Moraine Valley soccer flying high

  • Written by Jeff Vorva


Sports photo 1


Photo by Glenn Carpenter/MVCC

Erick Carrasco flies high for a kick against the College of Lake County while he and his teammates are flying high winning their first seven games.



Chuck Bales has spent more than 25 years a soccer player and coach.

Al Palar is 25 years old.

The experienced Bales and the youthful Palar are both enjoying perfection so far.

Bales has coached the Moraine Valley Community College men’s soccer team for 21 years and this year the Cyclones started with a 7-0 mark including a 3-1 victory over Malcolm X on Saturday. The Cyclones outscored their opponents, 35-8 in the first seven games.

Palar is in his first year as the Cyclones women’s coach, and they have gone 10-0, including a 16-0 victory over Truman on Saturday. It was Truman’s first women’s game since 2011. The Cyclones outscored their first 10 opponents 50-1.

One of the happiest people for the success of both programs is Palar, who was an assistant coach with Bales for the past two seasons.

“I’m so excited for those guys,” Palar said. “It’s great to see them having the season they are having and we’re doing well, too. We’re getting a lot of support from the men’s team and we are supporting them whenever we can. We’re also getting support from the volleyball team and players from the basketball teams. It’s been fun.’’

It’s hard to build a dynasty in junior college sports because players come and go so frequently. There is either a one- or two-year window with athletes. So far, the stars have aligned for both teams.

“This isn’t a joke team, this is serious,” said men’s soccer player Przemyslaw Tylka, a sophomore from Sandburg, who was an all-Region IV player last year. “We thought we had a pretty good team last year, but we had some injuries and didn’t do as well as we wanted. This year, we have a good combination of returning players and newcomers and we have worked well together.’’

A signature victory in the streak was a 4-3 overtime victory over Morton College on Sept. 22. The Cyclones were down 3-0 at halftime and turned things around as freshman Stefan Mijatovic (York High School) had two goals including the overtime score. Tylka and Alex Alvaraz (Kennedy) added goals and goalie Alan Garcia (Sandburg) kept Morton off the board in the second half and OT.

“We’ve had teams that have gone undefeated in the regular season before, but this group is special,”  Bales said. “There is a lot of talent on this team and we are hoping to get even better to prepare for the postseason.’’

Other sophomore members of the team are Christian Czaja (Lockport), Jose Estrada (Reavis),  Gabriel Martinez (Kennedy), Thomas Nie (Sandburg), Giovanni Sanchez (Eisenhower), Jesus Sandoval (Curie), Rafal Slomba (Reavis), Danny Vallejo (Reavis) and Ivan Velazquez (Reavis).

Other freshmen on the team are Erick Carrasco (Washington), Michell Corona (a Hickory Hills resident who attended Garcia Charter), Tawfik Dayem (from Syria), Byron Duran (Oak Lawn), Rafael Herrera (Morton), Gregorio Illner (from Brazil), Elias Leyva (Addison Trail), Maurizio Mancuso (Sandburg), Jose Martinez (Washington),  Daniel Navar (Morton), John Nowobilski  (a Burbank native who attended St. Rita and UIC) Miguel Ruiz (Kelly), Ryan Temple (Lyons) and Evangelous Vouris (Sandburg).

The women’s team’s signature victory in its streak was a 2-1 victory over Waubonsee Community College Sept. 16. Freshmen Bella Rodriguez (Kelly) and Sintia Salas (Curie) scored the goals in that game. Freshman Kaylyn Egyarto (Sandburg) was the winning goalie.

“We’re playing so much fundamentally better this year,” sophomore Kristina Cysper of Shepard High School said. “And it seems like we’re faster. Waubonsee seemed so much faster last year than this year.’’

Other sophomores on the squad are Liliana Cabrera (Hubbard), Alex Delgado (Reavis), Cecia Esquivel (Eisenhower), Maggie Hacker (Sandburg) and Xitlaly Mandujano (Hubbard),

Other freshmen on the roster are Alex Abed (Stagg), Dalila Alcala (Eisenhower), Francis Corona (Curie), Kourtnie Hanold (Shepard), Alejandra Hernandez (Reavis), Ewelina Kmin (Reavis), Diana Lang (an Orland Park native who attended Marist), Karina Lopez (Reavis), Victoria Paczkowska (Reavis), Lauren Regan (an Oak Lawn resident who attended Mother McAuley), and Paulina Stafira (Stagg)





Yes, Michigan, right away, Michigan

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

Sports photo 2


Photo by Jeff Vorva

Lexi Voss, posing in front of the charging horse inside Stagg High School, has already made a verbal commitment to Michigan even though she is a freshman and hasn’t played an inning of high school softball yet.

