Naperville North soccer has learned to deal with pressure
On the field? Calm and collected.
The 90 minutes not playing? Not as much.
It's hard to go 22-0-0, Naperville North's boys soccer record entering Friday's Class 3A Geneva sectional final against West Aurora.
"I think we definitely feel the pressure," said senior center back Colin Iverson, who recently committed to Bowling Green.
"I think our coaches, ourselves and our school expect a lot out of us," he said. "But we handle it well, keep things light. Our coach (Jim Konrad) always says pressure is a privilege, and I think our team really takes that to heart."
Two-time defending state champion, winner of 41 straight games going back to last season, ranked No. 1 nationally by MaxPreps and No. 2 by both Top Shelf Soccer and USA Today/United Soccer Coaches.
"I don't look at any of that stuff at all," Konrad said.
"Obviously with the streak being the number it is, and everybody actively cheering against us, it definitely adds a little bit of pressure that we deal with on a regular basis," said Konrad, like his brother, Jay, a member of Naperville North's Athletic Hall of Fame due to their own success playing soccer at the school.
Between a rock and a hard place, victory is expected and a loss unconscionable.
Konrad noted the Huskies aren't "blowing the doors off people," winning eight games by 1 goal.
"We're committed to defending and we have a very special kid in goal," Konrad said of senior goalkeeper Tommy Welch, who has more than 40 shutouts at Naperville North.
Iverson can gain perspective from his father, Dan, Naperville North girls cross country coach. That squad also rides a two-year title streak, with four Class 3A championships in the last six years.
"We definitely talk about it," Colin Iverson said of dealing with pressure, "but honestly the best advice he ever gives me is to be the best teammate and player you can be and whatever happens, it'll turn out all right."
A fan for life
Dave Lagow knew Kirk Urso for less than a year. That brief relationship imprinted Lagow for life.
A Lombard resident, Urso's soccer skills took him from Glenbard East to U.S. Soccer's residency camp in Bradenton, Florida. Urso was a 2007 Parade All-America midfielder who with the United States Under-17 National Team scored a game-winning goal against Belgium at the 2007 FIFA U17 World Cup in Korea.
He started 80 of 91 games at North Carolina, team captain for the Tar Heels' 2011 NCAA Men's College Cup champion. Urso joined Major League Soccer's Columbus Crew in January 2012 and soon his relationship began with Lagow, then the Crew's athletic trainer.
"He was a kid who just right away was a little different. He was a little more mature," said Lagow, now a trainer at South County High School in Lorton, Virginia.
"I don't know that I'm articulate enough to be able to put it into words, how or why, but there was something about him that drew people to him, and I was one of those people," Lagow said.
Urso started his first five games with Columbus and played in a sixth before an injury required surgery in June 2012. He'd been working to get back onto the field when on Aug. 5 in Columbus Urso collapsed and died of a pre-existing heart condition at age 22.
"I remember sitting with our team administrator in silence and disbelief," said Lagow, who initially questioned what he could have seen to have prevented the death.
There was nothing, and Lagow sits no more. In September he started a Go Fund Me page with a goal of $1,500, the figure reflecting the No. 15 Urso wore with the Crew. After donations surpassed that amount Lagow updated the goal to $3,000 in honor of the No. 3 Urso wore at North Carolina. Donations will go to the Crew's Kirk Urso Memorial Fund.
On Sunday Lagow will run in the Marine Corps Marathon in and around Washington, D.C., in memory of Urso. Lagow often was motivated by Urso while training for the race.
"He was a kid that while he was very, very talented, definitely there were times where he just had to grind it out as well," Lagow said.
The trainer plans to close the Go Fund Me page after the race, at midnight Monday.
He recalled Urso's humor, consideration, "his ability to understand the bigger picture," Lagow said.
"In the pro sports world there's a lot of 'me, me, me,'" Lagow said. "Kirk had the ability to legitimately ask you how you were feeling."
Moore in store
Apolo Ohno inspired Nathaniel Moore's interest in speedskating. Enjoyment, the cold breeze and fast times have kept him there.
"I think it was the 2010 Olympics that really got me into it," said Moore, a York student who calls the American gold medalist an idol of his.
"I was like, hey, what's that? Oh, it's speed skating," Moore said.
Yes, it is. And it'll be on display at the 101st Chicago Silver Skates from 7 a.m.-3 p.m. at Triphahn Community Center & Ice Arena in Hoffman Estates.
A short-track event on a 111-meter oval, Silver Skates is open to people of all ages and levels of experience and skill, measured by seed time over different distances. On Saturday the longest race should be 1,500 meters, and skaters can compete in multiple races.
As of this writing 65 skaters had signed up ranging from preschooler Sebastian Reinold of Rockford to Metea Valley junior Brianna Molenda to 52-year-old Tim Moore, Nathaniel's father and a coach with the Glen Ellyn Speedskating Club.
"It's fun. That's why I do it. But I guess the pressure can be really devastating sometimes," Nathaniel Moore said.
"A coach explained to me once that it's good to have pressure because pressure makes you go harder. If you apply too little pressure there's not enough motive for you to go but if you have too much pressure it'll crack down on you."
The high school sophomore, who suspects he's the sole speed skater at York, puts enough pressure on himself.
Moore's goal last year was the national 500-meter qualifying standard of 53.3 seconds. He didn't get there but pared several seconds off his personal best. At a recent junior national camp he skated the distance in 52.6 seconds at the Pettit National Ice Center in Milwaukee, but that came on a long track. Different skates and longer strokes and straightaways make a difference.
Dropping time is a motivator, as is simply having fun. That's "probably the most important aspect of it all," Moore said.
"I love skating," he said. "I love the cold air and going fast. But the competition also really heats things up."
Follow Dave on Twitter @doberhelman1