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This is one fine-ite family

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

In math, there is a term called a finite number.

This is a number that is real, although impossible to calculate.

For instance, there is a finite number of every blade of grass in Illinois, but good luck finding it.

What we have here in the area sporting world is something similar.

Oak Lawn’s Pat Niego has eight children and 30 grandchildren. Some have made their marks in sports. Some are making their marks in athletics right now. A few are too young.

Many have starred on the grade school and high school level and some did well on the college level. Most played basketball

So, the big question is: how many sporting events has Pat Niego seen over the years?

Good luck finding THAT answer.

“I have no idea,” she said. “I can’t even think about it. That’s just way, way, way too many. The boys played in grammar school in two or three different leagues. It was like three or four games a week sometime. Thousands, at least. I don’t know. I can’t count them.’’

She’s seen a variety of sports from the pee-wee level to college level. She couldn’t come up with what the biggest game she ever attended.

“All of the games are exciting and important,” she said diplomatically.

Pat and her husband Ron, who died 28 years ago, raised eight kids –Charlie, Tom, Mary, Terri, Joe, Mark, Nancy and Quinn.

Charlie, Tom, Joe and Mark played at De La Salle and were starters on Lewis University’s basketball team that was ranked in the top 10 in Division II in 1985-86 and Sports Illustrated did a story on them that appeared Jan. 20, 1986. By the way, the cover story was of Jim McMahon and the Bears going to the Super Bowl.

Mary, Terri and Nancy also played hoops at Lewis after prepping at Maria.

Quinn, who was 13 at the time of the SI story, told the magazine he was not interested in the sport. “I eat popcorn.’’ he said.

Now those eight are grown up and have kids of their own.

Thirty to be exact.

So far.

Some are making their mark in basketball and other sports.

Joe’s son, Harrison, was a top player for Lyons Township and is a preferred walk-on freshman at Indiana University.

Charlie’s son, Quinn, is playing basketball for St. Xavier University after a stint at Brother Rice.

Mary’s son, Willie McNamara plays football at Dartmouth. She had another son, Tom McNamara, played football at Northwood University in Michigan.

A host of volleyball stars figure to come from this clan with Charlie’s daughter, Charley, a sophomore at Mother McAuley who is making an impact on one of the best programs in the state, leading the way.

This new generation of Niegos figures to be around for a while. But think about this -- when these 30 have kids and those kids have kids…

Ron and Pat Niego started a dynasty and how many years Niegos will be starring in sports will be a big-time finite number.

niego tree

 

 

Jeff Vorva's Extra Point: Mighty Macs stomach a strange five-day stretch

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

Columnsig924

 

Mighty Macs stomach a strange five-day stretch.

There are times when sports are goofy and unpredictable.

There are situations that are hard to believe. I’ve been in this racket for a long time and I can’t remember hearing of a more goofy or unpredictable five-day stretch experienced by one area team.

Mother McAuley’s girls volleyball team is known for its dominance. It’s easy to dislike the Mighty Macs the same way it’s easy to dislike the New York Yankees and the Duke’s men’s basketball program.

But even the biggest McAuley haters may have to cringe and hold their stomachs when they hear this story and the team’s bizarre stretch from Friday, Sept. 11 through Tuesday, Sept. 15.

Friday: The team competed in pool play in the Louisville Invitational and won their matches and celebrated with some pizza.

There is some debate on whether it was the pizza or a flu that was going around the school but players and coaches were getting sick.

“It was like a scene out of ‘Bridesmaids,’ ’’ McAuley coach Jen DeJarld said. “It was hilarious, really.’’

 For those who understand that reference, feel free to stifle a burp. For those who don’t, YouTube up “ ‘Bridesmaids’ vomit scene’’ and that might give you an idea of how some the Mighty Macs turned into the Mighty Yacks.

Saturday: The girls put the ILL in Illinois as they were so sick, many of them couldn’t get out of the hotel to go out and complete. The three coaches on hand were also hurting so bad, they weren’t able to head to the tournament.

“Those were big games and we spent a lot of money to go there,” DeJarld said. “We took a five-and-a-half-hour bus trip and we wanted to play the top teams in the nation. We were looking forward to it.”

Some starters couldn’t answer the bell. Thoughts of forfeiting and getting the heck out of town were surfacing because of the setter situation. DeJarld said Abby O’Brien was sick and probably shouldn’t have played but she set for a makeshift team.