By Jeff Vorva

Sports Editor

Palos Park’s Lexi Voss has it all figured out.

She will attend the University of Michigan on a softball scholarship and major in kinesiology.

Now that she has that out of the way, she can turn to more immediate matters…such as finishing the rest of her three years and eight months at Stagg High School.

Before she takes her first swing of the bat in a high school game or plays her first varsity inning, the freshman already verbally accepted an offer from a program that finished second in the nation in softball in the spring. She won’t be able to officially sign until her senior year, but right now there is a spot waiting for her in 2019-2020.

Thanks to Voss’s play with the Beverly Bandits travel team and getting invited to elite camps, Michigan saw the right-handed outfielder.  Coaches made her an offer during a Sept. 21 visit to the Ann Arbor campus, which included taking in Michigan’s 28-7 football victory over UNLV.  It didn’t take long for her to make her decision.

“I called them that Monday to take the offer,” she said. “I was astonished to be offered by Michigan. I knew that I had a chance to play college softball somewhere. I just didn’t know what level I would be playing at. As I got older, I knew I wanted to go to a Division I college, but I never expected Michigan.’’

Now comes the hard part.

Every time she makes an error or doesn’t reach base, there will be some whispers and pointing from the stands. That’s the girl going to Michigan? Really?

Voss said she knows that is a part of the deal and accepts it.

“I know there is going to be stuff said but I don’t take that seriously,” she said. “I am just going to go out and work hard and if I make an error I’ll just shake it off. I don’t care what anyone else has to say.’’

Voss said she is one of 32 softball players from the class of 2019 that she is aware of who committed to a Division I college.

She was coached on the Bandits last year by Ramsey Harkness and Laura Harms and Harkness has concerns about players who sign this early but thinks all will turn out well in Voss’s case.

“There are so many things that can happen in four years,” Harkness said. “It’s a gamble for some players. There is nothing binding from either side. But Michigan liked Alexis’s size and hitting ability and she’s such a well-grounded kid that I think this will work out well.  Just the other day, I called her about her decision and she was out working on her game. She is dedicated.’’

Voss comes from an athletic family. Her father, Keith, played football at Chicago Christian while her mother, Becky was a cheerleader at Oak Lawn High School.

Lexi got into the sport five years ago when her friend Allison Van Nieuwenhuyse coaxed her to try it out. After a few years with rec ball and travel ball, Voss joined the Bandits two years ago and “that’s when everything blew up,” she said.

On the field, her ultimate goal is to play softball beyond college – possibly the Olympics. Off the field, her ultimate goal is to become a neurosurgeon.

For now, she is going to try to enjoy her next four years at Stagg and with the Bandits.

“I love this sport so much and I really like the challenge of hitting,” she said. “I love stepping into the box and eyeing the pitcher. I love that feeling.’’


Jeff Vorva's Extra Point: You think we have some wild scores? Well...

  • Written by Jeff Vorva



Each week, it seems like my eyes almost pop out of my head when I see St. Laurence ring up 70 points or Marist and its opponents go toe to toe in 45-28 and 49-42 shootouts.

We’ve had some wild games, to be sure, this season but this area isn’t alone in cornering the market in unbelievable scores.

In our own state, Rockford Lutheran beat Winnebago 49-6 on Sept. 18. That was known as the nailbiter out of its first four games.

The Crusaders opened the season with a 62-7 over Quincy Notre Dame. They followed it up with a 76-7 triumph over Rockford Christian.

Then on Sept. 11, the Crusaders allowed Dixon to rack up 28 points on them! They scored 95.

Meanwhile, they have this stud running back, James Robinson, who rushed for 202 yards in a little over two quarters against Winnebago. He stood 647 yards away from 8,477, which is the state record for career rushing yards set by Westville’s Caleb Pratt. Robinson already has the touchdown mark after scoring his 116th against Quincy.

