SXU ready for wild rematch with Morningside

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

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Photo by Jeff Vorva

SXU running back Mike Ivlow ran for 233 yards – the second most in school history – in Saturday’s first-round win over Grand View.



It’s one thing to rack up early double-digit deficits to St. Ambrose, St. Francis (Illinois) and Olivet Nazarene University during the regular season and make comebacks for wins.

It’s another to get down 10 points to a nationally ranked team in the first round of the NAIA playoffs on a cold, windy, rainy and snowy day.

But St. Xavier University’s football team knows how to play catch-up and, like it did against the aforementioned trio, dominated the rest of the way as it beat Grand View University, 39-23, in the first round of the NAIA Championship Series in front of an announced crowd of 1,000 fans at Deaton Field in Chicago on Saturday afternoon.

The eighth-ranked Cougars (10-1) visit third-seeded Morningside College (12-0) at noon Saturday at Olsen Stadium in Sioux City, Iowa, in the quarterfinals. The last time these two teams hooked up was a snowy first-round playoff game in 2015 and Morningside won a wild 75-69 game in four overtimes.

Early in the Grand View game, the Cougars had to stay on the ground because of the weather conditions and were able to open up the passing game in the second half. Senior Mike Ivlow ran 34 times for 233 yards and caught a touchdown pass for 36 yards. He even booted a 53-yard punt on a day that saw three Cougars record punts. Alex Martinez threw for 207 yards and three touchdowns.

“It was almost impossible to punt and throwing the ball was a nightmare, too,” SXU coach Mike Feminis said. “We gave up the lead but told the guys to ‘stay the course, stay the course.’ I couldn’t be prouder.’’

Ivlow remembered losing 41-37 in the regular season to Grand View his freshman season and looked forward to this rematch.

“We have to do whatever we have to do to win,” Ivlow said. “I couldn’t be happier with this win. This is one of those games where I really wanted to beat these guys really bad. We get another week of football and that’s all you can ask for.’’

Grand View (9-3) entered the game averaging 512.7 yards per game but the Cougars defense held the Vikings to 332 yards. Tim Walsh racked up two interceptions, Josh Hettinger had 15 tackles and Tionte McDaniel added 12. The defense recorded eight tackles for loss for 34 yards.

Morningside is averaging 52.3 points and 585.7 yards per game. The Mustangs opened the season with a 41-24 victory over St. Francis (Illinois), a team SXU beat 30-28. Morningside advanced to the quarterfinals with a 63-7 victory over Sterling.

Senior running back Bubba Jenkins has 1,904 yards rushing and 26 touchdowns for the Mustangs this season while junior quarterback Trent Solsma has thrown for 3,665 yards and 48 TDs.      

Other quarterfinal pairings for Saturday are Northwestern (Iowa) at St. Francis (Ind.), Georgetown (Kentucky) at Reinhardt (Georgia) and Southern Oregon at Lindsey Wilson (Kentucky). Northwestern, Georgetown and St. Xavier are the only teams still alive with losses.


Area college signings

  • Written by Jeff Vorva



Photo by Jeff Vorva

Mother McAuley’s Charley Niego has a little fun after signing her volleyball letter-of-intent to Notre Dame.

Mother McAuley outside hitter Charley Niego had her heart set on going to Notre Dame for two years.

She made her verbal decision her sophomore year.

Sometimes early commitments don’t work out. Coaches change. Players may get injured or regress in their skills.

But this wasn’t one of those cases. Everything went as planned.

Niego, who helped lead the Mighty Macs to a state and national championship her junior season, made it official as she inked her letter-of-intent Thursday in front of the volleyball trophy case in the lobby near the gym.

“It’s a great school academically and athletically,” Niego said. “It’s a Catholic school, so that was a plus. I have visited there and watched the team and their style of play is like mine – very competitive. They are really dedicated and they care so much about the sport and so much about the athletes.

“They want to make volleyball at Notre Dame a great sport and I really want to be a part of that.’’

The Irish won 17 of its first 25 matches this year.

Niego will be teammates with former McAuley star Ryann DeJarld, who is currently a junior libero and the daughter of McAuley coach Jen DeJarld.

Irish coach Jim McLaughlin can’t wait to get Niego on campus.

“I wish Charley was here today,” he said. “I always said to win championships, you have to have a lot of good volleyball players. Charley has a complete set skill at this point in her development and has very good physical ability.

