Accam: 'I thought I could do anything on the pitch'

  • Written by Jeff Vorva


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Photo by Jeff Vorva

David Accam is lifted by Matt Polster after the first of Accam’s three goals in a 4-0 victory over Orlando City Saturday night.


David Accam is red hot as he scored a hat-trick in the Chicago Fire’s 4-0 victory over Orlando City Saturday night at Toyota Park in Bridgeview.

He will not get a chance for a repeat, however, when the Fire takes on Vancouver on Saturday as he will be tangling with his Fire teammate, Dax McCarty. Both talented Fire players have been named to their respective national teams.

Accam is set to join Ghana to play a pair of friendlies against Mexico and the United States. McCarty has been selected by head coach Bruce Arena for the United States' final 23-player roster for the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup. Accam and McCarty battle at 3:45 p.m. Saturday at Pratt and Whitney Stadium in East Hartford, Conn.  

Against tired Orlando (7-6-5 and coming off a 1-1 tie with Seattle three days prior), Accam scored twice in the first eight minutes, the first coming off an 18-pass sequence. He added one more in the 52nd minute in front of the delirious announced sellout crowd of 20,000.

 “I thought I could do anything on the pitch, and I just wanted to enjoy myself and help the team win,’’ Accam said. “After my first goal, I just thought I could get more goals and also help the team win."

Accam also assisted Nemanja Nokolic’s Major League Soccer-leading 14th goal of the season, which was the 900th in Chicago Fire history. Goalie Matt Lampson earned his fifth shutout of the season in nine starts after taking over for Jorge Bava in early May.

While a four-goal rout is impressive, the team had chances for more goals with 17 shots overall and seven on-goal. The Fire finished 10-3-4 in the first half of the season one point behind Toronto in the East Division and the seven-game winning streak at home is the second longest in team history.

"I think the progress is fantastic,’’ second second-year coach Veljko Paunovic. “We are keeping a good pace with good results and wins and it's important because other teams also won this weekend and for us we need to understand now that we have to play every game to get points and to get wins and it's not going to be easy.’’

The coach had some warnings about the final 17 games of the campaign.

“At this point nothing is done,’’ he said. “We still have to keep the good streak, the good mood and the confidence we have and we have to understand that in order to earn these kind of situations and confidence that we have now, it took long and it took a lot.

“We have to appreciate it, we have to know that it isn't always going to be like that and when these moments are here, we have to enjoy them but also, we have to use these moments to get better and improve, to work with more joy and more confidence. Right now, we aren't thinking about where we are, right at this point but we are thinking about where we want to be. The first station is the playoffs, we need to keep working for that and keep playing as a team and keep playing like a team that has confidence and give our best in every game like today."

The last time the Fire won by a four-goal margin was May 25, 2008 with a 5-1 result against the New York Red Bulls at Giants Stadium. The last 4-0 win came in that season against the New England Revolution on April 3, 2008.

The Fire has come a long way after posting the worst record in the MLS the past two seasons.

"I think this year we are more dynamic,’’ said Accam, who has 10 goals this season. “I can go on the right, middle, out front, everywhere. For me, it's working really hard. We have players that can play out front or in the middle, so we keep changing to get in good positions. We have players who work for each other and also want to help the team win."



Trophy kids: More hardware just might be coming soon

  • Written by Randy Whalen



Photo by Jeff Vorva

Marist’s softball team finished fourth in the state and, according to some players, had a lot of fun.


EAST PEORIA -- It was a young team that many would say had a great season.

It’s just not the ending that the Marist softball team was looking for.

After losing in the regional title game a year ago, the RedHawks returned to the state finals looking for their second Illinois High School Association state championship in three seasons. Instead they settled for fourth after losing a late lead and falling to Barrington 7-6 in nine innings on Saturday in the Class 4A third-place game at EastSide Centre in East Peoria.

Still it was the third state trophy in six seasons for Marist (25-9), which also won the Class 4A state title in 2012. The Fillies (37-4) tied a school record for most wins in a season and earned their eighth trophy. They have four third place finishes to go along with a pair of seconds and fourths.

"Getting back here was huge for us," Marist coach Colleen Biebel said. "That [fourth place] wasn't how we wanted to finish, but we have a team full of mostly sophomores. This is going to leave a bitter taste in their mouths and we'll be back."

Someone who is expected back is pitcher Angela Zedak (19-7). The sophomore right-hander pitched a pair of complete games at state and had seven strikeouts and three walks in the third place game. But Barrington banged 15 hits off her in the game.