Meanwhile in Pennsylvania on Sept. 11, DuBois scored 90 points in a game but couldn’t be accused of running the score up because it LOST by more than two touchdowns.

Visiting Meadville beat DuBois 107-90 and this wasn’t some 7-on-7 game. Meadville ran a Wing-T. Dubois ran a spread offense.

“I’ll tell you what, the fans that paid their $5 to come see this game certainly got their money’s worth,” Meadville coach Ray Collins told the Meadville Tribune. What you had was two very good offenses teeing up on each other. But neither team brought their defense.’’

DuBois sophomore quarterback Matt Miller threw for 785 yards – a national high school record --and 10 touchdowns.

It was also a long journey for Meadville running back Journey Brown who had 30 carries for 722 yards and 10 touchdowns but missed the national mark of 754 yafds. Two other Meadville backs ran for 91 or more yards.

The game lasted 3 ½ hours, which doesn’t seem all that long compared to some games that we’ve had here in the area. There were 1,827 yards of offense and unofficially 8,743 curse words from the defensive coordinators.

The wildest game I ever covered was the 2011 Class 5A state championship game in which Montini beat Joliet Catholic 70-45 in Champaign. Ty Isaac, who is now making big runs at Michigan, ran for 515 yards and six touchdowns in a losing effort.

The winning quarterback threw for 587 yards and his name is familiar around this area – current SXU quarterback John Rhode, who won back-to-back Offensive Player of the Week honors from the Mid-States Football Association.

That is one game I will never forget.

But its peanuts compared to some of the things going on in Rockford and DuBois.

Wouldn’t the first thing you do…?

You may have noticed a new name in our sports section covering football games.

Phil Arvia, an award-winning columnist and former sports editor of the Southtown-Star, will be on board working for us and it should be an interesting ride.

We have competed against each other in the past. We worked together in the past. We cussed each other and have hurled out some pretty hurtful insults in the past. And for a short time, he was actually my boss and I was hoping he didn’t remember some of the hurtful insults I had hurled at him.

Now I am his boss and the first thing he did after I gave him my cell phone number was send a hurtful text to me. And I laughed myself silly.

Anyway, one of the things he used to do as a know-it-all columnist was scold the hard-working beat writers with a “Wouldn’t the first thing you do…?’’ crack at us when he didn’t think we were doing our job. Whenever he got too wound up over something when he was a columnist – which was usually any day that ended in a “y,” I would tell him “Just have fun with it.’’

In 2011, he and Steve McMichael had their hands in writing “Amazing Tales from the Chicago Bears Sideline: A Collection of the Greatest Bears Stories Ever Told.’’  As of this writing, this amazing book ranked 652,978 on Amazon and there were some used copies available for 8 cents.

I’ll break character here for a second and say this: Arvia is perfect for what we are trying to do here. He will give you great insight on a game or team. He’s entertaining and offbeat and a hell of a writer. I am lucky to have him on my staff and I believe that our readers are lucky is on the staff.

Now I hope he listens to me and has fun with it…

Charley is her name and volleyball is her game

  • Written by Jeff Vorva


Photo by Jeff Vorva

Charley Niego, a sophomore at Mother McAuley, is developing into a force for the Mighty Macs.


Yes, Charley is her real name.

It’s not Charlene, Charlotte or even Chardonnay that has been nicked down to Charley. It’s really Charley.

The Mother McAuley sophomore was named after her father, Charlie Niego, and it may cause a little confusion at times.

“A lot of people ask me what my real name is,” she said. “But I like it. It’s really unique. It’s like a one-of-a-kind name for a girl.’’

Interestingly, does list Charley as a girls’ name as well as Charlie, Charli and Charly.

And if the name Charlie Niego rings a bell, he was a part of the famous Niego family that had had seven out of eight kids playing basketball at either De La Salle or Maria in high school and Lewis Unviersity in college. The basketball exploits of the Niego family were featured in Sports Illustrated in 1986.

Which begs the second question – how in the world was Charley Niego allowed to play a sport other than basketball?

Well, her mother is Therese Boyle-Niego who was such a strong player at the south side volleyball factory that she had her number – 5 – retired and it is on the wall near the entrance of the Mighty Macs’ gym.

“I played basketball but I really didn’t like it that much,” Charley Niego said. “I really liked volleyball.’’

