Breaking down key postseason matchups in a busy week for high school sports
Is it June yet?
During the many years I spent as a full-time high school sports writer and editor, we would start asking that question during the blizzards of winter, and then the monsoons of spring. As Memorial Day weekend came around, we'd ask again because we were finally seeing a light the end of the high school sports season tunnel.
Don't get me wrong. We love what we do, or we wouldn't invest ourselves in it the way we do. But when Memorial Day hits, it's a sign that those final championships are at hand, and with them will come time to take a breath and prepare for a new season.
Before we get that breath, though, there are championships to be won. This coming week of high school sports is a busy one, with state titles to be doled out in boys volleyball, boys and girls lacrosse, and girls soccer before baseball and softball state finals close things out for 2022-23 on June 9-10.
Here's a snapshot, taken with a wide-angle lens, at the upcoming week.
Defending state champ Glenbard West is still alive and takes on Conant Tuesday in the South Elgin sectional final, with a berth in Friday's state quarterfinals at Hoffman Estates on the line. The other sectional finals on Tuesday include: Glenbrook South vs. Glenbrook North at GBN, Oak Park-River Forest vs. Chicago Payton at OP-RF, Whitney Young vs. St. Ignatius at Chicago Jones, Barrington vs. Hononegah at Grant, O'Fallon vs. Lincoln-Way West at LW-W, Marist vs. Brother Rice at Brother Rice, and, Lyons Twp. Vs. Downers Grove North at Oswego.
Boys and girls lacrosse:
With the state tournament set for Thursday, Friday and Saturday at Benedictine University in Lisle, supsersectionals are Tuesday for this sport, which continues to grow in popularity albeit much more so north of Interstate 80. Defending boys state champ Loyola is still alive and takes on St. Viator in the Hoffman Estates super. Lake Forest, which lost to Loyola in last year's title game, plays host Huntley, while Glenbard West and Wheaton Academy meet at Schaumburg, and Benet hosts Andrew at Benedictine.
In the girls' tournament, a new state champion will be crowned as 2022 champ New Trier lost to Loyola in the sectional final. The Ramblers will face Evanston on Tuesday at Schaumburg, while the other three supers have Crystal Lake Central facing Lake Forest at Huntley, Hersey taking on Hinsdale Central at Hoffman, and Marist meeting Sandburg at Benedictine.
Longtime coach Andy Bitta's memory lived on when Libertyville downed Fremd in the sectional final and now the Wildcats' task will be to beat New Trier on the Trevians' home pitch Tuesday night with a berth in the Class 3A Final Four at North Central College on the line. The other side of the bracket has Barrington, which finished second last year, hosting St. Charles North. The bottom part of the state bracket has Hinsdale Central playing Lincoln-Way East in the Andrew super, and Plainfield North taking on O'Fallon at Bloomington.
In Class 2A last year's runner-up, Benet, travels to downstate Washington to play Peoria Notre Dame, while Lake Forest plays Crystal Lake Central at Grayslake Central.
Sectional semifinals for Class 3A and 4A teams are scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday statewide, and our area has myriad teams still alive. In Class 4A, Huntley faces Jacobs on Wednesday and Grant takes on Hononegah on Thursday at Dundee-Crown; St. Charles East battles York and Batavia faces Wheaton Warrenville South in a Wednesday DH at Judson University in Elgin; at Mundelein, it'll be Stevenson vs. Libertyville on Wednesday and Barrington vs. Hersey on Thursday, and at Romeoville, Downers Grove North plays Oswego East on Wednesday. In Class 3A at Grayslake Central, Cary-Grove draws. Lake Forest on Wednesday and the host Rams will tackle Crystal Lake South on Thursday; and, at Kaneland, Burlington Central faces Lemont on Wednesday and St. Francis faces Sycamore on Thursday.
We said last week that the Class 4A St. Charles North sectional was the toughest in the state and nothing's changed our thinking. Tuesday's semifinal has defending state champ SCN taking on Fremd, and on Wednesday Lake Park plays South Elgin. An intriguing matchup in the Wednesday semifinal at Oswego has Wheaton Warrenville South taking on West Chicago, which upset Wheaton North in the regional finals for the Wildcats' first regional title since 2012. And out at Rockton Hononegah, Huntley will get a chance for a little payback when it faces Hampshire in the first of two semifinals on Tuesday. Hampshire, which upset top-seeded Hononegah for a regional title, ended Huntley's 50-game Fox Valley Conference winning streak earlier this season. Barrington plays the 7 p.m. game Tuesday in Rockton against Machesney Park Harlem. And at Warren, Tuesday' semifinal pits Buffalo Grove vs. Libertyville and on Wednesday, Palatine plays the host Blue Devils.
In Class 3A, Antioch continues to roll and will take on Vernon Hills on Tuesday in the Carmel sectional. Wednesday's semi pits the host Corsairs against Wauconda. Kaneland is still alive as well and will face Sycamore at Belvidere North on Wednesday. And, Benet heads to UIC on Wednesday to play St. Francis. If you're looking for a Memorial Day softball fix, Montini takes on Beecher at 11 a.m. at Benedictine in a Class 2A supersectional.