Scouting DuPage County boys lacrosse
Top teams: Wheaton Academy, York, Naperville North, Glenbard West, Neuqua Valley.
Top players: Liam White, Wheaton Academy, sophomore, midfielder; Aiden Wiesenborn, Wheaton Academy, junior, midfielder; Alex Sall, Naperville Central, senior, attackman; Brayden Macko, Naperville Central, junior, defenseman/long-stick midfielder; Ryder Maston, York, senior, attackman; Lance McCann, York, junior, midfielder; Kyle Spragg, Valley, senior, defender; Tylor Sonker, Valley, senior, attackman; Finn Little, Hinsdale Central, senior, attackman; Jackson Kearney, Hinsdale Central, senior, midfielder; Gavin Merriman, Naperville North, senior, attackman; Nate Hanson, Naperville North, senior, faceoff; Andrew Arimborgo, Neuqua Valley, senior, attackman; Charlie Stemen, Neuqua Valley, senior, goaltender; Ryan Park, Glenbard West, senior, attackman; Bobby Brennan, Glenbard West, junior, midfielder; Cam Randolph, Benet, senior, midfielder; Tommy Bartenhagen, Benet, freshman, attackman; Alex Klimenko, Wheaton Warrenville South, senior, defenseman; Erich Klopfenstein, Wheaton Warrenville South, junior, midfielder/attackman; Aidan Kubiak, St. Francis, senior, midfielder; Gavin O'Donnell, St. Francis, senior, defenseman/long stick midfielder; Seth Jara, Montini, senior, faceoff/midfielder; Brady Raczkowski, Montini, senior, defenseman/attackman; Anthony Carsten, IC Catholic Prep, junior, midfielder; Andy Schueler, IC Catholic Prep, junior, midfielder; Kaiden Libby, Wheaton North, senior, midfielder; Lucas Pacer, Wheaton North, senior, long-stick midfielder; Zander Johnson, Downers Grove, senior, long-stick midfielder; Michael Piotrowski, Downers Grove, senior goaltender.
Season outlook: Depending on the preseason poll you follow, Wheaton Academy is ranked as high as No. 3, behind traditional north-shore powers Loyola and New Trier. Returning is midfielder Liam White, who had over 50 goals as a freshman, and coach Geof Wiesenborn's son Aiden. The newcomer name to remember is freshman attackman/midfielder Zeke Merchant, who will be a solid complement to White. Sophomore goaltender Johnny Carrington will split time with junior Jaret Jawor, a transfer from Lincoln-Way.
York beat Wheaton Academy in the state third-place game a year ago. The Dukes should be just as powerful this season, with a host of 2021 all-conference returnees, like senior long-stick midfielder Troy Walker, senior attackman Ryder Maston, a Swarthmore recruit, and senior goalie Conor Selfridge, committed to Wesleyan. "We have a strong core of returning players with some newer guys we will look to fill out our roster, especially at faceoff and defensive midfield," coach Don Canfield said.
After an injury-plagued 2021, Glenbard West is back to full strength, with the return of senior attackman Jake Smid, junior midfielder Bobby Brennan and sophomore midfielder Ben Cesario. "We played New Trier and York and then going into OPRF I broke my hand and sat for the entire season," Brennan said. "I came back for my summer season, and after football I broke my arm, but I'm feeling great." One thing is for sure, the Hilltoppers will have a potent offense, with Smid, Brennan, Cesario and senior attackman Ryan Park and sophomore attackman Jack Moellering.
When you have the senior talent Downers Grove has, you know they're going to be able to contend for the top-tier in the West Suburban Silver. It all starts with senior LSM Zander Johnson, a UMass commit and someone coach Shon Zawlocki calls "a true game wrecker." He was first-team all-conference, all-state and a U.S. Lacrosse All-American. The defense will be headed up by senior goaltender Michael Piotrowski, another first-team all-conference selection who had a 58.7 percent save average. Two other seniors, midfielder Bryce Peake and attackman Cal Reynolds, will pace the offense.
With 18 returning players from last season, Hinsdale Central coach Dave DeMasi instantly sees the advantage. "It allows us to move to new areas of play within our systems quickly because the majority of the team already knows the basics of what we are trying to accomplish," DeMasi said. Key returnees include seniors Finn Little (attackman), Jackson Kearney (midfield) and Tristian Moncrief (faceoff/midfielder). When it comes to newcomers, keep an eye on freshman goalie Daniel Backus and freshman defenseman Mason Brady.
Some coaches might be apprehensive about losing 200 points to graduation. Not Benet's Rich Moran. He'll gain those back with the returnees like senior midfielder Cam Randolph and junior attackman Erik Lorenzl, along with an intriguing freshman attackman in Tommy Bartenhagen. "We lost so much to graduation, he's going to have to step up," Moran said. Defensively, the Redwings will be buoyed by senior Carson Forney, who is committed to Stony Brook. Benet will battle St. Viator, Marist and Carmel in the always-tough East Suburban Catholic Conference.
