Scouting DuPage County girls lacrosse
Top teams: Naperville North, Neuqua Valley, Hinsdale Central, York, Benet.
Top players: Ella Marschitz, Naperville North, senior, midfielder; Anneliese Hanson, Naperville North, senior, attack; Izzy Campos, Wheaton Co-op, sophomore, midfielder; Meghan Ginty, Wheaton Co-op, senior defense; Annette Ciupek, Hinsdale Central, senior, midfielder; Tessa Howe, Hinsdale Central, senior, midfielder; Shannon Earley, Benet, sophomore, midfielder; Mad Jensen, Benet, sophomore, goalkeeper; Bella Swanson, York, senior, midfielder; Elle Duhig, York, senior, midfielder; Lucy Jania, St. Francis, sophomore, midfielder; Katherine Lilly, St. Francis, junior, defensive midfielder; Jill Dennison, Neuqua Valley, senior, midfielder; Kelly Anderson, Neuqua Valley, senior, defensive midfielder; Hanne Wind, Glenbard West, junior, attack/midfielder; Olivia Wallace, Glenbard West, senior, defense; Ysa Pakowski, Downers Grove North, senior, midfielder; Samantha Gargiulo, Downers Grove North, junior, goalkeeper; Sarah Stevenson, Montini, senior, attack; Liadan O'Flaherty, Montini, senior attack-midfielder.
Season outlook: Finally ... a "normal" lacrosse season, though normal is a relative term, of course.
Area coaches like Naperville North's Jessica Hogan, are excited to get started, and why not? The Huskies have 14 returning players and the potential for a high-octane offense with senior midfielder Ella Marschitz, junior midfielder Olivia Duda and sophomore midfielder Samantha Muller, along with attackers Anneliese Hanson, a senior, and junior Hayley Swatland. Goalkeeper Ishika Sadhukhan has a year of experience under her belt and will help bolster a defense that includes senior defender Christina Eloe. And what of the DuPage Valley Conference? It's going to be fun watching the Huskies battle it out with Neuqua Valley for the title; Naperville North went 4-2 in league last year ... with their only losses to the Wildcats. As for that "normal" season, Marschitz said, "I think it's definitely going to be nice going back to a full season. It will be interesting to see how the underclassmen handle it because they've never been through a full season."
On the other side of Naperville, Neuqua Valley coach John Scanlon is also raring to go and hopes to lead the Wildcats to their third DVC title, after going 6-0 in 2019 and 2021. "We have 18 returning varsity players and a very deep 24-athlete roster that is stronger in all phases of the game," Scanlon said. Everything starts with the team's first collegiate Division I recruit, senior captain Kelly Anderson, a defensive midfielder who is committed to Central Michigan. But that's just the beginning. Senior midfielder and captain Jill Dennison is committed to Division II Grand Valley State and ditto for senior defender Taylor Meltzer, who is committed to Lincoln Memorial University. Senior goalkeeper Caitlin Bowler is back in the net for one more campaign, while senior defender Taylen Lachnicht and newcomer sophomore Tessa Ward will head up the defense.
Coach Sean Storin's Metea Valley-Waubonsie Valley Co-op is already off to a good start, with season-opening wins over Lake Zurich and Minooka. The biggest revelation in those games was sophomore midfielder Sofia Zeiml, who scored 15 goals. "She's legit," Storin said. "Huge (collegiate) D1 potential." Another potential Division 1 player is sophomore goaltender Bella Kerr, who started as a freshman. But those are young players. Consider the leadership that will be expected of senior midfielder Allison Davis, who Storin said "is content to set up plays and have others score the goals. Senior defender Skyler Brdar is one of the best athletes Meta-Waubonsie has. A three-sport athlete, "she plays until she falls down," Storin said.
The West Suburban Silver is arguably the most deep and powerful conference in the state. It all starts up top with Hinsdale Central, which finished third in state a year ago. Coach Matt McNiff is pretty clear about his team's goals this spring. "This team is hungry and will not be satisfied until they get what they want," McNiff said. "They have one goal in mind -- the state championship. We have a lot of work to do, but there is serious potential for greatness." Where do you start with a state title contender? Try seniors Tessa Howe, Annette Ciupek, Ella Beargie, Isabella Leigh and Lanie Randle, who did more than work on their stick skills in the off-season; McNiff said they "created an atmosphere that enhanced team chemistry, friendship and determination." What's more, the Red Devils have a slew of high-impact newcomers, including freshman goalie Makenna Schultz, who McNiff said is a "very special player."
York may be the one team that could unseat Hinsdale Central as WSC Silver champs, but the Dukes will have to get past a rough early-season schedule that includes Loyola (a 19-7 loss), Glenbrook South, New Trier and then Hinsdale Central. "Our schedule all in all is very, very difficult," coach Ryan Walz said. "Our strength of schedule will be one of the toughest in the state." York will be paced by a pair of collegiate Division I recruits -- midfielders Elle Duhig (Central Michigan) and Julia Kogan (Xavier). Midfielder Bella Swanson is slated to play at Division II Queensbury College, while defender Anna Mapes is off the College of Wooster. "We know Loyola, New Trier and Hinsdale Central are tough," Walz said. "We were one goal away from New Trier, we took Hinsdale Central to overtime, and we've been so close. Being ranked fourth the last two years, we want to break through into the top three."