“Her arm is fast and she hits a very heavy ball. But what I appreciate most about her is her intensity and energy. The best players I’ve coached have had a unique level of intensity and energy. Charley has that special gift and if she uses it correctly, there will be no limits on how far she takes her abilities.’’

On the same week she signed, Niego also found out she was named a first-team All-American in the Under Armour All-America Match, which takes place Dec. 15 in Kansas City.

She was one of 24 players to make the squad and is the first player in McAuley’s rich history to earn a spot on the team.

Several other athletes took advantage of the fall signing period to officially make their choices.

Sandburg had its usual small army of signees including five baseball players.

Branden Comia (Illinois),  Andrew DeMatteo (Augustana), Ryan Hampe (UIC), Andrew Tenison (Lewis) and Evan Tenuta (Notre Dame) took part in a signing ceremony at the Orland Park school on Nov. 8.

In softball, Heather Vetter signed with Aurora University and Ashley Wood signed with Southern Illinois University.

Before heading to the Illinois High School Association Class 4A state semifinals, Marist volleyball player Savannah Thompson took time to sign her letter of intent to Central Michigan University.

Brother Rice’s baseball team had four signees – Sam Jones (Indiana), Patrick Hayes (Illinois State), Brandon Mahoney (Carthage College) and Joey Payton (Central Michigan University).

At Chicago Christian, volleyball player Danie Tyson signed with Kent State University.

Roosevelt University grabbed area softball stars Kelly Farmer (Evergreen Park), Kassie Kawka (Stagg) and Haley Getz (Evergreen Park).

Shepard softball player Jessica Coyle signed with the University of Dubuque.

If we missed any signees, let us know at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and we will publish them in future editions.



Moraine enjoys cider celebration after earning third national soccer bid

  • Written by Jeff Vorva


Photo by Jeff Vorva

Moraine Valley women’s soccer players spray each other with sparkling cider Sunday to celebrate a sparkling 5-2 victory over Waubonsee on Sunday to win the Region IV title and qualify for nationals for the third straight year.

In the first half, there was rain.

After the match, there was champagne.

Well, actually it was Martinelli’s Gold Medal sparkling cider, but it had the same vibe of a champagne celebration Sunday afternoon after Moraine Valley Community College’s women’s soccer team beat Waubonsee 5-2 Sunday in Palos Hills to win the Region IV tournament and advance to the National Junior College Athletic Association Division I National Championship for the third year in a row.

Pool play begins Monday in Melbourne, Fla.  As of this paper’s deadline, the field was not seeded.

Moraine is ranked 14th in the nation and brings in a 17-0 mark and this is the third time that third-year coach Al Palar has taken an unbeaten team to the nationals. But the Cyclones were 0-4 and outscored 16-2 in those matches.

Palar thinks that could change this year.

“The last two years we were successful because we had one or two difference makers and quite a few role players,” he said. “This year, we have a complete team. We defend really well and every match we create (offensive) chances and we’ve beaten a ranked team already (Parkland College, 2-1 in overtime on Sept. 2) and that’s the type of team we will see at the national tournament.’’

Palar earned the Region IV Coach of the Year Award and Brooke Janeczek was named the Player of the Year. The freshman who played at Lockport High School scored 25 goals during the regular season for the Cyclones and she said that was a huge surprise.

“I played defense until my junior year and then I played forward and I scored a few goals but this is kind of new for me,” she said. “I didn’t know that this was in me.’’

Janeczak scored two goals in Sunday’s win while freshmen Samantha Moran (Sandburg), Karen Montoya (Eisenhower) and Bedour Elbeitoni (Stagg) also scored goals against Waubonsee.  The Cyclones beat Waubonsee buy the same 5-2 score during the regular season.

Other players on the squad are sophomore Edith Benitez (Reavis), freshman Zaida Chacon (Queen of Peace), freshman Claire Collevy (Marist), freshman Sylvia Kordaczka (Lockport), Zulma Montoya (Eisenhower),   freshman Yesenia Perez (Eisenhower) , sophomore Grace Rollins (Oak Forest), freshman Patricia Rzadkosz (Reavis), sophomore Jillian Steinke (Andrew), sophomore Eve Stolzenbach (Beecher), freshman Abby Tiemersma (Chicago Christian), and freshman Jennifer Warja (Andrew).

