel Raymer (MF), Marissa Dizonno (F).
New faces to watch: Freshmen Emily Mazurek (F).
Outlook: By returning nearly all of its key figures from its magnificent 2013 season, the Cougars earn a slight edge as the club to beat in the MSL West, an honor coach Jason Franco appreciates yet only cautiously accepts. "There's a lot to like about this team, but our concerns are depth and a brutally difficult schedule, combined with the day-in, and day-out toughness of playing in this conference which will test and stretch our physical abilities," he said. Conant has all the tools to go far. Their attack is wonderfully balanced, with Celarek a real talent, whether playing from the middle, or up top with newcomer Mazurek. A proficient, hard-working midfield corps figures to undo most opponents on a nightly basis. The Cougars' success along the back usually surfaces in the biggest of matches thanks to the presence of team captain Wentzel, an 80-minute warrior whose deadly free kick artistry can change the course of the match. Not to be forgotten is two-year starter Lomas, who is part of that water-tight defense in front of the steady and sometimes spectacular veteran keeper Anderson.
FremdCoach: Steve Keller (14th year, 201-81-28).
Last year: 12-6-3 (7-3-1), lost to Carmel (4-3 OT) in regional final.
Graduation losses: Catherine Ernst (D, all-area, all-MSL), Ashley McConnell (MF, all-area, all-MSL, playing basketball at Illinois), Michelle Mottonen (MF-F, two-time all-area, all-MSL, playing soccer at TCU), Christine Piasecki (GK, all-MSL), Jessa Rizzo (MF, Augustana), Courtney Norenberg (D), Bri Frys (MF, Augustana), Carrie Wagner (F, UW-Whitewater), Cassie Etelemaki (D), Rachel Tenuta (GK, playing at Lake Forest College), Hannah Burton, Ally Wade, Abby Gary, Claire Mitzner.
Top returnees: Seniors Mary-Kate Schiffer (F, 7g), Karolina Cholewa (MF); juniors Jessica Kopec (MF), Katie Zara (F), Liz Flavin (MF).
New faces to watch: Juniors Annika Morin (D), Reilly Siepka (D), Caroline Freeman (D), Sara Aftelak (F-GK); freshman Julia Leonard (MF-D-F).
Outlook: It may have almost become a cliche, but there's little doubt about which foe most team least want to play in the closing weeks of the season. Fremd coach Steve Keller is a master at bringing his side together when the postseason nears, and last season was no different as the Vikings went 8-1-1 down the stretch with 7 shutouts to close out with 12 wins before dropping a 2 OT heartbreaker to Carmel. After taking a particularly big graduation hit during the off-season, Keller finds he has an abundance of midfield talent with Kopec, Cholewa and Flavin, and potentially freshman Leonard in addtion to a potential lethal 1-2 punch up top in Schiffer and Zara. However, his biggest challenge will be in the complete rebuilding of his backline, which last season yielded a paltry 15 goals. "The team chemistry is something we like and can build on, but our youth and inexperience is a concern, especially early on, so it will take some time to bring it all together," said Keller, who went over the 200-win mark during the boys season to give him over 400 victores in his career.
Hoffman EstatesCoach: Ralph Tooren (4th year, 7-44-2)
Last year: 2-13-2 (1-10-0).
Graduation losses: Jackie Nailor (MF, all-MSL, UW-Eau Claire), Brittany Otto.
Top returnees: Seniors Kelly Rottman (D), Hannah Brostoff (MF); juniors Ale Alonso (MF), Jessica Miller (D); sophomores Jennie Nailor (D), Michele Montes De Oca (F), Becca Salerno (D),
New faces to watch: Sophomore Erin Hanson (MF); freshmen Katie Bonney (MF),Natalie Nagrant (F), Anna Sall (MF).
Outlook: Good health will cure whatever ails the Hawks, who once again open the season with a handful of players on the injury list, who when all return fit and in form, should strengthen a lineup which will might be the surprise club in the league. "Last year we lost five (1-0) matches with nearly the same group we have back, and our roster this year looks like it will produce the goals we need to change those 1-goal differences in our favor," says Tooren, who with (Nailor) an all-sectional honorable-mention player in her rookie season, leads a group capable of staying water-tight in its own end, while the injured work to rejoin the action.
PalatineCoach: Willie Filian (22nd year, 246-143-42).
Last year: 6-14-1 (3-7-1).
