Scouting Fox Valley girls soccer
Top teams: Batavia, Burlington Central, Cary-Grove, Geneva, Jacobs, Kaneland, Larkin, St. Charles East, St. Charles North
Top returning players: Taylor Abbott (Burlington Central, sr., D), Rosemary Arvizu (Larkin, so., F), Bridget Bondi (South Elgin, sr., MF), Mikayla Brown (Bartlett, sr., MF), Alondra Carranza (St. Charles East, jr., D), Paulette Carranza (Streamwood, sr., MF), Jenna Dominguez (Geneva, sr., F), Keely Frens (Westminster Christian, sr., MF/F), Sydney Gratz (Geneva, sr., MF), Grace Griffin (St. Charles East, sr., GK), Megan Harbeck (Cary-Grove, sr., D), Anna Holcombe (Batavia, sr., F), Stephanie Howe (Geneva, sr., F), Zoey Kollhoff (Burlington Central, jr., MF), Kelly Leon (Larkin, so., F), Rachel Lutter (Kaneland, sr., F), Rachel Martini (St. Edward, jr., F), Claudia Najera (St. Charles North, sr., F), Jenna Nichols (Batavia, sr., D), Sami Rydberg (St. Charles North, jr., F), Kailyn Sheehan (Cary-Grove, sr., MF), Hannah Scholer (Huntley, sr., D), Katelyn Skibinski (Dundee-Crown, jr., MF), Jenna Staywart (Cary-Grove, so., MF), Audrey Stephens (West Aurora, jr., F), Kayla Villa (St. Charles East, sr., MF), Baylee Vincent (Jacobs, sr., F), CeCe Wahlberg (St. Charles North, sr., MF), Abby Wiegand (Crystal Lake South, sr., F), Alyssa Xanos (Huntley, sr., MF), Abby Zipse (Batavia, jr., MF).
Dates to circle: Mar. 15: Kaneland at Geneva; Mar. 21: Naperville North at Batavia; Mar. 27-30: Huntley Invite; Apr. 3: Benet at Kaneland; Apr. 1, 3, 4, 6: St. Charles Invite; Apr. 13: Elgin Academy at St. Edward; Apr. 17, 18, 25-27: Naperville Invite; Apr. 23: St. Charles East at St. Charles North; May 1: Elgin at Larkin; May 2: Cary-Grove at Jacobs; May 3: West Aurora at Metea
Valley; May 6: Tri-Cities Night at St. Charles East; May 8: Bartlett at Streamwood.
Season skinny: Aurora Central Catholic (16-8-2) will learn that success often has a price. The Chargers won regional and sectional titles in Class 1A last year, but got bumped up to 2A this season while bidding farewell to a large class of seniors which leaves the Chargers inexperienced. "Repeating as regional and sectional champions is going to be very difficult," Chargers coach Kristy Kane said. "But we are hoping to have more success in conference play this season." Amy Flores and Alexa Orozco provide a great pairing in the midfield while senior Victoria Opperman transitions from back line to goalie. Look for Mary Canning (12 goals and 3 assists) to lead the offense.
Bartlett has a new grass field at its new stadium. The Hawks also have a new head coach in Vince Revak and a new assistant in Anthony Glorioso and they're going to have a lot of new faces since they need to replace about half the starters from last year's 11-7-3 team. "I expect the girls to compete for a third straight Upstate Eight title though our team has a number of underclass players that will need to quickly adjust to a high level of play," Revak said. Mikayla Brown (11 goals, 5 assists), Maddie Donnelly (4 goals, 7 assists) and Paige Bednarke (led defense to 9 shutouts) return while freshman Tessa Evans is someone to watch.
Batavia coach Mark Gianfrancesco said the Bulldogs (14-4-2) look good on paper, but will need to work hard to compete in every match. Coming off a strong season, the Bulldogs have reason to be excited since 11 players return and they have some nice newcomers in the mix, including sophomore Ashley Whelpley who is coming off an ACL injury. Senior Anna Holcombe (7 goals, 7 assists), junior midfielder Abby Zipse, senior defenders Jenna Nichols, Zaira Solis and Rachel Polignone and junior keeper Hailey Flannagan return for a team that surrendered just 18 goals in 2018.
Burlington Central (23-3) has made a big name for itself in high school girls soccer thanks to its recent success, including a third place state trophy in 2017. The Rockets once again lost some great players, but welcome back Zoey Kollhoff (30 goals, 14 assists), Maddie Menke (14 goals, 7 assists) and Taylor Abbott, while a pair of freshmen will look to step in and contribute right away. "We are a young team, but will do well in conference," Rockets coach Jess Arneson said. "We have scheduled a tough season with several 3A schools. We will participate in St. Charles Tournament as well as the Naperville Invitational."
