BarringtonOutlook: The defending Mid-Suburban League champs had a memorable season last spring, rolling to the conference crown before earning a first appearance in the Elite Eight and very nearly coming away with a win there. Coach Rob Emary will be without many of the lead components of that team, with six of seven starters gone. But the overall profile of this year's group is still very promising. Junior driver Steven Fischer is a returning starter. Players with some experience back in action include Wyatt Lindquist (Jr., G), Josh Robinson (Jr., 2m-Def.), Liam Rorison (Jr., 2m-off.), Ryan Cremer (Sr., Dr.), Albert Mohr (Sr., Dr.), Aidan Roth (Soph., Dr.), Charlie Farmer (Soph, 2m-def.) and Sam Burrell (Jr., Dr.). Emary is counting on those sheer numbers, along with contributions from speedy frosh Dan Langlois and soph Jack Hoppe, to generate a consistent attack. "We will be more consistent with two full lines that play at a close level to each other," Emary said. "We will have a lot of work to do to contend for the MSL and sectional titles this year. This is a great, tight-knit group dominated by sophomores and juniors. It will be fun to see how far they can progress this season."
Buffalo GroveOutlook: The Bison won the MSL East last season and return several key members from that team under coach Scott Kopecky, starting with leading scorer Kevin Carr and goalie Bill Wade, both seniors this year after earning all-conference recognition last year. Also back to join the effort are Kenny Velu and Kacper Aniecko, and enough depth to make BG a strong contender once again.
ConantTop returners: Harris Dibek (Sr. G), Connor Chiero (Sr., attacker), Alex Hirjoi (Jr., attacker), Brian Cho (Jr., C), Justin Lim (Jr., A).
Key varsity newcomers: Mike Bland (Jr., U), Carson Jess (Jr., A), Spencer Urban (Soph., A), Christian Snopek (Jr., A), Jake Lydon (Jr., U), Bumerdeen Boldbataar (Jr., A).
Outlook: The Cougars have plenty of familiar faces back in their places after a run to the sectional final last season, so coach Tim Daniel is optimistic about what the group can accomplish this year. Included are five players who had junior olympic experience at the club level last summer -- Hirjoi on the 18-and-under team, and Bland, Jess, Urban, and Lydon on the 16-and-under team. "The standard is always the same -- to be playing for a sectional championship at the end of the season," Daniel said. "Conant can reach these standards if this team holds its teammates accountable to the standards necessary to achieve their goals."
Elk GroveTop returners: Amar Patel (Sr., Utility), Nick Rosenorn (Sr., U), Patryk Sarecki (Sr., W), Christian Tchilikov (Jr., U)
Outlook: For first-year coach Mike Nauert, it's all about finding the right balance. He cites great leadership coming from Rosenorn, Patel and Sarecki. "The challenge throughout our season will be to have a balanced varsity and JV team with our current numbers," Nauert said. A group of younger contributors will be key -- Ben Jablonski, Manny Contreras, Paolo Losacco, Joe Mizialko, Connor Jackson, Nikhil Jacob, Patrick Gray and Zach Tellez are all sophomores who could make a difference. "Our team is looking forward to seeing a couple younger athletes step up and play varsity this season," said Nauert, who says he's optimistic about the season ahead.
FremdTop returners: Derek Warnstedt (Sr., 2m), Danny Konishi (Sr., 2m-def.), Sebastian Lekas (Jr., W), Christian Zukowski (Jr., G), Alex Schillinger (Sr., D)
Promising talents: Sean Warner (Soph., D), James Steininger (Soph., D), Ethan Schillinger (Soph., D), Kevin Han (Soph., D), Rigden Atsatsang (Soph., D), Kyle Martin (Soph., D), Shashwat Viswanath (Jr. D).
Outlook: Coach Brian Newby likes both the present and the future. Seniors Warnstedt and Konishi are a pair of experienced difference-makers, with Warnstedt having excelled in club last summer. There's enough other returning talent to make Fremd competitive right away, and the horizon looks extremely promising as well. "We have a great core and we have a young supporting cast," Newby said. Included in the development pipeline are Russell Beaupre, Brandon Vera, Josh Licktenwalter, Andrew Kini and Justin Glab. "It's a lot to look forward to this season, and in the future," Newby said. "We will learn, we will grow and I am confident we will improve over the season. This is such a great group of kids that are so willing to learn."