Graduation losses: Jessica Malak (D, all-MSL, playing at North Park), Jessica Bachman (D, Illinois), Mackenzie Wiedeann (MF, 2012, all-MSL), Kelei Deal, Jackie Perryman.
Top returnees: Seniors Erin Mayer (MF), Morgan Radtke (MF, all-MSL), Gina Falato (MF), Rachel Rhodes (GK), Tori Jackson (MF); juniors Katie Conklin (MF), Carly Iacullo (MF), Michelle Raymond (F), Kellie Reynolds (F); sophomores Kiera Gavin (MF), Allison Rzepka (D), Kelsey Hank (GK), Hannah Tipper (GK).
New faces to watch: Freshmen MacKenzie Filian (MF), Carolyn Soukup (F).
Outlook: After an uncharactistic sub-.500 year last season, hopes are high once again, as there's plenty of quality and class up and down the roster that appears to ready to come of age. "Our experience will be our strength, if getting beat (14) times last season is good experience," quips Filian, who will reach 500 wins combined likely next fall during the boys season. "We'll be strong along the back and between the sticks, but we're going to have to find a way to get into the back of the net more often." The trio of Reynolds, Falato and Raymond will spearhead the attack with speed up top, while the partnership of Mayer and Radtke in the center of the defense will combine to provide sound distribution and air superiority.
SchaumburgCoach: Greg Charvat (22nd year, 211-140-38).
Last year: 8-10-1 (5-5-1).
Graduation losses: Amanda Kelly (D-MF, all-area, all-sectional, two-time all-MSL, playing basketball at Illinois Wesleyan), Jenna Eaker (F, all-MSL, playing soccer at Milliken), Tressa Palcheck (GK, all-MSL, 0.93 career, playing soccer at Williams College), Riley Williams (F, 6g), Collen Geller, Siobahn Geraghty, Emily Longo, Sarah Kozlowski (MF, club), Jasmin Lisowski (D, club), Melissa Nava (D, club), Brooke Molitor (F, injured), Amanda Haaland.
Top returnees: Seniors Melissa Ardagh (GK), Lex Awdziejczyk (MF), Caycee Benesch (D), Emily Waterloo (MF); juniors Kennedy Irmen (D), Brittany Reinhart (MF); sophomore Kayla Kowal (F).
New faces to watch: Senior Danielle Reptowski (MF); juniors Analicia Morales (D), Rebecca Tidaback (D); sophomores Katherine Coombs (D), Christian Kim (GK), Julia Morales (D), Brianna Norlander (MF), Alexis Orozco (D), Amanda Reyes (F); freshmen Abigail Paolicchi (D), Sam Tyler (MF).
Outlook: Perhaps no other side in the league has suffered as many losses to non-high school soccer the past two seasons, and along with heavy graduation losses over the same period, the talent pool for the Saxons has taken a big hit. "With the loss of seven seniors, and the others who did not return, we've lost 13 from last season, which makes us very young, and a team which will need time to develop its own identity," says Charvat. The Saxons coach will lean heavily on the half-dozen varsity veterans he has, including the senior duo of Awdziejczyk and Waterloo, who logged major minutes last spring.
NORTHEASTERN ATHLETICChristian LibertyCoach: Aaron DeRidder (1st year).
Last year: 4-12-0.
Graduation losses: None
Top returning players: Senior Danielle Chaires (MF); sophomores Maddie Bennett (MF), Sam Amedin (MF), Carly Adelsperger (GK), Cassie Swiderek (GK), Alyshia Jeffry (F).
New faces to watch. Freshmen Eve Rho (D-MF), Annie Bennett (MF), Emma DeRidder (D), Sophie Beal (D).
Outlook: The Chargers' second head coach in as many years, Aaron DeRidder already enjoys an air of optimism, and rightly so, after early quality training sessions led to a season-opening victory on the road on the westside of city at Chicago Hope. "It took this team four games to score their first goal last year, and against (Hope) on field turf, Maddie Bennett and Alyshia Jeffry scored to help us get a hard earned 2-0 victory," said DeRidder. "It's a great win to build on, especially with such a young team --which is our strength, and likely our weakness, especially during the early going, as we build our depth," DeRidder said. "But the girls are willing to work hard, and they all want desperately to succeed."
WEST SUBURBAN GOLDLeydenCoach: Rob Fowler (7th year, 53-55-6)
Last year: 11-9-1 (2-4-0).
