Ranking the top five high school spring sports

We’re deep enough into May to start enjoying some IHSA playoff action.

But with so many high school sports going on at the same time in the spring, how does anyone find time to truly take them all in?

We’re here to help. This week’s High Five ranks the top high school spring sports.

5. Softball

  Fremd’s Hailey Lucas pitches in a game earlier this month in Palatine. John Starks/

The pace and coziness of the game is awesome. Action strikes in the blink of an eye, and you don’t need smoke signals to get the attention of the outfielders because the playing field is so compact.

Whether you see it as a positive or negative of softball, though, the pitcher has ultimate control. A single ace can dominate from the regional all the way through the state title game without missing an inning.

Does that negate some of the entertainment? That’s up to you to decide, but we think softball deserves a spot in the top five.

4. Baseball

Neuqua Valley's Alex Voegele delivers a pitch during a game last month at DeKalb. Mark Busch/Shaw Local News Network

Baseball gets the slight edge over softball because of the need of a deeper pitching staff. You can’t ride one ace in baseball, you need more of a team effort.

Which leads me to the two types of great baseball teams.

One is able to win 30 games in a regular season with at least four solid starters and a few relievers filling key back-end innings. The other type is the state title contender with two aces capable to taking you through each round of the playoffs.

That’s what makes baseball so great, the marathon of the regular season and the sprint of the playoffs.

3. Girls soccer

  Libertyville’s Lilly Frantz and Stevenson’s Grace Harper, left, battle for the ball in a girls soccer game earlier this month. John Starks/

From the snow of March through the heat of June, you’ll find soccer players on the pitch doing their thing.

No rainouts and no excuses. It takes a lot to stop girls soccer players.

The high level of play in IHSA soccer is immense. From Conant’s Jenny Grubb to Waubonsie Valley’s Debbie Keller and Vanessa DiBernardo, some of the nation’s best players hail from the Land of Lincoln.

And it’s truly become a state tournament. From Barrington to Belleville, every corner of Illinois loves its girls soccer.

2. Boys volleyball

  Fremd’s Alex Ma, middle, and AJ Messner, right, block a spike attempt by Buffalo Grove’s Brandon Pelts during a match earlier this month in Palatine. Joe Lewnard/

The worst part about IHSA spring sports is the scattering fan bases. Unlike football and basketball, there’s no rallying around a single athletic event due to the chaos of the final months of the school year.

Boys volleyball, however, comes closest to capturing that energy.

Still a relatively young sport by IHSA standards — the first state title was awarded in 1992 — more and more schools are seeing playoff success despite the recent dominance by Glenbard West and a few other programs.

While the playoff atmosphere in the spring can be a glorious time to be outside, there’s still something about a vibrant gymnasium crowd at a boys volleyball match. Student sections come alive.

1. Track and field

Illinois high school sports history doesn’t go much deeper than track and field. The first boys state meet was held in 1893 while the first girls state meet was in 1973.

To be a great track and field team, you need it all. Speed, strength, endurance, agility, perseverance and even courage for those brave enough to attempt pole vaulting.

Track and field might be the one sport that embodies a school’s entire student body because of the many different types of athletes necessary to succeed.

The drama and pageantry of the IHSA state meets at Eastern Illinois University have no rival among the many spring sports.

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