Cary-Grove looks to pick up right where it left off after a strong 13-3-2 season. "The team has great chemistry both on and off the field, because they are friends as well as teammates," Trojans coach Ray Krystal said. "This team always has positive energy and a positive attitude." Goalkeeper McKenna Sheehan, a Missouri recruit, is a key addition along with sophomore Kendi Johnes while defenders Maddie Janusch and Megan Harbeck return in back and Kailyn Sheehan, Maggie Masson and Jenna Stayart are back in the midfield.
Crystal Lake South lost 65 percent of its scoring, three of its starting defenders and its goalkeeper, but added two experienced seniors, who had been focusing solely on club, as well as some talented young players. Abby Wiegand (6 goals, 8 assists) and Emma Chudik (3 goals, 4 assists) return while seniors Brooke Dunteman and Maggie Rimer join the team and add a huge presence on the back line. "Our biggest challenge this year will be to establish roles and consistency with a group that hasn't played together very much," Gators coach Jay Mueller said.
Dundee-Crown (8-13-0) should be competitive, but will the Chargers be able to flip their record to the other side of .500? "We have the potential to be successful, but it will be how quickly we can get everyone up to speed and build that team chemistry up," Chargers coach Sebastian Falinski said. "I expect us to be competitive in all our matches. We have key players in important positions and that should be a significant factor moving us forward." Katelyn Skibinski (17 goals, 3 assists) is among their returnees.
Elgin (11-8-2) has a young team with a fresh mindset that's ready to put the work in to be successful. Of course, such youth can be viewed as a positive and a negative. "We will continue to grow and push each other to get more wins this season than the past seasons," Elgin coach Alicia Knoll said. Hayly Munoz (5 goals, 6 assists), Guadalupe Sanchez (5 goals, 3 assists) and Emily Graves (2 goals, 5 assists) lead the returnees while freshmen Evelyn Sanchez and Sarah Erickson join the squad.
Elgin Academy is embracing a new family-like atmosphere. "I predict we will surprise teams this year and look forward to a fun, entertaining season of soccer," said new coach Kevin Meek. The team is young with just one senior and she is new to the squad. "After our two-week spring break I'll know the standout players and even positions," Meek said. "But right now it is all about the team."
Geneva returns a veteran squad that welcomes a solid mix of talent. That should result in good things for the Vikings (12-7-4). "We learned a lot from last season and how it ended and look forward to seeing where our 8 seniors will us this year," Geneva coach Megan Owens said. "Senior leadership will play a huge factor in our success this year as well as which underclassmen step up and fill the holes left in the lineup due to graduation." All-conference selections Jenna Dominguez (24 goals), Sydney Gratz (11 goals, 12 assists) and Stephanie Howe are among the 8 returning starters.
Hampshire (4-18-1) welcome new head coach Javier Rojo. "Our objective is to develop the program with a player-first approach and create a competitive and winning culture but within the framework of our values and philosophy of play," Rojo said. The Whip-Purs will focus on team technical and tactical development.
Harvest Christian will turn to the experience and skill of all of its returners, including sophomores Mariah Donaldson and Maggi D'Alessandro and senior Gaby Fallon to lead the others, such as newcomers Becca D'Alessandro, Alex Shepherd and Jenn Matysek as it looks for another successful spring (9-6-1). "The team has a strong defensive line with Donaldson and Fallon and (Maggie) D'Alessandro backing them and strong midfield leadership in Eva Serrato," first-year coach Morgan Lockwood said. "They have a lot of capable newcomers so the team is excited to see how they find improvement and growth this season."
Huntley (7-9-1) returns a core of veteran players that will look to get above .500 this spring despite the strong competition in the Fox Valley Conference. Alyssa Xanos (7 goals, 1 assists) and Avery Fitzgerald (4 goals) are among the senior returnees. The Red Raiders should be particularly strong in back behind senior all-conference defenders Hannah Scholer and Alyssa Costantino as well as Yetzemany Solis (3 goals, 3 assists).
Jacobs (12-6-2) has established the goal of having more wins this season in conference (4-4) and make forward progress in the postseason. The program certainly has gotten better seemingly every year, winning 3, 5, 7, 9, 12 games respectively each year going forward under coach Stephanie Schuck. She won't be around for long this year as she's going on maternity live in April. Assistant coach Colin Brice will then take over for the remainder of the season. "This team is a special one and I want them to make the most of every minute, every game and every opportunity," Schuck said. "I want them to enjoy it." Seniors Cassie Kowalski, Baylee Vincent and Kelsey Medina, junior Dominique Anderson and sophomore Lindsey Cepa return.
