Girls soccer: Scouting the Northwest suburbs
MID SUBURBAN LEAGUE EAST
With all due respect to the rest of this division -- it will be a two-team race to the top by Buffalo Grove and Hersey.
Too much quality on both clubs, each who mirror the other on a talent level.
The reigning MSL East champs from Hersey (12-8-3) are led up top by its all-area forward Chloe Sena, and the Huskies have a strong back line duo of McKenna Kopeny and Jane Stefaniak in front of keeper Emma Hager, as well as a welcome new addition to their attack in freshman Megan Morowicki.
"We have a solid core of seniors, plus returning players so we'll be looking to build on our strengths, with the expectation to be competitive in the MSL and in and around the area," says Hersey coach Michael Rusniak.
Buffalo Grove (6-7-3) lost eight players from last season but with the likes of Pam Bolis, Macy Floro, and Quinlan Libit running the attack and all-area defender Bridget Reynolds, with Savannah Larsen alongside, the Bison have the makings of an exciting club to watch.
"I am cautiously optimistic about the upcoming season, but with a lot of varsity experience back with us many of which have are now seasoned upperclassmen, we'll look to be in the division race right until the very end," says BG coach Pat Dudle.
Prospect (12-10-5) has been right there with its rivals Buffalo Grove and Hersey, thanks to a strong core of players who came together as freshmen and stayed on board over four seasons.
That veteran group, which totaled 14, and who were inspired by two-time all-area MF Ashley Welk has moved on, giving the few who are back their chance to make their mark with the big club.
Coach Michael Drenth said goodbye to all but four from his 2019 roster at Rolling Meadows, including his all-area scoring star Alex Davis, who took with her 32 goals in her career.
Gabrielle Whittinghill takes over at Elk Grove this spring and while the former Maine South star inherits a young club it's not one lacking in talent.
Alexi Joshi, an all-area player in just her second year and cornerstone in the Grens' rebuilding project, leads seven juniors who as sophomores saw plenty of time during a 7-12-2 season.
Coach Dwayne Cruz always manages to get his club at Wheeling to play hard for 80 minutes, despite nearly starting over each and every spring season.
This year, the challenge for the longtime Wildcats coach will be to find another diamond in the rough to replace his top player, Kari Webber, who twice was named all-MSL.
MID SUBURBAN LEAGUE WEST
The MSL West continued to be top heavy in talent a year ago -- beginning with Class 3A state runner-up Barrington (22-2-1) which at the onset is nationally ranked by a handful of publications despite losing the best outside-back combination in the state.
Christine Batliner and Madi Rosen would patrol things on the flank like no others, attacking, running at the opposition, providing exceptional service, scoring and assists, all with unrivaled pace, while also giving superb defense.
The Fillies return most from their first eleven listed in the state championship contest with Naperville North, including all-area players Jen Devona, Juliana Moreno, and Rebecca Shomaker, who led the club with 12 goals, as well as several more who contributed when coach Ryan Stengren asked them to do so.
Moreno and Katie McGreevy are among the best central defensive duos around, while the trio of: Ashley Armando, Ellie McAuley and Tina Teik have all performed at the highest levels during the Fillies' state title runs of 2017 and 2018 and their second-place finish last spring.
"We are nowhere near where we should be right now. We have to find a way to somehow replace Batliner and Rosen, plus there's other things we have to continue to sort out," said Stengren.
"We have a group of players who have gained a lot of experience over the past two years, so they know what it takes to get to a certain level but they all have to continue to work hard in order to get to that level."
Fremd (14-5-3), which ended Barrington 20-game unbeaten streak in the MSL last May, would eventually fall in its sectional final to Stevenson but the Vikings return most of their first eleven from that contest
All-state keeper Jennifer Norris (14 shutouts) is back, as well as a back line that is second to none, beginning with Lauren Burk, who will have sisters Allie and Liz Prigge alongside the senior once they are back in form after being key players for the Class 4A state championship basketball team.
"Strong defense, (Norris) in goal, solid returning players, led by Ashley Scesniak, Mackenzie Stein, and Caeleigh Stone, will be key for us but we'll also need some of our young talent up top to produce for us," said coach Steve Keller.