Remember the name Ysa Pakowski. The senior is the reason Downers Grove Co-op may be able to muscle down on the WSC Silver heavyweights this season. The collegiate Division I recruit (Detroit Mercy) and Downers South student was all-sectional her freshman and junior years and will be a three-year starter, not counting the lost 2020 COVID-19 campaign. In addition to being an excellent student, she's a midfielder that has a nose for the goal and isn't afraid to shoot. Like Pakowski, junior goalie Samantha Gargiulo was all-conference a year ago. Downers Grove has only two newcomers to the team -- freshman midfielder Ashley Poquette and junior midfielder Lauren Kalsch -- but both will be expected to make an impact from the first draw. According to coach Joe Gargiulo, the team went 5-7 overall record last spring, but "we are expecting to improve on that standing this season."
When you're talking about the WSC Silver, don't forget about Glenbard West, which is developing a new culture under second-year coach Jerry Considine, who formerly coached Fenwick's boys. The season got off to a good start with a 10-9 victory over Buffalo Grove, and there will likely be more of that as the season unfolds, what with the talents of junior attack/midfielder Hanna Wind, an all-sectional player a year ago and the team's second-leading goal scorer. Senior Olivia Wallace is a lockdown defender, while senior midfielder Ava Johnson "is probably our best player getting grounds balls out of the draw," Considine said. But another player to keep an eye on is freshman defender Sam Moorhead, who is a product of the Glen Ellyn Guardians park district program that Considine launched last spring, which is expected produce up to 10 varsity players next year. "There is definitely a bunch of new faces, and people interested in lacrosse," said Johnson, a youth coach with the park district program, "and now with Jerry everything is super organized."
Over in the DuKane Conference, Wheaton Co-op will have to deal with the likes of powerful St. Charles Co-op among others, but that won't deter coach Sarah Burdeen, who takes over for Paul Ciufo. Key returnees for the blue and orange are sophomore midfielder Izzy Campos, senior defender Meghan Ginty, junior attacker Auggie Claridge and sophomore defender Jenna Cammack. According to Burdeen, who played on the original Wheaton Co-op team back in 2006, is its cohesiveness. "We are here to provide players an opportunity to learn a new sport, build relationships between schools and compete the best we can," she said. One thing about Wheaton -- they can be a real pain. Just ask Naperville North, which lost to Wheaton 16-15 in the sectional quarterfinals a year ago.
All gas, no brakes. That's the motto for Benet, which finished fourth in state last year. The Redwings, led by first-year coach Amanda Kammes, are likely to be even better thanks to the addition of newcomer Jamie Weber, a collegiate Division 1 commit (Gardner-Webb). The interesting thing about Benet is the winning culture culled from other sports. The team has a pair of basketball players fresh from their state run, along with several hockey players, led by Bella Salvino, who is committed to play that sport at Penn State. Three sophomores will also make major contributions this season -- midfielder Shannon Earley, goalkeeper Mad Jensen and attack-midfielder Dagny Tombaugh. "I don't think we have much of a different plan, our goal is probably to do better than fourth," Earley said. "We lost a lot of our seniors, but I'm feeling really confident." Added senior defender Regan Roberts: "We have big shoes to fill."
Here's another name worth remembering: Lucy Janie, a sophomore midfielder and draw taker for St. Francis. "She's a very good young player," coach Kevin Kloss said. "I hope she gets a lot of exposure this year and is able to step up." She'll be joined by freshman midfielder Erin Dearie, who plays her club ball for Lakeshore Lacrosse. The defense will be tough with junior basketball player Katherine Lilly, a defensive midfielder, junior defender Sarah Riepe and freshman defender Bianca Pandolfi. The Spartans have an unenviable schedule because it won't join the Chicago Catholic League until next year. That slate includes McHenry, Nazareth, Montini, Naperville North, Lockport, Glenbard West and Fremd. "We're an up-and-coming team," Kloss said. "We went 11-6 in the regular season. I'm trying to grow that."
Montini returns to action after a two-year layoff due to COVID-19. Coach Casey Kellogg is the first to admit that "our team is primarily new players and this will be a rebuilding here." But she adds that the Broncos have a good group of athletes who could give opponents fits. Start with returnees like senior attacker Sarah Stevenson and junior attack-midfielder Liadan O'Flaherty. Junior Jamie Bukovsky will head up the defense. Kellogg also has a slew of freshmen that will open eyes, like attack Maddie Trapp, midfielder Annika Bartell and middie/defender Ava Sebben. "(We) clawed back after barely having enough players, recruited a lot of new faces to mix in with our solid core of players and have been working hard to teach the sport to our new players and get them excited about improving and competing this year," Kellogg said.