Scorekeeper Nancy Frederick, a veteran club volleyball coach at Ultimate and Michio Chicago, stepped in and the team finished 1-2, with one loss being a tight 25-20, 25-20 setback to national power Mercy Academy.

Sophomore Charley Niego, who escaped the illness said the team played well despite the circumstances.

“It was the same as if they were all there,” she said. “Even though our coaches weren’t there, we coached each other. We played like we usually play. It was weird but we got through it.’’

“The girls we had out there played so hard and so well,” DeJarld said.

The sick players and coaches went home early on the bus. The healthy folks came home later with the parents.

Sunday: It was supposed to be recovery day for everyone and DeJard was able to watch her son, Jack play youth football. But when she got home, she started feeling severe cramps in her stomach and couldn’t sleep.

Monday: A trip to Palos Hospital revealed the DeJarld needed to have her appendix taken out and she heard that with a showdown with neighborhood rival Marist looming the next night, the recovering Macs had a bad practice.

Tuesday: The word was that DeJarld was probably not going to be in the McAuley gym for the big battle with Marist but at 4:30 p.m., she was released from the hospital, went home to shower and made it to the gym in time for the match.

She sat on the bench and stayed quiet some of the time while assistant Meg Gardner did the heavy lifting.

Marist students, by the way, planned on wearing white and when they found out about the flu/food poisoning many wore surgical face masks.

But McAuley had the last laugh with a 25-15, 18-25, 25-20 victory in the game that saw a lot of sloppy play mixed in with some jaw-dropping hits and digs from both sides.

“It was a really strange weekend,” senior Kayla Caffey. “We didn’t expect to get food poisoning from pepperoni pizza but we overcame it. We’re all fine now. We’re healthy.

“Everyone’s good.’’

Jeff Vorva's Extra Point: Let's get ready to capture some exciting moments

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

Jeffs Col Impressions

 

Greetings, sports fans.

I promise you we’re going to have some fun.

My name is Jeff Vorva and I am the new sports editor of the Southwest Regional Publishing, which covers 12 high schools and three colleges for the Reporter and Regional News and 11 high schools for five other newspapers in Chicago and the suburbs.

First, a little about me.

I started out as a sportswriter in 1977 when I was in high school. I did it for 30 years -- including 10 years of covering the Cubs – before doing mostly news from 2008 until now. I’ve covered a lot of area sports over the years and have two kids who have played high school sports so I know the perspective of a parent all too well.

I may be the new guy to this section, but my driver’s license suggests I am no new guy.

After talking with the big bosses at our company, we agreed to take a new approach and philosophy to the way sports will be covered in the seven papers including this one.  We want to be proactive and not reactive.

Like many weekly papers in the country, we come out on Thursday. Most people are getting excited for the games coming up over the weekend, which are 24-to-48 hours away. Yes, it’s nice to highlight last week’s games, but that shouldn’t be the main focus.

For the first time in a long time, we are having reporters actually out there covering games. Being at the games, and not just relying on phone calls from coaches, gives reporters flavor, emotion, the ability to monitor injury situations and gain extra insight that you just can’t get when you are not there. It sounds simple – Journalism 101 – but that’s been lacking I company-wide and we are changing that.

If we’re not at the game, we can’t capture the emotions from Friday’s come-from-behind Richards win.  We also want to quote more athletes in our stories when possible.

Minor sports are going to get more play. Football and basketball will be king, but last week, Sandburg’s nationally-ranked cross country team graced the front page along with a story about Brother Rice’s football team. This week, Evergreen Park’s swimming team was featured for its workout/tribute to 9/11.   

A good story is a good story whether comes from a football stud or a 98-pound badminton player. We would love to tell them all.

We’ll try to tackle some issue stories. During my tenure as Reporter editor, I wrote about the possibility of the IHSA voting to disband football conferences, including the storied Catholic League. Already I am thinking about a future piece on how some football-heavy schools are not even fielding sophomore teams this year because the numbers are down.

Oh, and when it comes to non-high school sports?

Youth sports, bowlers, beer-league softball players, golfers, stock car racers and other area athletes can all submit their news to us via This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .  We are not taking faxes, but we’ll take phone calls at 708-448-6161 for anyone with tips on athletes or teams we should know about. This isn’t just about high school and college sports.

This column will usually appear in this section weekly and if you read me the past three years in the Regional and Reporter, you know that anything goes. I hope to keep it mostly local but if there is something on my mind on the state, national or professional level, I’ll probably be barking about it. Or laughing about it.  