Palar grew up in Plainfield and was a four-year starter at St. Xavier University. He helped the Cougars make it to the NAIA nationals his junior season.


Jeff Vorva's Extra Point -- Long season comes to quick end for Fire

  • Written by Jeff Vorva


Photo by Jeff Vorva

A worn out Bastian Schweinsteiger wipes his face after the loss to the Red Bulls. There is some speculation that this was the German star’s final game in a Fire uniform. 


Is that all there is?


Chicago Fire management started re-tooling a roster that had finished with the worst record in Major League Soccer since November.

Then there was the long season from March through October -- a season which saw the team with an 11-3-5 mark on July 5 and tied Toronto with the best record in MLS. A team that made the playoffs for the first time since 2012. A season in which the Fire drew 20,000 or more fans six times at home. A season that saw the Men in Red seeded third in the East Division and they got to host a playoff game on Oct. 25 at Toyota Park in Bridgeview.



And about those playoffs?

Is that all there is?

I was kind of hoping the playoffs would be special. But it really wasn’t much of anything. There was an empty feeling after a 4-0 loss to the sixth-seeded New York Red Bulls in front of a so-so crowd of 11,647.

The Fire continued to show that on the Chicago sports food chain, it is a distant fifth. With the exception of the rabid soccer fans on social media, hardly anyone was talking about the playoff game twixt the Fire and New York Red Bulls in the knockout round of the playoff.

Until Sunday, night, we didn’t even know who, what, when and where this game would be played. So I don’t blame the fans for not showing up. There was little heads up.

Heading to the game, I listened to the radio and a WSCR update never mentioned there was even a Fire game being played. Most sports fans in my circles didn’t even know there was a playoff game.

The Fire was most noted for signing German star Bastian Schweinsteiger and he played just 25 minutes in the second half of the knockout game and 44 for the final six games of the year because of injuries. Speculation is that he might not be back next year and this may have been his last game in a Fire uniform.

The other major story of the year was Nemanja Nikolic’s goal explosion as he set a team record and earned the MLS’s Golden Boot with 24 goals. But he, like the team, was blanked in the final regular game of the season (a 3-0 loss to Houston) and the knockout game.

Social media posters, who have been quick to praise the team when things were going well, have been quick to turn on second-year coach Veljko Paunovic because of the way things ended. He took the brunt of the blame for the loss.

“It's my fault obviously it's my fault,” he said. “If there was anyone to blame it's me. We all can do better." 

Promising newcomer Djordje Mihailovic of Lemont went down with an ACL injury that is so bad, he is expected to miss a chuck of next season as well.

So making the playoffs wasn’t all that much fun.

But it was a fun season. I would not trade it for 2016 or any of those losing seasons since the team made the playoffs in 2012. I don’t know if the Schweinsteiger signing was the failure some critics claim it is, but when he was signed March 31, it energized this club and the wins piled up.

Signing Nikolic and Dax McCarty were successes. Losing people such as Michael De Leeuw and John Goossens to injury were tough breaks.

The bottom line is that this team wasn’t built for a championship. It was built to improve and that’s what it did. In that regard, the season was a success.

Now General Manager Nelson Rodriguez will hope to wheel and deal the team up another level.

And what about Basti?

"As Nelson Rodriguez said, we are in talks, we will see, it's the same like with any player here,’’ Schweinsteiger said.

The needle is pointing up on this team, but it’s a crazy league in which successful teams can turn mediocre in one season.

I’ll enjoy the fact that this team went from awful to pretty good in a year and feasted, even if the ending featured a lot of empty calories.


Evergreen Park's senior moments help rock Oak Lawn

  • Written by Phil Arvia

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Photo by Jeff Vorva

For a second or two, a referee is able to match Evergreen Park’s Jalen Lynch stride-for-stride but Lynch passed the ref and the Oak Lawn defense in a 61-yard run in the Mustangs’ 49-24 shocker over Oak Lawn Friday night. 


Four years ago, Evergreen Park’s current seniors arrived expecting one thing, and in the seasons since have mostly gotten something else.

Friday, Oak Lawn visited the Mustangs expecting to make a bit of history, but may have instead become a page in someone else’s scrapbook.

