Lacrosse: Huntley girls, South Elgin boys surging forward
After winning just 1 game a year ago, the Huntley girls lacrosse team is 6-5 and looking for more wins -- maybe a lot more.
"I think at this point of the season, (our record) isn't that big of a shock," said sophomore attack Bella Wiechec, who leads the team with 20 goals and 7 assists. "Looking at our schedule, we knew we had games we could compete in."
The Huntley girls program started in 2014 with just 15 girls. This year, more than 70 tried out, according to coach Tony Nigro, who coached the JV team a year ago, and started both the boys and girls programs at the school.
Watching the team bloom into a competitive bunch has been fun for Nigro.
"I think it's mostly watching the girls buying into the program," he said. They want to do really good. It's, 'Coach, what can we do better, what should be look for?' They want to achieve wins, but how do we get better?"
The Raiders have plenty of young talent. Most of the attack is underclassmen, including Wiechec, who is in her second year of playing any lacrosse, and juniors Taylor Wentz and Olivia Wambacher. Wentz has 13 goals and 5 assists, and Wambacher has 7 goals and 5 assists.
But there is also veteran talent as well, and that starts with goalie Kaz Black, who has 133 saves and 1 shutout.
And there is plenty of help in the pipeline. Huntley's JV team is 4-1, with its only loss to a tough Barrington.
South Elgin stays hot: Another team that's enjoying a lot of success so far in 2019 is the South Elgin boys, who are one of a handful of area teams that are undefeated, at 9-0.
According to one of the team's captains, senior Patrick Noworol, there is one important reason for the Storm's resurgence after losing in a supersectional to Naperville North a year ago.
"Honestly, one of the major keys is our conditioning," Noworol said. "We're constantly running and being in motion. We push ourselves to the point of where we've never been as tired before, but in games, we're just pushing through."
South Elgin has scored a whopping 168 goals this season, for an average of 18.6 per game. That compares more than favorably to the 2.6 goals per game opponents are averaging.
South Elgin won the final Illinois High School Lacrosse Association championship, in 2017, so the Storm has already been to the top of the mountain, and the goal is to return there, under the IHSA format.
That will be a tough task, considering not only regional powers like Naperville North, Glenbard West, Lyons and St. Charles North, but also traditionally dominant Chicago north shore programs Loyola and New Trier.
But coach Dylan Butler, a 2012 Jacobs graduate, has his crew playing levelheaded and dependable, and that starts with the leadership of his senior captains -- Noworol, Cade Newton and Travis Tranchitella.
"They are different types of guys," Butler said. "Cade has been a player since he was a freshman, if we're down late, he puts the team on his back. Patrick has been on varsity since his sophomore year, he's the rah-rah leader, and Travis is one of the most dynamic lacrosse players I've ever seen."
A sport on the rise: If you want to gauge the growth of lacrosse in the Fox Valley area, look no further than the U46 Co-op girls team. It consists of players from four schools -- Bartlett, South Elgin, Streamwood and Elgin -- and 90 percent of the players never picked up a stick before the season.
At this point of the season, U46 is 1-5-1, playing a JV schedule. Of course, there have been high points, like defeating Geneva 7-6 in its very first game, and low points, including back-to-back-to-back games the week of April 15, all losses.
Nevertheless, the team is gelling, according to coach Natalie Homan.
"I could not have asked for a more diverse group of girls," Homan said. "I've got many freshmen and sophomores and only one senior this year. It's been mind-blowing. They go out for dinner with each other, they are in their group chat. It's been great."
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