HerseyTop returners: RJ Quinn (Sr., U), Jack Casey (Jr., U), Misha Nikiforov (Soph, U), Nick Koutris.
Outlook: First-year coach Marc Popovici is encouraged by how his group has embraced the sport, as five Huskies participated in the recent Olympian-led clinic at Hoffman Estates. A special date on the team's calendar this season is the April 23 charity game against Prospect, the PanCAN games, an opportunity to raise money for Pancreatic Cancer. An obvious plus will be the swimming quotient for Hersey, which was tops in the Mid-Suburban East this winter. "We are looking forward to building off last year's success and the swim team's MSL East success," Popovici said. The early returns were certainly encouraging, as Hersey rolled to a 23-15 win at Fremd in its season opener.
PalatineTop returners: Sean O'Brien (Sr., U), Jerome Gabriel (Sr., 2m), Mohammad Shahin (Sr., 2m), Zach Gray (Sr., U), Glenn Ingebritson (Sr., U), Connor Wheatley (Sr., G), Chris Perez (Sr., U), Sam Adame (Soph., U).
Outlook: Coach Joe Grzybek's group had some growing pains last season, but hopefully that leads to a taller profile this spring. O'Brien leads the way with two-way excellence and a knack for making long-armed steals; he joins Gabriel and Adame as tri-captains. Palatine has added senior Jake Klein, sophomore Christian Snyder and freshman Henry Gabriel, all standout swimmers, to the polo effort. In addition, Mike Ingebritson, Moises Benitez-Bueso and Nathan Allen each got their feet wet last season as frosh and will help the cause. "Our success this year will be determined by the leadership of our small senior core and the growth of our large new player base," said Grzybek. With an interesting blend of upperclass leadership and promising ability in the program, it could be a fun season of progress for the Pirates.
ProspectOutlook: For coach Steve Grzybek, the challenge is getting a nice group of established players the kind of support it takes to excel in an MSL East Division that continues to improve. The good news for the Knights is that there are four players who figured prominently in last year's effort -- Jake Kosinski, Dan Macina, Reidar Erbe and Nick Lecomte. Prospect will also have Alexei Bagrov in goal, and Grzybek is eager to see how many others can step forward and be varsity difference-makers.
Rolling MeadowsOutlook: First-year coach John Bassler is still taking stock of the roster and hoping to add another swimmer or two to the mix. In the meantime, four players he knows he can count on are senior captain Josh Carpenter, a standout goalie, along with sophomores Boris Jevtic (2m-def.) and Martin Davis (wing) and junior Victor Petrov (utility).
SchaumburgTop returning players: Matt Soltau (Sr.), Michael Burke (Sr.), Ryan Gustafson (Jr.)
Outlook: Coach Adam Koschnitzke's group had plenty of success last year, and hopes to be even better this time -- with a blend of both proven players and developing talent. Soltau, Burke and Gustafson were each effective starters all season last spring. The newcomers will be junior goalie Mike Hahn, junior utility Danny Monzon and junior utility Tom Schluckbier -- each of whom has competed out of high school. Koschnitzke says "there is much anticipation for their growth over the season."
WheelingTop returners: Nick Konstantos (Sr., Dr.), Anthony Delgado (Sr., 2m-def,), Vasyl Pavlyuk (Jr., W), Giaden Halfman (Jr., G), Ethan Nars (Jr., 2m-off.)
Outlook: Coach Bob Savitt is encouraged by a nice starting point, as the Wildcats are able to bring back five starters from the previous year's team. The challenge for Wheeling lies beyond that starting point, as the total number of varsity players is just 10, with two of them freshmen and three more additional first-year players. Savitt specifies frosh Leo Monaxios as a new arrival with club experience who will make a positive difference right away. "We'll have to slow games down and limit possessions, and of course play insane defense," said Savitt. Helping in that regard will be Konstantos, a top-level swimmer who recently competed at the state meet for a second straight year. Savitt likes Delgado's grit playing 2-meter defense, Pavlyuk brings a lefty look and Halfman has made great progress in goal. "Last year was his first year as starting goalie," said Savitt, "and now he's just better with the experience." The focus on Wheeling will be to bide its time, and then make gains. "I'm just hoping to be competitive in these first couple of weeks," said Savitt, "and then as we learn to play together and slow games down, the sky's the limit."