With a wild, 49-24 win on Senior Night, Evergreen Park may not have stolen the Spartans’ mantle as a South Suburban Red team on the rise. But at the very least, the Mustangs, whose seniors saw their forebears go 10-1 when they were eighth graders and reach the 4A semifinals the year before that, sense a reversal of fortunes that had them sliding from 6-4 to consecutive records of 3-6 their sophomore and junior seasons. With Friday’s win, they improved to 3-5 overall, won their first conference battle and broke a five-game losing streak but are not eligible for the Illinois High School Association playoffs.

“We’re not going to make it this year, but in a couple of years we’ll be back in the playoffs,” senior defensive lineman Robert Hicks said. “I feel like our program has definitely taken a step in the right direction.”

“Starting with this game, this is the start of our program — we’re going to be good in the future,” senior wideout Bomani Robinson said. “We lost our playoffs, we wanted to take theirs.”

Indeed, Evergreen Park may have dealt a death blow to the postseason hopes of the Spartans (4-4, 2-3). Oak Lawn last won five games in 2009, the last of its eight playoff berths in the school’s 64 seasons of football.

Now, the Spartans have to beat crosstown rival Richards (6-2, 5-0) to even be considered for an at-large berth, which are awarded based on opponent wins — and Oak Lawn entered the week tied for the lowest such total in its conference.

“We’re making progress,” said third-year Spartans coach Nick Novak, whose first two teams went 1-8 and 3-6. “But sometimes you move a boulder, sometimes a little pebble.”

Evergreen Park rocked it on this occasion. Though Oak Lawn rallied from a 21-7 deficit last year to beat them, this time the Mustangs barely blinked when their 21-3 lead at the 8:27 mark of the third quarter turned into 24-21 deficit 6 1/2 minutes later.

On the first play of the fourth quarter, sophomore quarterback Jack Manso connected on a deep ball up the hash marks to Trevon Woods, who turned it into a 35-yard touchdown. It was the third touchdown pass of the day for Manso (9-of-19, 277 yards) and gave Evergreen Park the lead for good.

“Jack comes out and plays like he wants to win,” said Robinson, who had touchdown catches of 31 and 24 yards among his six grabs for 172 yards. “He acts more like a senior than most of us on the team.”

In less than five minutes, Evergreen scored three times more to end the suspense: on a 2-yard run by Dave Torres after Oak Lawn botched a punt snap; an eight-yard Myron Harris run; and a 10-yard interception return from Karlton Carpenter.

“It was a perfect Senior Night,” Manso said. “It was the seniors’ last game here.  I love to play good for them — I didn’t want to ruin it for them.”

Manso didn’t, guiding a surprisingly vertical passing attack.

“We haven’t passed in the past like that,” Manso said. “Today, we saw no safety back, so we figured, ‘Hey, let’s throw the ball deep.’”

“We took what they gave us,” EP coach Jerry Verde said. “And they were giving us Bomani on the outside.”

It was probably in an effort to slow Jalen Lynch. The senior running back took Evergreen’s first play from scrimmage 61 yards for a touchdown and finished his day with 180 yards on 18 carries.

Robinson’s first scoring grab, with 4:45 left in the first quarter, made it 14-0. Donal Nugent had a 38-yard field goal to cut it to 14-3 early in the second.

It was 21-3 when the Spartans rallied, scoring on a 56-yard screen pass from Mark Virruso to Nick Puente, a 55-yard return of a blocked field goal by Jalan Gaines and a 10-yard interception return by Jaime Marinez.

Puente, who went over 1,000 yards rushing for the season, finished with 112 tough yards on 27 carries. Virruso went 10-of-19 for 107 yards, but in the Spartans’ option game managed only three yards on the ground.

“Our key was stop (Puente),” Robinson said. “Our next key was stop the quarterback. Read the option, flow to the ball.”

The Mustangs finish their season at Tinley Park. Verde, who won the 2012 6A title at Crete-Monee before moving to his alma mater, Marian Catholic, for three seasons, is grateful for the steps his team has taken in two seasons at Evergreen Park.

“I wish we were playing to get to the playoffs, but we’re not,” Verde said. “Still, these kids have been great. They show up to do the work every day. We’re in a great community that’s really supportive of us — I mean, Week 8, no playoff hopes, the kind of crowd we had, that’s impressive — I feel blessed to be here, truly.”