The ides of March

For those who missed the Sun-Times soccer preview, here’s a quick recap:

Naperville North, last year’s Class 3A state runner-up, is the frontrunner, followed by: 2. Neuqua Valley. 3. Conant. 4. New Trier. 5. Naperville Central. 6. Loyola. 7. York. 8. Plainfield North. 9. Fremd. 10. Waubonsie Valley.

Schaumburg: Sophomore forward Alexa Ben (17 goals, seven assists last year) keys a talented and explosive offense. The Saxons are off to a strong 6-0 start after a 2-1 overtime win over Hersey. Other players to watch are senior midfielders Kelsey Steenstrup, Teagan Eberle and Becky Sneddon and junior forward Jenna Eaker. The Saxons have two dynamite keepers in senior Brooke Schocker and junior Tressa Palcheck.

Elk Grove: The Grens are also flying high and off to a terrific start, not having surrendered a goal in starting the year 4-0. Coach Dan Klaus has two superstars in senior forward Kelli Hubly and senior defender Katie Naughton, a Notre Dame recruit. Sophomore forward Nikki Zaino is also one to watch.

(As a side note: the Mid-Suburban League, or MSL, put two teams, Conant and Fremd, in the Class 3A state finals last year. The league appears even deeper this year.)

Metea Valley: The third-year program returns all 18 players from last year’s team that showed tremendous promise. Junior keeper Megan Geldernick is a star; Holly Krol and Jenna Kentgen are the playmakers to watch.

St. Charles North: “I think we have an excellent balance of strength both offensively and defensively,” coach Ruth Vostal said. Junior midfielder Alex Gage heads a talented team, supported by senior forward Lauren Koehl and sophomore midfielder Alyssa Brandt.

Lyons: The Lions return a strong nucleus from a 20-5-1 team that finished second in the Pepsi Challenge. Senior keeper Maggie Orlowski is a star, and senior midfielder Juliet Lusson and midfielder/defender Sarah Mazur are the ones to watch in the open field.

Lockport: The Porters have had a bit of a rough start to the year, beginning 1-2, because star forward Lexi Cozzi has been out with an injury. Junior forward Ally Brehm, junior defender Brynn Feeley and junior defender Leah Plescia are the other players to watch.

Downers South: After the team’s 2-0 win over the Porters Thursday night, coach Barry Jacobson has 474 career victories. The team suffered a huge blow when sophomore Stephanie Zurales elected to play club this year. Sarrah Ludwig is a physical, dominating player, backed by Jessica Bronke and Flo Beshiri.

Barrington: The Fillies opened with tough losses against the area’s two best teams, Naperville North and Neuqua Valley. Junior forward Molly Pfeiffer is electrifying in the open field. Two sophomore forwards, Elli Ackermann and Mia Calamari, have also impressed in the early going. Senior defender Kathryn Avedon keys the backline.

Sandburg: The Eagles took it on the chin against top-ten Plainfield North Saturday. The Eagles were missing three starters. With a centerpiece in junior midfielder Morgan Manzke, the Eagles are certain to hit their stride, especially as their health recovers.

Homewood-Flossmoor: The Vikings were the surprise of the south suburbs last year. Senior midfielder Ali Farkos returns, bolstered by a blend of returning and talented newcomers.

This list is fluid and ever-changing. The new rankings are out in Monday’s newspaper. Despite the balmy weather, it’s still only March. No team ever won a state title this early.

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