Scouting the 2022 girls soccer season in the NW suburbs
Barrington has had a stranglehold on the Mid-Suburban League girls soccer championship for what seems like forever to the rest of its rivals in the MSL, but that grip may be loosening.
The Fillies, who claimed their ninth-straight league title last season, and fourth state trophy in the last five years, have seen countless all-area, all-conference and four all-state players graduate during the last four years.
"We're in a transition year," said Fillies coach Ryan Stengren, who lists eight players back from his 2021 fourth-place state team.
"We lost our all-state keeper (Coast Liapis) and all-state center-back, Kate McGreevy, who will be impossible to replace, but we have a nice core back with us to offset graduation losses, inexperience, and a few health issues we have right now."
Stengren will lean on seniors Nicole Gwiasda, Riley Raynor and Gracie Stagnito in addition to juniors Brooke Brown and Kate Lubinsky, all key figures in a 17-3-2 overall record a year ago.
"In my opinion, Fremd is the team to beat right now. (Fremd coach) Steve (Keller) does a great job every year and he has some really talented players coming back, so they're the favorite," said Stengren.
The Vikings boast a dynamic player up top in Lily Spotak, as well as sophomore Gemma Gillespie, a top-flight attacking midfielder who is capable of impacting play in any phase. Keeper Sam Gary and five others from the 2021 team, plus an impressive handful of newcomers hope to boost the Vikings' chances this spring.
"I'm excited to see how we stack up this season. There's no reason at all why we should not contend for the conference title," Keller said.
A truly gifted senior class, led by the first class trio of Pam Bolis, Alyssa Weede, and Sophie Veytsman, along with terrific complimentary players have all moved onto college yet Buffalo Grove coach Pat Dudle remains optimistic about his team's chances this season.
"With many talented seniors graduating, there will be many positions that will have new faces but with Kora Kipley, Evan Ruterschmidt and Gracie Lee to lead our defensive organization, I believe we can be competitive and continue to improve all throughout the season," said Dudle, who led his club to a 2021 MSL East division crown.
Elk Grove coach Gabby Whittinghill lost eight seniors from her club, so the Grens will lean on seniors Kayce Wadas, Ava Henning and sisters Sydney and Tiffany Joseph to help see them through.
"We're going to hold each other accountable and look to have a more successful season this spring," said Whittinghill.
Hersey will be ultra young this spring, with a strong group of sophomore players that have made a big step forward in their development during the offseason said coach Mike Rusniak, who lost a wonderful central defender in Jane Stefaniak as well as a terrific all-around player Avery Larson.
"We added some freshmen who can make an immediate impact so our youth, along with our returning upperclassmen should make a very competitive team in every match," said Rusniak.
Prospect has the chance to challenge for the division crown despite losing seven players to graduation, including keeper Annie Ninness.
"We're excited for the season to begin, especially after the chaos of the last two seasons," said Knights coach Tom Froats, who remains cautiously optimistic about his team.
What Froats has is a terrific duo of Abby Knott up top and Hannah Mekky, who will likely run the show in the middle of the park, as well as five others who earned plenty of minutes in 2021 and several first-time varsity players to compliment the returnees.
Mike Drenth endured a big graduation hit from a year ago, but the Rolling Meadows coach likes what he sees in his 2022 Mustangs club.
"The team is led by a bunch of really good kids, which matters so much so if we stay healthy, because we're a little thin after our first eleven, we could have a nice season overall," said Drenth, who believes junior Vanessa Adan (MF) has a chance to be a very good player.
Kevin Lennon, who has enjoyed plenty of success in the boys' program at Wheeling, has moved on to run a girls program which has struggled to keep its head above water, something Lennon believes is about to change.
"We have a great group of hard working girls who are excited to compete this year after we were unable to field a team last spring, so this team is ready to go after it to see what it can do," said Lennon, who will count on veterans Julia Kawa (D), and keeper Jenni Mondragon.