And what happened when she had to say “Sorry Charlie” to her dad and let it be known to her hoop-crazy uncles that she was playing volleyball?

“They didn’t care about that – their daughters also play volleyball,” she said.

It’s a new generation of Niegos.

Macs coach Jen DeJarld allowed Niego the choice of wearing No. 5, which had been retired for more than 20 years.

“It’s an honor,” Charley Niego said. “It’s kind of cool to come into the gym and see it up there.’’

The 6-foot Niego has quickly emerged as a dangerous outside hitter for the Mighty Macs. She was erratic at times during the team’s 25-15, 18-25, 25-20 win over rival Marist on Sept. 15 but many of her nine kills came at times when the Macs were trying to put the RedHawks away in the first and third games.

“She’s a warrior,” DeJarld said. “The bigger the game, the bigger she plays. I think against a team like Marist, the nerves can kick in and the crowd is rough. They say some things. Sometimes it’s hard to deal with for a young kid. She’s an amazing player. She’s going to be a great player for us in the next two years.’’

DeJarld has a special place in her heart for the former outside hitter at McAuley – her daughter Ryann. Ryann was a kill and dig machine for the Mighty Macs and is now a freshman libero at Notre Dame. Niego has big shoes to fill and is making a pretty good early impression on her coach.

“She has filled a role for my daughter Ryann very well,” the coach said. “Ryann was a very steady player and an all-around player. Charley filled those shoes and she reminds me a lot of Ryann.’’

Kayla Caffey had five kills, Jane DeJarld had 24 assists and Emma Reilly had 18 digs for McAuley against Marist. Cameron Enright pounded down 10 kills for Marist and teammate Emily Graf added nine.

Photo by Jeff Vorva

Charley Niego, a sophomore at Mother McAuley, is developing into a force for the Mighty Macs.

This is one fine-ite family

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

In math, there is a term called a finite number.

This is a number that is real, although impossible to calculate.

For instance, there is a finite number of every blade of grass in Illinois, but good luck finding it.

What we have here in the area sporting world is something similar.

Oak Lawn’s Pat Niego has eight children and 30 grandchildren. Some have made their marks in sports. Some are making their marks in athletics right now. A few are too young.

Many have starred on the grade school and high school level and some did well on the college level. Most played basketball

So, the big question is: how many sporting events has Pat Niego seen over the years?

Good luck finding THAT answer.

“I have no idea,” she said. “I can’t even think about it. That’s just way, way, way too many. The boys played in grammar school in two or three different leagues. It was like three or four games a week sometime. Thousands, at least. I don’t know. I can’t count them.’’

She’s seen a variety of sports from the pee-wee level to college level. She couldn’t come up with what the biggest game she ever attended.

“All of the games are exciting and important,” she said diplomatically.

Pat and her husband Ron, who died 28 years ago, raised eight kids –Charlie, Tom, Mary, Terri, Joe, Mark, Nancy and Quinn.

Charlie, Tom, Joe and Mark played at De La Salle and were starters on Lewis University’s basketball team that was ranked in the top 10 in Division II in 1985-86 and Sports Illustrated did a story on them that appeared Jan. 20, 1986. By the way, the cover story was of Jim McMahon and the Bears going to the Super Bowl.

Mary, Terri and Nancy also played hoops at Lewis after prepping at Maria.

Quinn, who was 13 at the time of the SI story, told the magazine he was not interested in the sport. “I eat popcorn.’’ he said.

Now those eight are grown up and have kids of their own.

Thirty to be exact.

So far.

Some are making their mark in basketball and other sports.

Joe’s son, Harrison, was a top player for Lyons Township and is a preferred walk-on freshman at Indiana University.

Charlie’s son, Quinn, is playing basketball for St. Xavier University after a stint at Brother Rice.

Mary’s son, Willie McNamara plays football at Dartmouth. She had another son, Tom McNamara, played football at Northwood University in Michigan.

A host of volleyball stars figure to come from this clan with Charlie’s daughter, Charley, a sophomore at Mother McAuley who is making an impact on one of the best programs in the state, leading the way.

This new generation of Niegos figures to be around for a while. But think about this -- when these 30 have kids and those kids have kids…

Ron and Pat Niego started a dynasty and how many years Niegos will be starring in sports will be a big-time finite number.

niego tree