The Vikings will have to find a way to replace the 80-minute effort from Christy Murauskis (SIU-Carbondale) in the middle of the park, as well as the creative energy of forward Emma Spotak, who gave the opposition far too much to worry about.
If coach Jason Franco can somehow find a way to offset the loss of Stephanie Mazurek, then Conant (16-3-2) might be the club to overtake both Barrington and Fremd.
Mazurek set or broke far too many records to list, including 63 goals and 37 assists.
"It's impossible to replace someone like (Mazurek) but if we can get several players to contribute in their own way, then we're confident our back line and defenders will be enough to carry us through during the season," said Franco.
The Cougars' back line is superb with Delaney Hoye and Juliana Madonia, while the quartet of Maddie Celarek, Neida Ocampo, Emma Simpson, and Rachel Kutella (Arkansas State) back from club form a dazzling midfield unit.
Hoffman Estates (8-15-0) lost nine players overall from its 2019 roster, but the Hawks do return a handful of veterans, including Mia Eberman (MF), Avery Panek (F), Josie Roberts (D), Cassidy Ryan (D), and Christina Salerno (D).
"Paige (Schneider) took over as our keeper as a freshman last year and had an impressive start to her high school career, and together with Ryan, Salerno and the Roberts sisters (Josie, Samantha) we should be much stronger in the back," said Hawks coach Jeff Bird.
Youth, inexperience and a lacking of scoring would be the undoing during a 3-15-1 season at Palatine.
The Pirates, who were shut out on eight occasions, will lean heavily on their three-year veteran Melanie Simon, who excelled whether along the back or in the middle of the park and will be someone plenty of the play will go through this spring.
Among the five starters coach Greg Chavrat lost, Al Schaar (playing at Moraine Valley State) and Livvy Massi (playing at UW-Oshkosh) will be the toughest to replace for the longtime man in charge at Schaumburg.
"We took a heavy hit with the graduation of five quality players, including Livvy and Al, who was named all-area, all-sectional and all-MSL, as well as being just a terrific team captain as well," said Chavrat.
"We do return a nice core of young players, plus a few newcomers as well so early on, we'll look to establish our identity as well as a style of play that we'll be comfortable with in order to compete in league play."
Maine West enjoyed its best season in program history a year ago, thanks in part to its all-state central-defender Sarah Magnoni (SIU-Edwardsville), who captained the club for two seasons, while twice being named all-CSL and all-sectional for coach Jeff Bishop.
Bishop, who called Magnoni the 'heart and soul' of the Warriors, will have a difficult time replacing the three-sport (basketball, cross-country) star, in addition to several veterans who graduated.
The Warriors, crosstown rival Maine East and the rest of the division will be chasing favorite Vernon Hills, which is coming off its third consecutive Class 2A regional championship under coach Mike McCaulou.
Maine South (16-5-3, 2-1-2) enjoyed a magnificent season, yet in the end would watch perennial state power New Trier lift the CSL South trophy once again, before going on to claim the third-place trophy at the Class 3A state tournament.
The Hawks, who would fall to New Trier 1-0 in a sectional semifinal, lost five seniors, including their co-captains, Fran Faraci and Hannah Schilling, who both were named all-CSL and all-sectional.
However, coach JJ Crawford will have back, among others, his top-flight forward Molly Pistorius in addition to MF Liliana D'Alesio.
EAST SUBURBAN CATHOLIC
St. Viator watched its longtime rival Benet Academy lift the Class 2A state championship trophy after dominating the ESCC during the regular season, along with Joliet Catholic Academy, which finished fourth overall.
Peyton McDonnell and Samanth DeJulio, now playing collegiate soccer after being named all-area for the second time, leave a tremendous void in which Lions coach Mike Taylor will look to fill during the first few weeks of the campaign.
"We have a lot of sophomores and juniors back, and we'll likely start 2-3 freshmen so we'll be young, but it's a group that enjoys each other, works hard, and will improve as the season goes on," said Taylor.
Christian Liberty Academy came close to being even (6-8-4) in its first year under new head coach Ryan Potelicki and with several of their first eleven expected back this spring, it appears the Chargers will be more competitive in the Northeastern Athletic Conference.
The same holds true for a Leyden club which featured several first-time varsity players a year ago, including: Jazmin Contreras, Jacqueline Jacinto and Gabriel Valdez, who helped the Eagles to a 7-15-1 overall record.