There’s no question Tuesday’s Upstate Eight Conference championship game will be a memorable event, both in the short term and the long term.
For the third straight year, a new winner is guaranteed, since 2014 marks the first time for River winner Batavia (16-1-3) while Valley winner Neuqua Valley (12-7) makes its first and last appearance as the Wildcats — plus Metea Valley and Waubonsie Valley — will move to the DuPage Valley Conference in 2015.
In the inaugural UEC title game in 2012, the Valley entry was East Aurora based on a tiebreaker edge over Neuqua and former member Lake Park. The Tomcats lost 6-1 to River winner St. Charles East. The Saints were back in 2013, but Metea Valley won 3-1.
Whoever loses this year would certainly have it on their mind if IHSA seeding is accurate, as the Bulldogs and Wildcats are expected to meet Oct. 25 for the Class 3A Metea Valley Regional crown. That’s assuming Neuqua gets past the host Mustangs and Batavia dispenses with either Plainfield East or Central.
“It’s wonderful to be rewarded for winning our division and playing a quality opponent prior to playoffs,” Batavia coach Mark Gianfrancesco said. “It’ll make Senior Night a more memorable last home [game] for our 12 seniors. If we meet again in the regional, the importance and focus will be slightly different, but that’s only if we meet again.”
“It was a unique experience last year when we played Geneva in the final crossover (5-4 win) and seven days later played them in the regional opener (1-0 win),” Neuqua coach Skip Begley said. “We’re not planning to do anything special or different for this game. We want to win, but depending on how the game unfolds, we may pull some players to rest for the playoffs.”
With a 3-2 victory, Somonauk captured its fourth straight Little Ten Conference Tournament title and defeated major rival Hinckley-Big Rock for the third consecutive year in the championship game.
Historically, the Bobcats became the third school to boast four LTC tourney titles, joining H-BR (2000-03) and Earlville-Leland (2006-09). Somonauk’s hardware haul this year began with winning its annual Bobcat Breakout Tournament for the 12th time and going undefeated for a third straight Little Ten regular-season championship.
During a 7-1 homecoming victory, Josh Schmitt broke the school’s single-season goal record and fellow senior Tommy Skupien grabbed a corner flag and “knighted” Schmitt.
“It was planned and we knew we were going to get yellow cards, but it was worth it,” Schmitt said.
Heading into regional play, Schmitt looks to add to his records for single-season goals (46) and career goals (100). Skupien boasts the single-season assist standard (26).
Kaneland certainly welcomed the arrival of Norwegian transfer Carl Thorbjomson, who received IHSA clearance to play and debuted against Morris with a hat trick and an assist as part of the Knights’ 6-3 victory.