Girls soccer notes: NSC race shaping up as dogfight again

The 2024 NSC season will likely see its way towards another dramatic finale between the quartet of Lake Zurich, Stevenson, Warren and reigning champion Libertyville.

All four rely on their strengths to be the difference.

While the old soccer axiom of defense wins titles/championships, it's important to find the back of the net in order for backlines and the keepers to rest easy.

Stevenson has one of the best scorers in the business in Ellie Egeland.

The Maryland-bound Patriot earned all-state honors a year ago when she rattled in 18 goals, along with 8 assists to lead her club to a 14-6-1 overall record.

"Our conference is always competitive and really tough, and even though we have a lot of new players this season, I feel like we have a very good chance to win the NSC title," said Egeland.

Egeland, who already has 12 goals on the season, four of which game-winners, chose Maryland when her visit to College Park impressed from the minute she set foot on campus.

If you take a blank canvas, design the perfect forward, and have it custom-built, you would have a player like Egeland.

Deceptive, electric pace, and the ability to cut inside using her superb touch, it usually ends with a clinical finish into the back of the net.

Usually stationed out wide on the left side in the Patriots’ 4-3-3 formation, Egeland and her teammates continue to play this week at the high profile Lou Malnati's Deep Dish Classic.

Egeland's younger sister, Anabelle, has already established herself as a first class defender in just her sophomore year.

The Patriots opened group play with a hard fought 1-1 draw with state power and tourney host New Trier last weekend, followed up with a 4-2 victory over Grayslake Central.

Libertyville, Naperville North, St. Francis and Grayslake Central are all part of this 12-team, sixth annual Classic, which features nine teams in the top 20 state polls.

Continuing in Lake County, Mundelein enters this week with the second best record in the area at 4-1-2, with its recent 1-0 victory over 2A power Deerfield giving plenty to give notice to.

The Mustangs are on the tail-end of three consecutive shutouts, all recorded by Winona State-bound keeper Abby Rounds, who a year ago earned all-NSC and all-sectional honors.

Despite suffering its first loss of the season to state and league power Barrington on Monday, Elk Grove continues to be one of the terrific stories during the first month of the spring soccer season.

Not since the storied early days of Grens soccer has the program enjoyed such a start.

The Grens were the first in league history to win three straight league titles (2000-2002) until Barrington came along to claim unprecedented 11 straight.

Fans of the program will surely remember the likes of future college and pro stars Jen Buczkowski, Erin Walter, Rachael Sloan, Katie Naughton and Kelli Hubly, all distinguished alumni who came through to make their mark.

The 2018 team would advance to the MSL Soccer Cup and fell 2-0 to Barrington, and not since then has the program tasted success.

"We're doing a really good job of playing as a team, moving the ball quickly, and having a great chemistry as a team," said coach Gabby Whittinghill of her 8-1-0 Grens who currently sit atop the MSL East.

"This team is so much more closer than we were a year ago," said senior Maggie Maher, named all-MSL and all-sectional a year ago.

"(Great) chemistry is a big reason why we're playing so well. That, and we have a really good group back from last year, plus a terrific freshmen keeper, Idabelle Hoebert.“

Maher, who will play next fall at Lewis University, leads her club with 12 goals and 7 assists, with plenty of support from teammates Mia Jonas (7 goals) and Caroline Hadler with 4 goals, 3 assists.

The Grens have outscored their opponents 35-8, and won their own invite for the first time with three consecutive shutout victories.

"This is really a close knit team who are really connected to each other, and for me, I am really excited to be a part of a team like this in my final year here at Elk Grove," Maher said.

We would be remiss not to mention the exploits of St. Viator thus far.

With its 3-2 win over Nazareth on Monday in its ESCC opener, the Lions move its record to a perfect 7-0-0.

"We have a terrific mix of really good returning players, as well as some very talented freshmen, which has helped us get off to a great start to the season," said Megan McLaughlin, one of four captains this spring.

McLaughlin, who will attend Ohio State University in the fall, is part of a stingy backline that has conceded just 7 goals on the season.

The senior, along with freshman Frannie Drake, are the team’s central defenders, while junior Emma Mikrut and another freshman, Kate Ziebka, handle things on the outside.

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