HS FOCUS: Stagg hires Strus, Marist hires Simpson

  • Written by Jeff Vorva


Photo by Jeff Vorva

Stagg’s new coach Marty Strus talks to the Chargers during the Stagg Shootout in mid-June.

Stagg got its man.

All 6-foot-10 of him.

Former Chargers standout Marty Strus has taken over the boys basketball head coaching job after an affirmative vote from Consolidated High School District 230 on Thursday night.

Strus entered Stagg as an average-size freshman in 2004 and in the next couple of years had a growth spurt that seemingly wouldn’t quit and attended Lewis University, where he destroyed the school record for blocked shots with 181 – 41 better than Austin Real.

He coached hoops on the lower levels at Lyons Township before returning to his alma mater.

Strus has been able to watch his team throughout June in summer league play.

“It’s a special opportunity,” Strus said. “It’s a new job for me coaching at the varsity level but it will be nice to do it at a place that quickly reminded me of how special of a place Stagg is. I know there will be a lot of challenges with the job but I also know there will be a lot of people there who are more than willing to help. It will be a good spot to start.’’

Strus takes over for John Daniels, who won 310 games in 14 seasons but left to help take care of his ailing father, Robert, who lives in South Bend, Ind.

 Simpson is new AD at Marist

Eric Simpson was named new athletic director, replacing Steve Smithers, who left after one year because of family issues in the Quad Cities area, where he worked before coming to Marist.

Simpson comes to Marist from Sacred Heart Schools in Chicago where he served as the athletic director. Prior to that he worked as assistant athletic director at St. Ignatius College Prep in Chicago and spent four years as athletic director at Marquette High School in Michigan City, Ind. 

Simpson was the head women’s basketball coach at Loyola University for four years and the assistant coach at University of Illinois at Chicago for three seasons.  He attended Northwestern University for four years on a basketball scholarship.

“Eric delivers the whole package for Marist: administrative experience, coaching experience, and first-hand knowledge of Catholic education,” Marist Principal Larry Tucker said. “We feel confident he can lead our successful program to the next level.”

Simpson said he was attracted to Marist's Catholic values and tradition of academic and athletic excellence. 

“I look forward to working with a terrific coaching staff to support student development through competition in athletics,” Simpson said. “I also understand the unique role athletics can play in generating excitement, enhancing school spirit, and connecting alumni to Marist. As athletic director, I will work to integrate the athletic programs into Marist’s core values and important mission.”  

Simpson will oversee 26 athletic programs that serve Marist’s 1,700 students, and a campus that includes a turf stadium lined for football, soccer, and lacrosse, grass soccer field, varsity and lower level fields for softball and baseball, tennis courts, three gymnasiums, and a 4,000 square foot fitness center.

In recent years, Marist has won Illinois High School Association Class 4A state titles in softball in 2012 and 2015. The team finished fourth in state in 2017.

The football team finished second in state in 2009 and 2015. The wrestling team finished second in the state in 2014. The cheerleading squad finished second in state in 2013.


Jeff Vorva's Extra Point: Solider Field was cool, but...

  • Written by Jeff Vorva





Photo By Jeff Vorva

The chance for local teams such as Brother Rice to play on a big-time NFL field last year was a great opportunity but columnist Jeff Vorva said the neighborhood game should be played in the neighborhood.



The schedules are out!

The Illinois High School Association released the hounds – and the 2017 high school football schedules --last week and, as usual, I couldn’t wait to nose around and see what’s what when it comes to the first couple of weeks of non-conference action.

The main event in this area will be Brother Rice at Marist on Aug. 25. The first lie of the new season is that the game is listed at 7:30 p.m. Bank on it that the game is going to start later than that. That’s one of the few predictions about this season I feel confident about.

Anyway, last season these two teams battled it out at Soldier Field and it was a unique experience. High school players had a chance to play on a field that legends have played on. Playing in an NFL stadium is very cool and something those players will never forget long after they have forgotten about Jay Cutler.

But it just didn’t feel right for the Marist-Brother Rice rivalry to be played there.

The thousands of fans that showed up were swallowed by the huge stadium. Brother Rice/Marist should be played at either Brother Rice or Marist, where the crowds own the stadium and the joint is jumpin’.

I’m all for our teams playing at Soldier Field. If Marist played Mt. Carmel there again that would be outstanding. If Brother Rice played a Chicago Public League power such as Phillips or Simeon, that would be great.

But this neighborhood rivalry needs to stay in the neighborhood.



Meanwhile, Mt. Carmel is playing Taft and St. Rita is playing St. Patrick at Soldier Field on the opening weekend.

Another Friday night opener worth catching is Lyons at Sandburg. At this stage, I am not sure how Sandburg is going to be but Lyons has a Division I-type quarterback in Ben Bryant for the Eagles defense to worry about.

