Boys soccer: Scouting the postseason, Northwest

By Mike Garofola
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 10/15/2018 6:40 PM
  • Fremd's Jake Schoffstall and Buffalo Grove's Christian Kozaczka collide as they compete for the ball last week in the Mid-Suburban League Soccer Bowl.

      Fremd's Jake Schoffstall and Buffalo Grove's Christian Kozaczka collide as they compete for the ball last week in the Mid-Suburban League Soccer Bowl. John Starks | Staff Photographer

From here on out, it's win or go home at the 2018 IHSA State Soccer Tournament.

The knockout phase is here. The storylines can produce some incredible tales, so sit back and have a good time taking it all in.

Here's a quick look at the four sectional venues teams from the Northwest suburbs will be competing in.

Class 3A

At Addison TrailAdvancement: Sectional champ advances to play Hampshire sectional champion at Conant supersectional on Tuesday, Oct. 30 at 6 p.m.

Top 4 seeds in order: Lake Park (15-3-3), Wheaton Academy (19-2-0), York (13-5-1), St. Charles North (10-4-1).

Lowdown: No. 1 and 2 seeds Lake Park and Wheaton Academy are this close to each other, and would show from the very start they deserved top billing in this sectional. Lake Park went undefeated in its first 13 games, while the Lancers and Warriors each display plenty of firepower, in addition to some stingy defense along the back. Benet Academy (14-3-1) is dangerous, and far better than its No. 7 seed, witnessed by its last four victories, outscoring its opponents 17-0, including a smashing 7-0 win over long-time ESCC rival St. Viator in its season finale. It's been ages since Hoffman Estates has been over .500 in the Mid-Suburban League, but this fall, new coach Sean Armstrong would guide his club to a 6-5-0 record, playing quality clubs close, including reigning 2A champ Soloario, and 2017 fourth-place tropy winner St. Patrick. "The confidence on this team is right up there following a season in which we've been very competitive with several highly-regarded teams, and I feel the experience we've gained against those types of teams could do us well in the postseason," said Armstrong of his 12th-seeded Hawks (8-14-1), who will have a chance to make their statement of intent when they play No. 6 Addison Trail in its regional opener at home.

At BarringtonAdvancement: Sectional champ advances to play Evanston sectional champion at Barrington supersectional on Tuesday, Oct. 30 at 6 p.m.

Top 4 seeds in order: Libertyville (16-0-0), Buffalo Grove (14-4-1), Mundelein (12-4-1), Wheeling (12-4-1)

Lowdown: This is one deep sectional, led by 2017 state runner-up Libertyville, and MSL champion Buffalo Grove, which is flying high after winning its first league title since 1988, when future U.S. National Team star Brian McBride led the way. But while these two clubs stand on the other side of this sectional bracket, there's plenty of quality all around the four regionals to make it difficult to predict who advances into the second week of the postseason. "This sectional does not have that easy buildup where you play a relatively easy team, with each game being progressively tougher," offered Buffalo Grove coach Darren Llewellyn. "From game No. 1, it will be one that you have to be at your best. To make it to sectionals we will face either Barrington or Mundelein, so we'll need to be focused on the task ahead if we hope to meet ourt goal of facing Libertyville in the sectional final which would be the third time this season we would meet them." Nos. 5-8 -- Fremd, Barrington, Stevenson and Highland Park -- are each capable of producing first-rate performances to carry them up and over the higher seeds above them, which would happen right away in their respective regional finals.

At EvanstonAdvancment: Sectional champ advances to play Barrington sectional champion at Barrington supersectional on Tuesday, Oct. 30 at 6 p.m.

Top 4 seeds in order: New Trier (13-3-2), Glenbrook South (10-6-2), Evanston (14-5-1), St. Patrick (20-3-0).

Lowdown: Evanston is the only club entering the tournament with an unblemished record through the last two sectionals, having reached the supersectional only to be sent home by eventual state runners-up Barrington (2016) and Libertyville one year ago. "Evanston has owned this sectional of late, so until someone beats them, it's very hard to bet agains them," admits Mark Valintis, coach of No. 8 seed Leyden (13-7-2) which has won 9 of its last 10 in advance of its regional opener with No. 8 Lane. "I can see where there will be several upsets in the next two weeks but on the flipside, the top four seeds could go straight through which makes for a sectional where anyone could beat anybody on any given day." No. 6 Maine West (10-7-1) was this close to a division title in the Central Suburban North until a late-season swoon took coach Alan Matans' team out of contention with Highland Park. "Our sectional is extremely deep witnessed by the No. 14 seed Hersey received, who are very good, as well as Nos. 15 and 16 Von Steuben (14-5-0) and Notre Dame, who are 11-5-1," says Matan. "We'll have to come out with energy, and play a full 80 minutes of soccer to compete with all of the terrific teams that stand in our way." East Suburban Catholic champion St. Patrick has one of the most potent attack forces in this sectional, and enters the postseason on a 12-game win streak. No. 12 Prospect (8-6-2) faces one-loss Loyola (13-1-4), which drew with both New Trier and Buffalo Grove, before lifting the big trophy in the Chicago Catholic League Blue Division. This trio, along with St. Patrick all can be found at the Loyola regional, making this venue perhaps the one to watch this week.

Class 2A

At Glenbard SouthAdvancement: Sectional champ advances to play Dunlap sectional champion at Sterling supersectional on Tuesday, Oct. 30 at 6 p.m.

Top 4 seeds in order: Marmion Academy (9-6-2), Rochelle, (17-0-1), Kaneland (10-6-1), St. Viator (9-9-1).

Lowdown: St. Viator appeared to have the wind in its sails heading into the 2A state series until disappointing losses to ESCC rivals St. Patrick and Benet Academy dashed its hopes of another league title, while causing the Lions to do some soul-searching. "We don't know much about any of the teams, but regardless, we'll have to be at our best in order to advance," said Lions assistant, TJ King, who, ironically, began his professional career at sectional host Glenbard South, whose athletic director is the former A.D. at St. Viator, Tim Carlson. The Lions have usually been sent to the far nothern suburbs at this time of the season, however this year, the club finds itself traveling nearly 120 miles one way should it advance into the semifinals of the Sterling regional. The demands of its nonconference schedule likely has equipped St. Viator for the long haul, but the unknown King speaks of in the form of Rochelle and Manteno (20-2-0), the No. 1 seed in the other half of this sectional, will keep the Lions wary of all in their way.

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