Matt Caliguiri, a 2018 Wheaton North grad who played under Chris Weed, takes over at St. Francis, He works for True Lacrosse, and inherits solid talent in senior midfielder Aidan Kubiak and senior defenseman/LSM Gavin O'Donnell. The newcomers are intriguing, too. Driese Rapp is a sophomore import from Bartlett, of whom Caliguiri said, "He's got the best vision on the team and the best hands." Freshman defenseman Aidan Dailey comes in with club experience and a positive attitude.
Montini, which played a JV schedule last year, also boasts a new coach in Bill Sanford, formerly of North Central College. The bad news for the Broncos is do-it-all senior midfielder Mario Florio will miss the first half of the season due to a football injury. The good news is that Sanford has a host of incoming freshmen, including Florio's brother, Santino, along with transfers Ryan Andres, a defenseman from Bartlett, and attackman Nathan Joyce from Downers Grove. Interesting story: Despite his injury, Mario Florio has taken it upon himself to work with goalie newcomer Dario Mattiuz. "Those two find their own space on the field and do their work every day," Sanford said.
There are 33 players out for IC Catholic Prep and first-year coach Jim Kenneally. That includes eight returning starters, mostly sophomores and juniors, which is good because Kenneally said his goal is to build a strong base so in the coming years the program will have the same success as the school's football and basketball programs. That base will include his son Declan, a senior defenseman, and junior midfielders Anthony Carsten and Andy Schueler, who also runs track. Senior attackman Brendan Bigane has leadership skills from his captaincy of ICCP's football team.
"We're kind of all going full in to the grind and not slacking off, being more aggressive," said Wheaton North senior midfielder and Canisius recruit Kaiden Libby. So goes the Falcons' philosophy this season. Libby's brother, Karsten, a junior midfielder, also returns, along with senior long-stick midfielder Lucas Pacer and junior faceoff specialist Kyle Both. Newcomers include sophomore goaltender Jack Bermel, who was new to lacrosse last season, but "stepped into the role and then worked hard on it all off-season and came back with a ton of skill," coach Chris Weed said.
Like their counterparts from the north side, Wheaton Warrenville South is eyeing a DuKane Conference title. Defense wins championships, of course, and Tigers could have a leg up returning its starting defense, including Alex Klimenko, Emmett Johnson and Brody Forrest, all seniors. Sophomore goaltender Luke Johnson started on the JV team a year ago. Offensively, South will rely on junior midfielder/attackman Erich Klopfenstein and attackman Louie Bellochio. Faceoff will be handled by midfielders Jack Belmont, a senior, and junior Nick Criscione.
Over in the DuPage Valley Conference, Naperville Central welcomes back a solid group of returnees, including senior attackman Alex Sall, senior defenseman Mo Totten and junior long-stick midfielder Brayden Macko, who is a top-flight hockey player and on the lacrosse field "is an explosive athlete who can cover one on one but also has the range to shut down passing lanes," coach Blake Zinn said. Among the three freshmen on varsity is Nick Zbylut, another long-stick midfielder, who Zinn said is fast, explosive and has a good work ethic.
Valley, the Waubonsie Valley-Metea Valley co-op, boasts 15 seniors, which will make the DVC one tough league to win. Defenseman Kyle Spragg was first-team all-conference a year ago, as was attackman Tylor Sonker, despite playing just 75 percent of the season due to injuries. Senior midfielder Jake Meyer, a captain like Spragg and Sonker, is always a threat to score. Newcomers include sophomore attackman Jack Owen, who got limited PT in the playoffs and freshman attackman Logan Reyrao. "I think we stand a good chance at competing for the top spots with Naperville North and Neuqua Valley," coach Chris Conner said.
Another DVC team with 15 seniors is Neuqua Valley and coach Josh Maluta. University of Tampa recruit Andrew Arimborgo, an attackman/midfielder was second on the team last season with 65 points and is a "big playmaker for us," Maluta said. His twin, midfielder Adam Arimborgo, is also dangerous, while the defense will be headed up by Kyle McVittie, a Hope College recruit, and senior goalie Charlie Stemen, who had a 57 percent save percentage in 2021. Having a host of seniors "definitely helps, especially not having our sophomore season, so having some guys on varsity all four years is going to help us this year," Andrew Arimborgo said.
It's hard to pick a DVC title contender considering there are only four teams in the league. But Naperville North will be in the discussion, thanks to four-year starters Gavin Merriman, an attackman, and Nate Hanson, a midfielder and faceoff specialist. Sophomore attackman Mattix Groves started as a freshman, and a key newcomer will be sophomore midfielder Jack Houck, a transfer from Benet, where he was a long-stick middie. "The conference is getting stronger and stronger and getting more competitive," coach Kevin Benages said. "The games will be tight, which is great."