"Barrington can hit, they hit very well," Zedak said. "It's kind of disappointing that we took fourth, but I know we're only losing two people, so there's a lot of returners. Just to get down here is an awesome feeling."

The RedHawks led 6-4 with two out and two on in the top of the seventh, but Rachel Krysko tied the game with a 2-run single to center. Carly Kordich drove home the winning run with a two-out slap single past third in the ninth. Abbey Jacobsen led the Fillies, who had five players with two or more hits. Marist, which had 12 hits, never got a runner past first in the final three innings.

Things started great for Marist with four runs in the first. Zedak and Lexi Voss had RBI hits. Jessica Balich walked to force in a run and Abby Rosynek rapped a sacrifice fly. After Barrington closed within 4-3, Balich added a sacrifice fly in the third. Leading 5-4, Zedak zipped an RBI double to the fence in left-center to score Alexis Rogers but Madison Garofalo was thrown out at home on the play to end the inning.

"We just wanted to go out, play softball and have fun," said Rogers, who will attend the University of Tennessee-Martin next year. "That's what this team did, have fun.

"We have 14 returners and I know they'll back here. They have heart and fight. For me, it was really nice to get back here [to state]. I didn't know if we would, but it was great to know that your last game would be here."

The RedHawks’ two seniors were Rogers and Madison Franks.

"Alexis Rogers was a four-year starter for us and she was the team rock," Biebel said. "And Madison Franks was a nice player and the team mom. She cleaned up after everyone."

In the semifinals, on Friday, June 9, Marist lost 2-0 to Lincoln-Way East. The game was a rematch of the 2015 state title game, which Marist won 1-0. Garofalo and Voss had singles in the top of the first inning, but those were the only two hits off East ace Alex Storako,(eight strikeouts) who retired 13 in a row and 19 of the last 20.

East (30-4) went onto lose 1-0 to defending champion Oak Park/River Forest (37-1) in the title game.


Brown drops a few hits and RedHawks heading back to state

  • Written by Jeff Vorva



Photo by Jeff Vorva

Marist coach Colleen Biebel gets doused with water after her team won the Class 4A Sandburg Supersectional with a 4-1 victory over West Aurora on Monday.  

Marist freshman center fielder Brianna Brown dropped a routine fly ball in what thus far was the most important softball game of the year for the RedHawks.

It happened in the second inning of the Class 4A Sandburg Supersectional on Monday and it allowed West Aurora to take a 1-0 lead.

But the Tinley Park resident more than made up for it the rest of the way. She reached base on a high hopper in the third and a chopper in the fifth and scored both times. She also hit a sacrifice fly in the sixth and the RedHawks are still alive to try to win their third state championship in six years with a 4-1 victory.

Marist (25-7) takes on Lincoln-Way East (27-3) in the state semifinals at 5:30 p.m. Friday at the Eastside Centre in East Peoria. Marist beat East, 7-3, April 11. The RedHawks also beat the Griffins, 1-0, to win the state championship in 2015.

Brown was happy she could make up for the rare error.

“I just lost my balance and was on my heels,” she said. “After something like that, you have to keep your head up.’’

Sophomore winning pitcher Angela Zedak drove in a run and sophomore shortstop Alexis Voss drove in a pair. Senior third baseman Alexis Rogers threw out a runner at home plate in the third inning to prevent West Aurora (32-7) from taking a 2-0 lead in the third.

Rogers was on the 2015 squad and is thrilled to be back.

“That was the most exciting thing in my four years at Marist,” she said. “This is awesome. We’ve played Lincoln-Way East this year and we will have to play great defense to beat them because they can hit the ball. We just have to play great softball.’’

To get to the supersectional, the RedHawks picked up some revenge on the team that shocked them out of the playoff in 2016.

Lyons Township, which knocked off the RedHawks, 5-1 in the Lyons Regional championship game, met up with the RedHawks on Saturday in the Hinsdale South Sectional championship and in perfect synergy, Marist came up with the 5-1 victory.

Voss drove in a pair of first-inning runs to get the offense started and then homered two innings later.

Zedak picked up her 18th win of the season threw a two-hitter and struck out five.

It was Marist’s fourth sectional title.

In the sectional semifinals on May 31, Lyons ended Richards’ season with a 3-0 victory. Seventh-seeded Richards had stunned second-seeded Sandburg in the Hinsdale Central Regional title game on May 27.



