Boys golf: Stevenson among the many adjusting to new rules
Stevenson, after back-to-back trophy-winning campaigns, was eying a third straight state appearance at the Class 3A DeKalb boys golf sectional last fall.
But North Suburban Conference rival Lake Forest edged the Patriots by a stroke for the last of three state berths out of Kishwaukee Country Club.
The Scouts would end the seven-year Hinsdale Central state-championship stranglehold the following weekend in Bloomington for their fifth title in program history.
Stevenson coach John Rueth earned widespread acclaim, however, when he personally disqualified one of his players, who would have catapulted the Patriots in front of Lake Forest, for signing an incorrect scorecard.
Conan Pan, who started on the Patriots' state runner-up and third-place teams as an underclassmen, was an at-large qualifier last season for his third consecutive state-tournament showing.
"Conan has been on some great teams," Rueth said.
Fellow seniors and returning starters Nick Udoni and Bradley Park are the Patriots' other anchors this season.
Like all the other programs, Stevenson has been in a process of daily adaptation to the unprecedented developments engendered by the COVID-19 pandemic.
"It seems a little bit off," Rueth said. "We don't have the bus rides, the dinners, the hanging out. It's a different feeling. We had to cancel 11 dates. You get a better appreciation with those big invitationals. Every coach will tell you 18 holes is the true test."
Libertyville and Hersey tied for fifth last October in DeKalb.
The former has at-large state qualifier Danny Keating returning to the fold this fall.
Sophomore Aleks Slesers has boundless potential for the Wildcats as the second returning starter.
"We run into a buzz saw every year," Libertyville coach Sean Matthews said of his league counterparts, not to mention such routine opponents as New Trier and Loyola. "The conference is pretty strong."
Matthews said his players also have to overcome the luxury many area programs enjoy with firsthand course knowledge as Libertyville does not have a facility in its community.
Several Lake County coaches express the viewpoints shared by their suburban brethren the IHSA will have a state competition beyond the proposed enlarged regional tournaments.
"If there is one sport where you could physically and socially distance yourself, this is definitely the sport," Matthews said.
South Elgin has high hopes:
South Elgin coach Gordon Brown was pleasantly surprised when 51 athletes turned out for tryouts.
As a result, Brown created an all-freshman team to augment his varsity and JV units.
Nick Vaimins is a sectional returnee for the Storm.
Junior classmates Ty Doty, Matt Jachim and Danny Watt complement Vaimins.
"He is solid," Brown said of Vaimins. "He has been working hard and is ready to compete. He is a good team leader."
Brown views Bartlett and West Chicago as the major roadblocks to a potential Upstate Eight Conference championship this fall.
The tournaments, particularly pronounced on the precious Saturdays in September, involving double-digit teams colliding for regular-season bragging rights have been unduly impacted by the revised IHSA competitive guidelines.
Among notable Fox Valley tournaments, Batavia and Geneva had to cancel their long-standing events.
But Dundee-Crown will have a modified get-together on its traditional date on the third Saturday in September.
It will be an exclusive Fox Valley Conference field.
"Everybody needs to get out and get some type of competitive juices flowing and have some social interaction," D-C coach Bob Sweeney said.
Sweeney has sophomore Jake Russell at the top of his lineup.
"I have been pleased with the progress of Chris Przybylak," Sweeney said of his top junior.
Benet, Metea Valley programs to watch:
Benet made the most of its reclassification by qualifying for the Class 2A state tournament in Normal last fall.
The Redwings' Quinn Shanley and Jack DiTrani are the program stalwarts as state veterans.
"They are both playing to the level we thought they would," Benet coach Marty Gaughan said.
Sophomore Ryan Dannegger has also emerged as a third weapon for the Redwings this fall.
"I want the kids to have every opportunity to play," Gaughan said. "I think they are really thankful to be playing when their classmates in football, volleyball and soccer have had their seasons delayed."
The Metea Valley program is no longer an upstart.
"It's our deepest roster we have ever had," Metea Valley coach Pat Brusveen said. "We have had (counting) scores from our (Nos.) 6 through 8."
The Mustangs' home course, Orchard Valley, is routinely hailed as one of the top public facilities in the state as the Aurora layout has twice hosted the men's state open.
Last week in a dual match against St. Charles North, the Mustangs' Aman Shah (34), Eli Oakes (35) and returning state qualifier Arjun Vyas (37) threatened a team score under par before settling for a collective 1-over 145.
"It was a program record," Brusveen said.