Girls soccer notes: Metea Valley shines on St. Louis trip

Metea Valley, the defending Class 3A state champs, returned from its St. Louis tournament weekend still undefeated.

Competition was fierce, but the Mustangs were able to pick up victories against Granite City and Triad after opening with a scoreless draw against Nerinx Hall (Mo.).

Last year the Mustangs only lost twice all season before winning their first state title in program history. This year, they avenged a 4-2 loss to Nerinx Hall, getting 10 saves from Alyssa Gluting and outstanding play in back from Kaylee Bannack, Kyleigh Jannisch, Zoe Kirkman, Alyssa Parilli and Sydney Phillips.

"It was a good weekend on and off the field," Mustangs coach Chris Whaley said. "It was good to not only see the starting 11 but also all the girls off the bench. Nerinx (Hall) was tough. And we were playing three games in three days. Triad just won a state title and we didn't know Granite City would be undefeated."

Lucy Burk scored twice during the three-game tournament while Tyra King, Jordan Lange and Lily Senese also found the back of the net.

The Mustangs have a big early conference battle against Neuqua Valley on Thursday leading up to the Bodyarmor tournament beginning this weekend.

Saints march on:

Apparently, if the shoe fits your feet, it is your opponents who you shall defeat.

St. Charles East senior tri-captain Tia Bernstein acknowledged that filling the void left by departed players from a season ago was a key reality heading into the season.

After an 8-0 start in which the Saints have outscored their opponents, 33-5, one must assume that those shoes are fitting pretty darn nicely these days.

"I think we are all coming together nicely," she said. "I think the hardest part was filling the shoes from those from last year and we've done a nice job. Each game we've learned something and continue to grow as a team."

Senior Grace Williams and Mia Raschke have scored 8 and 7 goals apiece respectively already. Williams also has 4 assists while senior Kara Machala leads the Saints with 6 assists and also had 5 goals. Junior Alli Saviano has scored 3 goals and added 3 assists, Mackenzie Loomis has scored 3 times already and Bernstein had scored twice and distributed 4 assists while quickly falling in love with her new leadership role.

"It's been everything I hoped for my senior season," she said. "And we've only played 8 games so I'm excited for the rest of the season."

The Saints will head down to Carbondale this coming weekend to compete in the Fralish Cup which will present an additional challenge of facing teams they know little about. The following weekend the Naperville Invitational begins.

"We're looking to find the best version of self," Saints coach Vince DiNuzzo said. "In Carbondale there will be a lot of unknowns, no comparable results, so we'll go in blindly at best. And then we'll have Sandburg and Neuqua Valley in the Naperville Invite which is the best tournament in the state. We're working on staying healthy and playing for a top four seed in the sectional."

Eye on the prize:

Kaneland is having so much fun this season that the Knights still haven't allowed a goal.

The Knights (5-0) will travel down to Morris (6-3-2, 2-0) on Wednesday.

"I'm pretty happy right now," Kaneland coach Scott Parillo said. "They're playing well. They're getting along well. They are just a fun group of girls."

They're also a group that remembers a less fun moment in time - losing the Interstate 8 Conference tournament to Sycamore in PKs.

"They're still bitter about how the season ended last year," Parillo said. "Losing to Sycamore stung and they remember."

Senior Brigid Gannon already has scored 8 goals while junior Emily Kunzer has scored 5 goals and distributed 4 assists and fellow junior Jade Schrader has scored 3 goals.

"They are dialed in," Parillo said. "And this is still a young group with five freshmen on the team and we're a smaller group with only 18 on the varsity, but they're ready to go."

Bigger challenges await the Knights this week with Warren, an approximately 4,000-student school, followed by either St. Ignatius or St. Viator. Ultimately, these added tests will bode well for the Knights in the long run regardless of the immediate results.

"This is probably our best group since the 2015 Elite Eight team," Parillo said. "They're not afraid of anybody. They think they can win every game they play. And we do look to challenge them."

Sink or swim:

Huntley (5-1-1) has gotten off to a strong start, learning a great deal after an early 5-1 loss to Stevenson as well as most recently in a 1-1 tie to Burlington Central last week.

"We've learned a lot," Red Raiders coach Matt Lewandowsk said. "Crystal Lake Central is going to be our next big test and then we've got McHenry which has been tough the last three or four years with coach Drew Stegenga."

South Elgin (4-2-1) and Wheaton Academy (1-3-1) also loom in the Bodyarmor tournament that begins this weekend.

"It's sink or swim," Lewandowski said. "We've had some tough gritty games and I'd rather lose a tough one now and learn some things along the way."

Grace Helzer already has 9 goals to lead Huntley while Chloe Pfaff has scored 6 goals and dished 5 assists. Maddie Cummings, Morgan McCaughn and Alex Szydlowski each has scored 3 goals while Ellie Knebl has 3 assists.

Petring's hat size:

Downers Grove South senior Emily Petring scored back-to-back hat tricks heading into Tuesday's conference game against Proviso East as part of Senior Night festivities.

Petring is just two goals shy of 50 which would put her among the top 10 in school history, and she didn't get a chance to play freshmen year because of the pandemic canceling IHSA spring sports in 2020.

"She makes her teammates better by including them," Mustangs coach Chris Hernandez said. "And she's a motivator and she communicates with them."

While she's a talented goal scorer, she's also a talented creator, using her skills to offer opportunities for her teammates for the ultimate good of the team.

"She'll tell them that she missed a pass but they'll get the next one," he said. "She'll tell them in terms of creation, if you make a good run, I'll find you."

It's no surprise that Petring was battling a hamstring injury and played limited minutes in the team's two losses, an added game against Lyons (3-0 loss on March 21) followed by York (1-0 loss on March 23).

"The game against Naperville North was canceled (on March 18) so we added the game against Lyons," Hernandez said. "And then against York we played well but gave up a goal late."

Lately, the Mustangs aren't giving up anything. They're currently enjoying a 3-game winning/shutout streak.

King of the Hilltoppers:

Glenbard West left the Wheaton North tournament with an 0-2-1 record. Since then they've won four straight, all shutouts.

"The opening tournament really tests you and lets you know where you stand," Glenbard West coach Adam Szyszko said. "Plainfield North is loaded this year, Metea Valley is the defending 3A champ, Benet is a perennial power and a local rival, Sandburg seemingly gets to a sectional every year in the south burbs, and Wheaton North is always solid and another local rival. So we have some great teams and games right from the start. Our second game against Benet was as physical and intense as a sectional game. It was fun to watch both teams compete at a high level."

Glenbard West's backline has settled in after getting punished repeatedly by Plainfield North for its own mistakes.

"We left that game with more questions about our defense than answers," Szyszko said. "Since then we've settled in. Junior Ellie Beaudoin and senior Kendell Meyer have done a terrific job of coordinating us back there and we've settled into a groove. Katie Burke and Audrey Sawyer have also grown nicely into their roles."

Midfield has been a strength for the Hilltoppers with senior Clare Kostolansky, freshman Hanalei Allen and sophomore Hannah Michalowski winning tackles and controlling play.

"Having Clare in midfield is like having a cheat code, she's so strong and fearless going into challenges," he said. "It fires everyone up when she shuts down opposing possessions before they get to dangerous areas."

Sophia Brown leads the team with 4 goals while Allen scored 3 times.

"We are creating plenty of chances," Szyszko said. "We just have to be a bit more clinical and ruthless in converting those chances in the area."

Tia Bernstein, left, has helped St. Charles East get off to a perfect start this season. Sandy Bressner/
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