Graduation losses: Ashly Torres (F, all-sectional, all-WSC, playing soccer at Dominian University), Cindy Salgado (MF, all-sectional), Rachel Valdez (M, all-WSC, Oakton JC).
Top returning players: Senior Renee Dioniso (MF); junior Bianca Medina (MF), Brenda Valdez (MF); sophomores Michelle Andrade (F, 7g), Gabby Castillo (MF), Yaneli Dorado (MF)
New faces to watch: Junior Brenda Valdez (MF); sophomores Gabby Castillo (MF), Yaneli Dorado (MF).
Outlook: The Eagles have had remarkable success during the past few seasons despite constant roster turnover and residence in a very competitve soccer conference. Another challenge awaits coach Fowler and his staff this spring after losing the high-scoring duo of Torres and Valdez. "Replacing the 34 goals those two gave us will be our biggest priority, no doubt, but with a promising group of young players from our sophomore and junior classes, will give it a go and see how things end up for us," said Fowler. The trio of Brenda Valdez, Castillo and Dorado will be a key factor in the middle of the park as each turned in quality minutes on the job last season to give the head coach exactly what he's looking for from that position: pace, work rate, distribution, and creativity.
CENTRAL SUBURBAN NORTHMaine WestCoach: Jeff Bishop (2nd year, 6-12-1).
Last year: 6-12-1 (1-3-0).
Graduation losses: Alexia Prosperi (Valporaiso), Bridge Berger (D, Loyola), Taylor Iaculla (GK).
Top returning players: Senior Kelsey Webb (D); juniors Joanne Stanfa (F, 7g, 8a, all-CSL), Alice Faraone (F, 5g).
New faces to watch: Junior Robin Grooms (D); sophomores Rachel Kolling (MF), Allie Webb (D), Carley Hart (D).
Outlook: In his first season at the helm last spring, Jeff Bishop did well to calm some choppy waters and quickly turn things into a positive, despite the team winning just half of its matches. "It took us awhile to come together last year because of a new coaching staff and all," he said. "Although we lost far too many to even mention through graduation, I feel with all the young, talented players we have this season, the potential to be a very good team in the second half is a strong possibility." Opponents will need to keep an eye on the Warriors' two returning scoring leaders (Stanfa, Faraone) and Bishop is most confident things will be much stronger along the backline with his veteran vocal and stout leader and defender Webb, whose presence and leadership will see the several newcomers come to lean on.
EAST SUBURBAN CATHOLICSt. ViatorCoach: Mike Taylor (5th year, 60-35-6).
Last year: 11-8-0 (6-3-0, 3rd, ESCC), lost to Deerfield (4-3, OT) in sectional semifinals.
Graduation losses: Chloe Lutheringshausen (F, all-area, all-sectional, two-time all-ESCC, 31 career goals, UCLA), Erin Renee Murphy (MF, all-area, all-sectional, all-ESCC, University of Iowa), Samantha Stanley (GK, 5 shutouts, Auburn University), Sarah Cooney (MF, Indiana University), Micaela Lonigro (D), Liz Graff (D).
Top returning players: Seniors Katherine Petrillo (D), Emily Zahrebelski (D), Megan McCollum (F), Katherine Sexton (MF); juniors Kayne Stanley (MF), Molly Murphy (MF-D), Emma Henry (D), Michelle Trovato (F); sophomores Lauren Kohn MF-F), Maggie Leazer (MF).
New faces to watch: Junior Sabina Raslawski (GK); freshmen Maureen McGrath (D).
Outlook: The youth movement is in full swing in Arlington Heights, witnessed by a 2014 roster brimming with newcomers and just four seniors, including two veterans (Petrillo and Zahrebelski) who will serve as mentors to their young mates while joining the backline for the first time. "We at times will be starting more freshmen and sophomores than upperclassmen, so we're going to take our lumps early, learn while we go through a difficult nonconference schedule, and hopefully come out in the end ready to make a strong postseason run in the 2A state tournament," says Mike Taylor. The long-time coach admits scoring is his biggest concern after relying on the ESCC co-player of the year Lutheringshausen, who was a constant source of angst for opponents during the past two seasons. The midfield dominance of another standout, Murphy, will be extremely difficult to replace for Taylor and his staff, but he feels that void will eventually be filled when the second half of the season rolls around.