Kaneland has a difficult schedule with the likes of Batavia, Geneva and Benet on it in the early going but the Knights should be ready for it with 13 players returning from last year's 13-5-2 team, including Cincinnati recruit Rachael Lutter (17 goals, 9 assists in 2018). "We have a very tough schedule this year and we are hoping that will force us to challenge ourselves to be the very best we can be," Knights coach Scott Parillo said. Senior goalie Emma Ball and defender Erin Ball return, along with Taylor Carlson and Abbie Lomahan.
Larkin returns its big-time scorers in sophomores Kelly Leon (34 goals, 14 assists) and Rosemary Arvizu (15 goals, 18 assists) from last year's 15-8-1 team. They're not the only two back either as the Royals return most of their team, including 9 starters. Junior defenders Amy Leon and Ariana King are among them. They'll look to make coach Ken Hall's 25th season something truly special.
Rosary (2-11) is still young, inexperienced and doesn't have a true goalkeeper, but coach James Heidorn said the team learned a lot from last season and hopes to rebound off of it and grow. Megan Cibulskis and Rachel Chason return while Madelyn O'Brien and Alaina Ferraro will look to make an impact as newcomers.
South Elgin has been working hard gearing up for the season and that's not something coach Laura Szwaja Snow has seen from all of her previous teams. That bodes well if the Storm (3-11-2) is going to be more successful this spring. "This team has a special chemistry that might just surprise some of our opponents," she said. "Once again we are young with a few of our newcomers looking at starting spots, but we will battle those that may be bigger and faster, and they have already made that clear." Seniors Bridget Bondi and Sarah Boghossian return while Snow is excited about some fresh faces adding a new perspective on generating the attack.
St. Charles East (13-6-6) welcomes back 7 starters and many of its newcomers were part of undefeated JV squad from a year ago. "Our biggest strength will be our ability to defend," Saints coach Vince DiNuzzo said. "I think we will be much more dynamic going forward than previous years with the players we have on our team." Goalkeeper Grace Griffin (13 shutouts), defender Alondra Carranza and forward Kayla Villa (13 goals, 10 assists) all return.
St. Charles North coach Brian Harks believes in the proverb "less is more." When asked about the outlook for the North Stars this spring, he said, "It looks good." It certainly does for the North Stars (21-1-1) who may have lost Hailey Rydberg and Gia Wahlberg, the program's all-time leading scorer, but return seniors CeCe Wahlberg, Claudia Najera (11 goals) and Ali Wessel and juniors Sami Rydberg (9 goals) and Sarah Andey. The North Stars also added some talented sophomores and juniors to the roster this spring. The "X" remains on their back.
St. Edward (16-6-1) will have a nice mix of upper and underclassmen in its starting lineup and have a lot of depth as coach Tim Brieger said close to 18 players could see action in any game. "The key will be how quickly the youngsters adapt to playing varsity and mesh with the returners," Brieger said. Rachel Martini (25 goals, 9 assists), Katie Ellsworth (9 goals, 13 assists), Mia Castro (6 assists) and Madalynn Duffy (4 goals, 5 assists) are among the Green Wave's top returnees.
Streamwood remains a young squad but coach Kristin Duffy is hopeful that the team's work ethic in the off-season as well as in the season will pay off with some success. "Building the team as a unit since a lot of the girls have not played with each other," she said. Paulette Carranza, Alex Meza and Melanie Ramirez return while freshmen Diana Herrera and Jasmin Perez and senior Josett Perez are new to the team.
West Aurora is young but looking to build off of recent successes, including last year's 9-6-2 campaign. It helps to have a dominant scorer like Audrey Stephens (26 goals last year) back, along with twin sisters Olivia and Kiara McPherson (15 goals, 10 assists combined career). "Our biggest strength will be our offense since they have all played together since freshman year," Blackhawks coach Laura Wagley said, "They work well together and know how to play off of each other."
Westminster Christian has a lot of new faces, but also some strong returning players and solid numbers with 19 players overall including Keely Frens (14 assists, 7 goals last year) and Kylee Siers (10 goals and 8 assists). "We hope to build off of the success we had last year (9-3-1)," Warriors coach Dave Siers said. "If we can remain healthy, we look to enjoy a great season."