Conant coach Jason Franco figures two of the best at their positions, Emma Simpson (Sr, F) and Sydney Litney (Jr, GK) will help stem the tide while he sorts out his roster.
"(Simpson) is a legitimate attacking presence and Sydney could be one of the best keepers around. The question for us is piecing together our back line and midfield that will include a handful of new faces," said Franco, who last season collected his 200th career victory for the girls' program.
Former Hoffman Estates and Wheaton College star, Mary Dansdill takes over at her alma mater so there's plenty of excitement around the Hawks' soccer club.
"We have good leadership, and we return a large core group with varsity experience, so if we work hard, stay disciplined, and healthy, we can be competitive and have success," says Dansdill, who has quality between the sticks with Paige Schneider, and in the center of the park with Mallory Anderson, Hailey Weidner and freshman Bella Wehrle.
Willie Filian will embark on his 30th and final season as head coach to end a brilliant career in both the boys' and girls' programs at Palatine and this season Filian, and his longtime assistant Charlie Gries, will welcome back seniors Allie Henning (MF) and Olivia Riley (F), along with a trio of juniors to help the cause.
"We're looking to having Allie and Olivia to provide leadership with Mia (Ramirez) and Paige Millstone giving us some creativity in the midfield," said Gries, who is stepping in for Filian while he's out of town.
Greg Charvat will take over as the dean of the MSL coaches after Filian retires and the Schaumburg coach will look to build around nine returning players and several freshmen who look to make an imprint on Saxons soccer.
"We have a nice balance of youth and experience, but it will take some time to find our identity as a team with eight new players on our roster," said Charvat, now in his 27th year.
"We expect to be competitive and we're excited about our potential throughout the season as each player gains experience in our training sessions and games."
Last year, both Maine East and Maine West were chasing the top trio of Highland Park, Deerfield, and Vernon Hills, who went a combined 25-5-2.
This season may be no different, however both clubs feel as if they are closer to the top of the table than a year ago.
Genevieve Kapecki takes over at Maine East and is looking to rebuild a program, "that all can be proud to be a part of."
"We're going with just varsity and JV teams in order to get committed girls ready to step up their play at a higher level," said Kapecki, who will have a first class keeper with Aliya Adriani to count on, as well as seniors Michelle Piro and Hannah Suboni-Kaufman, who recently won a state medal at the girls state wrestling tournament.
"We're looking to our upper class and returning players to provide leadership in order to prepare the new players for play at the varsity level," said Maine West coach Jeff Bishop, who returns a solid core of six players, including his all-state keeper Leslee Ordonez.
With state powers Evanston, Glenbrook North, and New Trier atop the table in the division, Maine South coach JJ Crawford and the Hawks will concentrate on improving from their 5-8-3 record a year ago and a longer run in the postseason.
"This group is extremely positive and motivated to get better this season and with our solid senior leadership in the midfield and along the back this will make us a tough, hard working team that will have a big jump in wins over last year," said Crawford, who has an all-state caliber forward in senior Molly Pistorius.
EAST SUBURBAN CATHOLIC
St. Viator could not have given its Hall of Fame head coach, Mike Taylor, a better send off last June when the Lions came home with a Class 2A third-place state trophy, Taylor's 13th trophy when combined during his 33 years as boys head coach.
Byron DeLeon takes over and will need to replace his leading goal scorer (Caroline Sexton, 24 goals) and a terrific keeper in Lily Collins, however the former Maine East head coach will have the dangerous senior Emilie Doersching (14 goals, 24 assists) to help the Lions challenge perennial league power Benet Academy.
WEST SUBURBAN GOLD
Longtime assistant and former Palatine star Jim Rossetti is now in charge at Leyden, which lost just two starters, and returns four seniors he will lean on all throughout his first season. "Our expectations are always to be competitive in our league and win the games we should and hopefully steal a few here and there we might be the underdog in," said Rossetti.