Written by Anthony Nasella
With a pair of shutouts to its credit last week, Shepard’s girls’ soccer team moved two steps closer to a South Suburban Conference Red championship.
The Lady Astros (9-4) maintained their grip on first place as the league schedule got reduced to four matches. And Shepard coach Scott Wilkins couldn’t be happier with how his squad is proceeding.
“We’ve been really playing good lately,” he said. “We were having some challenges getting things going earlier in the season, but I think we’re going the right way. Everybody is starting to understand their roles and those who are assuming roles of leadership.”
The Lady Astros’ first whitewash came against Argo, which dropped a 2-0 SSC Red verdict. Netminder Heather Banis was credited with the shutout, while Tiffani and Christina Kotas supplied Shepard’s goals.
Tiffani Kotas scored before intermission and Christina Kotas added her goal shortly after the second half got underway.
“Tiffani and Christina are providing outstanding senior leadership,” Wilkins said. “Both of them are scoring a lot of goals this year and both are really stepping up as outside midfielders for us. After their goals, we played good defense and kept the possession of the ball really well.
“We were really happy with our second-half effort. When we’re able to control the ball, it usually works out well for us.”
Fresh off that success, the Lady Astros kept the momentum going against Joliet West on Saturday as they registered a 1-0 triumph behind Kelly Evancich’s marker and more strong goaltending from Banis, who made three saves en route to notching her fifth shutout of the year.
Evancich’s goal came halfway through the first half, when Shepard had the wind at its back.
“It was a real windy game,” Wilkins said. “We were playing against the wind in the second half, so we were just trying to keep the ball on the ground and keep possession of it. We did a great job again in the second half.”
Wilkins said he has been pleased with Evancich’s season-long performance, which has resulted in 11 goals to date.
“Kelly has really stepped up and taken on a significant offensive role this year,” he said. “The goals that she has scored have been solid.”
Also shining for Shepard has been Banis, who missed her freshman year after tearing her ACL in the season’s second match. She played basketball this winter for Shepard and has maintained her athletic edge by competing in soccer.
“Heather has been doing a solid job for us,” Wilkins said. “We’re hoping she’ll be around for the next couple of years. She provides good leadership and knows how to control things in front of her.”
Next up for the Lady Astros are matches versus Oak Lawn and Bremen, which could help determine Shepard’s ultimate fate within the SSC Red.
“We have four more conference games left,” Wilkins said. “Hopefully, we can wrap the conference up in the next couple of games.”
Sandburg also won twice via shutout last week as it blanked Homewood-Flossmoor 2-0 in a SouthWest Suburban Conference Blue match and edged Benet Academy 2-0 in a Thursday nonconference encounter at Wheaton North.
Emily Osoba and Sam Messina did the scoring for the Lady Eagles (7-2-1, 3-0) versus the Lady Vikings, while Jayna Kozlowski and Rachel Mokersky took care of the offensive business against the Lady Redwings.
Behind goals from Hannah Henderson and Erin O’Leary, Stagg (4-4-2, 2-0) defeated Joliet West 5-2 in an SWSC Blue match on Thursday.
Stagg dropped a hard-fought, three-set verdict to Lockport after winning Game 1 of the SWSC Blue match. The Porters prevailed 25-27, 25-19, 25-22.
Trevor Crain put down 10 kills for the Chargers, while Trevon Velasco was also strong along the net with six blocks. Nick Stanek dished out 28 assists and Sean Runyon finished with 18 digs.
Ivan Magana’s nine kills and two service aces led visiting Shepard (6-12, 1-2) to a 25-23, 26-28, 25-18 triumph over TF United last Thursday. Dave Prince added three solo blocks for the Astros in the SSC crossover match.
BOYS’ WATER POLO
Sandburg’s attempt to win the Brother Rice Tournament fell short on Saturday night, as it lost 9-8 to Lockport.
The Eagles (17-6) found themselves behind 2-0 after the first quarter before fighting back to tie the game at 4-all by halftime. Zach Roper (five goals) spurred Sandburg’s comeback and also inched it in front by tallying in the opening minute of the second half.
The Porters responded with three straight goals, but the Eagles forged another deadlock at 7-all when Majd Ibrahim scored with 4:07 left in regulation. However, Lockport got the final say with two more tallies in the remaining time.
Roper did put Sandburg in a position to tie with a goal, but a turnover in the last 18 seconds dashed any hopes the Eagles had of creating the need for overtime.
Stagg beat Bradley-Bourbonnais (14-10) and Lincoln-Way Central (11-8) in a pair of SWSC crossover affairs last week.
Connor Kaufmann netted five goals and Zack Amendola scored four times to lift the host Chargers past the Boilermakers. Lane Hollin made 17 saves for Stagg.
Amendola netted six goals and Holin was credited with 13 saves to lead the Chargers in their other win.
GIRLS’ WATER POLO
Stagg dropped a 13-1 decision to Lincoln-Way Central in an SWSC crossover last Wednesday.
After getting shut out by Lemont in an SSC crossover last Tuesday, Shepard rebounded to take down Riverside-Brookfield 4-2 on Wednesday. Among Wednesday’s winners were the No. 1 doubles tandem of Brian Spoon-Kyle McNamara.
Shepard won four relays en route to securing the team crown with 184 points at Friday’s Richards Invitational. Marist (127) was second and Eisenhower (81) third in the eight-team meet.
The Lady Astros finished first in the 400-meter relay (49.6 seconds), 800-relay (1:48.2), 1,600-relay (4:12.5) and 3,200-relay (10:16). Individual winners for Shepard included Zipporah Allbritton in the 400 (1:03.7) and Jada Jackson in the discus (117 feet, 9 inches).
Sandburg finished fourth at its own 11-school invitational last Thursday by scoring 54 points. Meet-champion Lincoln-Way East had 160 points, and Thornton (75) and Mother McAuley (62) also bettered the Lady Eagles’ total.
Supplying first-place finishes for Sandburg were Casey Jensen in the 1,600 (5:33.87) and Rayphina Foma’i in the shot put (35-1).
Shepard defeated Argo 15-0 in an SSC Red match last Wednesday.