Lacrosse: St. Charles North, South Elgin among favorites at Geneva sectional
It may be a little hard to believe, especially with the crummy spring weather, that the IHSA state lacrosse playoffs are just a few weeks away.
The sectional assignments have been made, with the seeds expected Thursday and the brackets Friday.
St. Charles North and South Elgin find themselves in the meat grinder that will be the Geneva sectional, which includes the host school, along with Fox Valley entrants Batavia, Kaneland, St. Charles East, Marmion and the Hawks, the Bartlett-Streamwood co-op program. And not only that -- those schools have to deal with DuPage Valley powers Neuqua Valley, Wheaton Academy and Valley Lacrosse, which is the Waubonsie-Metea Valley co-op.
"We all know each other," St. Charles North coach Kyle Pepich said. "The players play on travel teams together or have grown up playing youth lacrosse together. When it becomes a rivalry-type environment, it can go either way."
In the Hoffman Estates sectional, Jacobs, Dundee-Crown, Crystal Lake South, Hampshire and Huntley will have to ward off the host school, along with Schaumburg, Conant, Prairie Ridge, Crystal Lake Central, Cary-Grove and Barrington.
Perhaps the most interesting sectional development, though, is in the north shore, where the Loyola Academy sectional will feature the top two teams in the state, Loyola and New Trier. Despite being a mile apart, they were in different sectionals a year ago and ended up playing for the state title.
Does that give the local schools an advantage, particularly if they reach the state finals May 30 and June 1 at Hinsdale Central?
"I think it would be very naive to think the road is easily paved," South Elgin coach Dylan Butler said. "It is one less headache to we have to worry about, but we have five or six programs ahead of us that are noting that and thinking the same thing."
Girls sectional packed, too: On the girls side, all of the Fox Valley schools are in the St. Charles East sectional, including the St. Charles co-op, Huntley, Geneva and Hampshire. It is one of 2 sectionals with only 7 teams.
St. Charles coach Ronnie Kluener noted that the most interesting thing is the absence of powerful Barrington, which switched sectionals. That may make the sectional more manageable, along with the fact that like the boys, Loyola and New Trier are in the same sectional. Both lost to Hinsdale Central for last year's title.
In its first year as an IHSA-sanctioned sport, Hampshire has had to play, or will soon play, virtually all the schools in its sectional, which could provide a major advantage come playoff time, depending on how the brackets play out.
"Since were a growing and learning team, we're kind of trying to find our footing," Hampshire coach Nicole Paukovits said. "We've had some good successes and some rough games. Within our sectional, we're probably in the middle ground, I'd say."
Competing with class: The Hawks are 9-3, and coach Vince Trombetta credits, at least in part, the team's season motto, which is Compete with class.
"I think over the past three or four years now, anytime anybody's talked about (our team), not good things were mentioned," Trombetta said. "We wanted to get back to our roots, just a tough team to play and a classy team to play."
He feels his team has been able to live up to its motto, adding, "I think almost every game, we've had refs come up to me, telling me how good we behaved."
The Hawks are led by senior midfielder Nick Eckleberry, a faceoff specialist, of whom Trombetta says is a "blue-collar player."
"His dad is an official, and he's kind of leading the team when I'm not there," Trombetta said. "He's kind of the coach on the field. He's a great two-way middie."
The Hawks are also getting great minutes from senior defender Matt Nowak, who is back after a nasty ankle sprain early in the season, and senior attackman Brandon Baker, who is a leader in goals and assists.
As for the sectional, Trombetta said, "We've played all of those teams in the past. We know every single sectional will be a hard game for us."
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