Photos by Jeff Vorva
MARIST – Marist’s Lizzie Annerino and the RedHawks hope to keep raising softball hardware in 2016 as they defend their Class 4A state title.
Welcome to the high school spring sports season.
I call it the Rodney Dangerfield Season of sports because it doesn’t get as much respect as some of the sports in the fall and winter.
The two biggest sports are baseball and softball and not only are they beholden to the weather, many of their games start at around 4 or 4:30 p.m. Not a lot of student support. Not a lot of parent support either, until the later innings after many of them get out of work.
There is boys and girls track, boys tennis and girls soccer – again, not big-time draws.
Some people snicker at the remaining sports – boys and girls water polo, boys volleyball, boys gymnastics and girls badminton.
The other negative is that many of the state tournaments are held after school is out. Students are either on vacation or aren’t thinking about high school events as they enjoy the start of their long break.
So for the next couple of months, we will try to inject some glamor in sports that probably won’t draw thousands of fans, but that should be easy. Whether a team or athlete plays a big-time sport such as football or a seldom-watched sports such as badminton, there are great stories to tell. And we hope to tell as many as we can.
A few spring sports got rolling on March 7 and all of the others started on Monday. Inside this issue, we have a photo page dedicated to a Shepard-Stagg boys water polo match. And here on the front page, we have a look at some of last year’s spring thrills and some things to look out for this year:
Marist became the first two-time Class 4A champion when it beat Lincoln-Way East, 1-0, last year. The RedHawks also won in 2012.
Can the RedHawks become the first softball team since Glenbard South (2012-13 in Class 3A) to win back-to-back titles? They lost some firepower especially with the graduation of pitcher/slugger Zariya Gonzalez but Emily Reilly returns. She was put on the spot in the Lisle Supersectional and picked up a relief win against Downers Grove South to advance to the state semifinals. Reilly also hit .471 on the season.
Regional champions Mother McAuley and Sandburg (which finished second in the state in Class 4A in 2014) are going to be dangerous and keep an eye out for Shepard, which lost 1-0 in 13 innings to Hinsdale Central in a regional championship game.
In Class 3A, Evergreen Park reached the sectional final before dropping a 2-1 decision to Nazareth.
In Class 2A, Chicago Christian beat Queen of Peace, 5-0 for the regional title in Burbank before falling to Bishop McNamara in the sectional semifinals.
Providence Catholic became the first baseball team in the state to win back-to-back titles since Maine Township did it in 1958-59 (I wasn’t born yet, that’s how long that record lasted) but Marist made the Celtics sweat in a 3-2, nine-inning decision in the Class 4A Marist Sectional semifinals.
St. Laurence, another perennial power, was the only other 4A regional champ from the area as the Vikings reached the sectional semifinals before dropping an 8-4 decision to St. Rita. The Vikings have won five straight regional titles.
Sandburg, Richards, Oak Lawn and Brother Rice shouldn’t be taken lightly this season.
In Class 3A, Evergreen Park outscored regional opponents 23-3 before the Mustangs were stalled by Manteno, 13-6, in the Joliet Catholic Sectional.
In Class 2A, Chicago Christian outscored its regional opponents 33-2 before being topped by Herscher, 8-6, at the Reed-Custer Sectional. The Knights have won five regional titles in a row and 13 overall but have yet to win a sectional crown.
Sandburg brought home its seventh state trophy with a fourth-place finish in 2015 and figures to be strong again with the return of 6-foot-10 Ohio State-bound Jake Hanes.
But Brother Rice and Marist, two teams who won their regionals and have plenty of talent returning, hope to make state appearances of their own this year.
A sneak preview on the three powers comes early in the season as they will compete at the Wheaton Warrenville South Tiger Classic March 30 through April 2.
Sandburg won the sectional title beating Stagg by six points last season but Stagg finished 29th in the state tournament while Sandburg was 35th.
Sandburg’s JonLuke Passett was the area’s underclassman with the longest state run as he finished 3-2 while teammate Nate Carper finished 1-2. Stagg graduated star Brendan Wolan but his brother, Michael, qualified for state as a freshman in doubles with Warren Wudtke.
Shepard’s Paul Mikus qualified for state as a sophomore last season and finished 0-2. The Astros will be saying goodbye to longtime coach Dmitri Cooper, who is retiring after 32 years.
Boys water polo
Brother Rice and Sandburg each made it to their respective sectional finals but Sandburg fell to Lincoln-Way Central, 8-6, at Lincoln-Way North while Brother Rice dropped a 15-6 decision to host Lyons Township one day after a thrilling 13-12 win over St. Rita.
Brother Rice has qualified for state eight times while Sandburg qualified five.
The Illinois Water Polo website ranks Brother Rice 10th, Sandburg 14th and Stagg 15th in the state in its preseason poll.
Girls water polo
Mother McAuley, which qualified for state two seasons ago, was stopped in the sectional final last season with a 6-3 loss to host Lyons. Sandburg bowed out of the Neuqua Valley Sectional in the semifinals with a 10-7 loss to Naperville Central.
The Illinois Water Polo website ranks McAuley ninth and Sandburg 11th.
Sandburg is at it again.
After winning state in cross country and finishing fourth in the nation, the Eagles figure to finish strong in the distance events in track this spring.
The fabled 4x800 team, which won the Class 3A state title in 2015, is looking for a repeat. It ran a 7:45.80 on March 7 at the Downers Grove South Relays indoor event, which was ranked No. 1 in the country, according to MileSplit Illinois and the second best indoor time ever in Illinois behind York’s 7:42.6 in 2000.
Martin Skucas, Sean Torpy, Dylan Jacobs and Chris Torpy were the four who recorded the eye-popping time.
Evergreen Park, a sectional champion which had two relay teams score points in the state meet last year, is primed for another big run in Class 2A and Chicago Christian lost a bevy of state qualifiers to graduation and hopes to reload in Class 1A.
Graduated Briana Driver was a driving force in Mother McAuley’s 10th place finish in the state in Class 3A but underclassmen Ashley Bryja, Stacey Mahahan, Alexandria Bryant, Raquel Funches and Evelyn Gorman helped the Mighty Macs score points in relay events.
In Class 2A Chicago Christian underclassmen Alexis VanRyn, Allie Boss and Cassidy VandeKamp qualified for state for state last season. The Knights hope that the success of their seventh-place finish in the Class 1A cross country meet in the fall can carry over in the spring.
Stagg had a 21-win season and made it to supersectional play in Class 3A before dropping a 3-0 decision to Collinsville. Stagg beat Lincoln-Way East, 1-0 in the regional final and Sandburg, 1-0, in the sectional semifinal before claiming the sectional crown with a 3-0 victory over Lincoln-Way North.
In Class 1A, Chicago Christian won its own regional and was stopped by Herscher, 6-0, in sectional competition.
Stagg and Sandburg took second place in their respective sectionals and both are hit hard by graduation.
Sandburg’s Emily Tunney was the only area underclassman to advance to state last year as she beat her first opponent, Streamwood’s Kristie Toondarack, in three sets but dropped her second round and consolation matches.
In lieu of running two all-area teams, the Reporter/Regional is naming six Players of the Year in winter sports in which we had at least 50 percent of our teams compete in.
Next week, we name boys and girls bowling and boys swimming. In the March 31 issue, we name the top athlete in wrestling, boys basketball and girls basketball.