Bryant has had an interesting offseason. He gave a verbal commitment to Wisconsin in December but in the spring, the University of Georgia made an offer and soon after that, Wisconsin backed off.

“I called (offensive quality control coach Jon Budmayr) to give him a heads up that I was given the offer and left a message on his voicemail,” Bryant said in a written statement. “I made it clear that I was still 100 percent committed to the Badgers. The next morning, we spoke on the phone and I was informed that I was no longer a good fit for Wisconsin and I was encouraged to continue looking for a fit.

“The implication that my loyalty to UW had been compromised was not true and is what saddens me the most.’’

Well, he wasn’t going to stay sad for long. In the spring, Ole Miss, West Virginia, Western Michigan, Temple, Bowling Green and other schools have shown interest.

Richards is always good for scheduling some top competition during its non-conference season and this year the Bulldogs will open the season on the road all the way up to Mundelein to face Carmel.

There will be other games and many, many storylines to be told between now and the first week of IHSA football but for now, let’s all enjoy our summer because this bad-boy season is going to be here before you know it.



Local athletes excelled in soccer, track and tennis

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

The four athletes who earned Regional/Reporter honors in boys and girls track, girls soccer and boys tennis were just the tip of the iceberg.

Several other local athletes also had stellar years and were recognized by their conferences. For those sports without all-conference recognition, there were plenty of athletes who qualified for the Illinois High School Association state finals in their respective sports.

Here is a list of some of the best:

Girls soccer

The South Suburban Red recognized Shepard’s Amar Mason, Kaci Jasik, Vivian Garza and Grace Elliot, Evergreen Park’s Ciara Black and Mara Bracken, Richards’ Isabella Nelson and Jade Ingram and Oak Lawns Jessica Hassett and Cayley Patete.

The SouthWest Suburban players selected were Sandburg’s Kylie Hase, Aislinn Mulvey, Paige Pappanastos, Sydney Rudny, Bella Strolia and Christine Szymanski plus Stagg’s Grace Javaras, Erini Kosmas, Veronica Stafira and Emily Stefan.

The East Suburban Catholic Conference was represented by Marist sophomore Annie Callahan and junior Michelle Lenz.

In the Girls Catholic Athletic Conference, Mother McAuley’s Grace Hynes, Isabella Garrity and Emily Leiser plus Queen of Peace’s Zaida Chacon earned spots on the squad.

Chicago Christian’s Karlee Koyvenhoven, Abby Tiemersma, Cassidy Vande Kamp, Tori DeJager and Cassy Sluis were named to the Metro Suburban squad.

Boys track

Class 3A state qualifiers were Sandburg’s Peter Demogerontas, Alex Szymanski, Nico Calderon, Martin Skucas, Dylan Jacobs and Ayo Abiona, Brother Rice Jimmy Baker, Rob Groyon, Michael Butler-Kindle, Ty McCoy, Josh Boulanger, Ronan Dolan and Justin Palmer, Oak Lawn’s Patrick Michaels, Shepard’s Shepard Brian Hauser, Caleb Washington and Neiko Carterand Stagg’s Sam Snell and Anthony Koncius.

Class 2A state qualifiers were St. Laurence Lonnie Chambers, Tyree Colbert, Toriano Clinton and Alex Saunders plus Evergreen Park’s Colin O’Dwyer, Eric Williams, David Torres, Tajuan Ingram, Damon Turner and Kobe Green.

Class 1A qualifiers were Chicago Christian’s Ben Friesen, Brayden Roberts, Casey Starostka and Connor Pearson.


Girls track

In Class 2A, Evergreen Park sent and army of athletes to the state meet -- Lily Sader, Kayley Burke, Tiera Robinson-Jones, Grace Huneck, Lilly Gozum, Taylor Jones, Tyra Pickett, Alexus Clark, Meleah Tines, Briana Parker, Lizzie O’Dwyer, Tia Walker, Kayla Carpenter.

In Class 1A, Chicago Christian qualified Jill VanDyk, Rylei Jackson, April van Ryn, Allie Boss, Rebecca Falb, Carissa Simon, Sara Cahill, Emily Woods and Brooklyn Seiber.

In Class 3A, Mother McAuley qualified Ashley Bryja, Kelly Gallagher, Ciara Nelligan and Colleen Ford,

Stagg sent Allyson Mussallem, Shepard qualified Hayley Goebel and Kellie Callahan while Sandburg sent Chibueze Obia, Hannah Sullivan, Tina Siebenaler and Julia Gary

 Boys tennis

State qualifiers were Stagg’s Michal Wolan, Kevin Wacnik, Brian Jaski and Momas Dargis, Shepard’s Alex Kokoszka and Paul Milkus, Brother Rice’s Brenden Leibforth and Ryan Cunnea and Marist’s Jeremiah Joyce.

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.