Crusaders make best teams in the state sweat

  • Written by Jeff Vorva


Photo by Jeff Vorva

Brother Rice players celebrate a state quarterfinal win over Hinsdale Central on Friday.

The conventional wisdom was that heading into this weekend’s Illinois High School Association State Volleyball Tournament, Glenbard West and Lake Park were the top two teams in the state and were ready to butt heads in the state championship game.

On Saturday morning, Lincoln-Way East had other plans, knocking off Lake Park 25-21, 27-25 in the first semifinal at Hoffman Estates High School.

Then, when Brother Rice opened the second semifinal with a 25-21 win over the two-time defending state champion Hilltoppers, it was looking like conventional wisdom was about to turn into unconventional lunacy. But Glenbard West, which had lost just three sets in two years prior to the Brother Rice setback, came back and squeaked out 25-20, 25-22 victories in the final two sets before moving on the beat Lincoln-Way East in three to claim its third straight state title. 

That set up a Brother Rice-Lake Park battle for third and the Crusaders made the Lancers sweat before falling 21-25, 25-20, 25-16.

The Crusaders, making their first state appearance since 2012 and winning their second state trophy in program history, finished 31-11 on the campaign.

Junior middle hitter Dan Littleton showed he could be a monster next season as he had 10 kills and hit .769 against Lake Park while senior Jimmy Baker had 10 kills and a .364 hitting percentage.

In the semifinals against Glenbard West, junior Kyle Springer had 12 kills, Lewis University-bound Joe Kenzinger had 11 and hit. 500 to go with five blocks while Ryan Banky and Baker each had 10 kills as the Crusaders hit .326.

To get to the trophy round, Rice beat Hinsdale Central, 25-17, 25-20. Springer had 10 kills and Banky nine.

Junior setter Matt O’Donnell spread the wealth around and was credited with 102 assists in the three matches and Baker said that was a key to the team’s success this year.

“Opponents have no idea where the ball is going,” Baker said. “Sometimes we don’t even know where it’s going.’’

Players graduating from this year’s team are Kenzinger, Bankey, Baker, Mike McIntyre, Vito Calace, Brendan Ashley, Cal Konecki and Patrick Hollander. Underclassmen on the playoff roster hoping for another state appearance next year are juniors O’Donnell, Springer, Littleton, Alex Culloton, Tom Kleist, Tom Phelan and Sean Badali.


Regional baseball champs lead to exciting sectional matchups

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

Since the Illinois High School Association baseball pairings came out, it appeared the Class 4A St. Laurence Sectional would be a battle between four Chicago Catholic League South Blue teams.

The league will have to settle for 75 percent. Reavis’s 5-4 shocker over fourth-seeded Mt. Carmel Saturday at Mt. Carmel’s regional squashed those plans.

But three other teams made it.

Top-seeded St. Laurence won its seventh straight regional title but didn’t have an easy time of it with a 3-2 win over Riverside-Brookfield to win the Oak Lawn Regional. Gage Olszak, Mike McCormick and winning pitcher Jimmy Burnette drove in runs for the Vikings (32-5).

Second-seeded Brother Rice improved to 28-9 with a 5-0 victory over Harlan to win the De La Salle Regional. It’s the Crusaders’ second regional title in a row. Ryan Kutt struck out 13 for Brother Rice.

Third-seeded St. Rita beat Lyons, 5-0 with Steve Washilewski pitching the shutout. The Mustangs are playing with some extra incentive as they are hoping for a huge finish in coach Mike Zunica’s final season.

St. Laurence was slated to play Reavis in the Battle of Burbank on Wednesday and Brother Rice is taking on St. Rita at 4 p.m. Thursday. The sectional championship is at 11 a.m. Saturday.

 Sandburg gets shot at the streak

Sandburg won the Class 4A T.F. North Regional with a 5-3 victory over Lockport on Saturday thanks in part to the pitching of Kevin Lane and that set the Eagles up to try to break the most amazing postseason streak in IHSA baseball history.

Sandburg was scheduled to face Providence Catholic in the opening round of the Homewood-Flossmoor Sectional on Wednesday. Providence is the three-time defending Class 4A champ and entered the game winning 23 straight postseason games despite never being able to win a CCL Blue title.

Stagg was the first area team to get a shot at the Celtics in the Andrew Regional semifinals on Thursday and carried a 3-2 lead into the bottom of the sixth inning. But the Celtics scored runs in the sixth and seventh to stun the Chargers.

“That’s what they do,” Chargers coach Matt O’Neill said.