So get ready. Things are going to change and we’re not going to please everybody. We’re not going to be able to be everywhere but we’re going to be physically at more events than we ever were.

 We are going to try to be as compelling and fun as possible week and week out.

Now let’s get to work…

EP's swim team's mighty 9/11 tribute

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

PAGE 1 EP WORKOUT

 

Submitted photo

 Bridget Donoghue, left, and Grace O’Toole of Evergreen Park get some lifting in during a tribute to 9/11 last Wednesday.

Pooped and proud.

That’s how some members of the Evergreen Park girls swimming and diving team felt last Wednesday felt after a morning workout.

It wasn’t just a typical workout.

It was a special – and very challenging – workout that coach Sarah Marshall put the 30 members of the program through.

The athletes did a Hero Workout of the Day in honor of Friday’s 14th anniversary of the 9/11 attack of the Twin Towers in New York, which caused major death and destruction.

Because the Mustangs were in between Thursday and Saturday meets on the actual anniversary, they couldn’t work out Friday. So they chose Wednesday.

Marshall, who is also a coach at Stone Age Crossfit, devised a program that featured a 2,001-meter run (the attacks happened in 2001), 11 box jumps, 11 thrusters at 45 pounds, 11 burpee pullups, 11 power cleans at 75 pounds (in memory of Flight No. 175) 55 reps of other lifts and exercises and one more 2,001-meter run. The session lasted more than an hour.

“I was pretty tired and I was pretty proud with what she accomplished,” senior captain Kali Pytel said. “We all got through it. We’re all pretty strong, I think. We wanted to do well and to stay motivated.’’

“I was dead tired,” senior captain McKenna Moran added. “I was really exhausted. Mostly my arms were hurting. But I was fine throughout the day. I’m used to rough mornings.’’

The swimmers don’t want to forget an event that they really don’t remember.

The senior captains have heard a lot about the attacks, but don’t remember it firsthand.

 “I was three and the only thing I remember is my mom told me that she had to pull us out of preschool early,’’ Moran said.

Marshall said she was “overjoyed” one of the swimmers came up with the idea.

“Not only are very difficult and grueling workouts, but they are so meaningful and powerful to do because you know you can't give up or slow down [because you are] thinking of who you're honoring during the workout,’’ the coach said. “The girls also coordinated to all wear red, white and blue during the workout to honor our country and the sacrifices so many make for our freedoms.

“I thought it was pretty amazing of my girls to want to do the workout and do it with pride. The memory of September 11 is so near and dear to my heart, like so many Americans, as my husband is a US Marine and has served our country in the aftermath of 9/11. I might be biased because of my thoughts on how important it is to never forget what happened that day 14 years ago, or because I think the world of my girls, but I think what they've done is pretty amazing.’’

And the swimmers had some fun with it.

“It was a cool idea and it brought the team together,” Pytel said.

CAPTION –

Submitted photos

WORKOUT 1 –

Everything's Jake after talk with coach

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

PAGE 1 COACH and NO 11

Photo by Jeff Vorva

Richards coach Tony Sheehan gives an encouraging talk at halftime to quarterback Jake Moran. Richards trailed 14-0 at halftime and went on to stun No. 4 Lemont 28-24.

 

Richards junior quarterback Jake Moran engineered an offense that produced no points and seven yards in the first half of Friday night’s game at Lemont.

He even threw an interception to give the Indians, ranked fourth in the state by the Associated Press, the ball at the Bulldogs 1-yard line and Lemont came up with an easy score and led 14-0 at the break.

“I had a horrible first half and I could not complete a pass,” Moran said.

Time for a quarterback change?

Nope.

Time for a talk.

Bulldogs coach Tony Sheehan had what could have been the most important two-minute talk of the season with a player so far when he took Moran aside before the start of the third quarter. The result was that the Bulldogs avoided an 0-3 start by stunning the Indians, 28-24. Moran threw three TD passes in the second half and junior running back Anthony Quinn bulled into the end zone with 58 seconds left for what turned out to be the winning score.

Earlier, the coach was face-to-face with Moran during the halftime chat and tapped the side of the player’s helmet when the skull session was over.

“I told him ‘look, I have faith in you – go out and do the job,’ ’’ Sheehan said. “I told him I knew he could do it.  I told him to be calm. Stay calm. I told him to make his reads and we’re going to make plays.’’

“He told me I needed to compose myself,” Moran said. “My offensive line was giving me plenty of time to throw the ball. He told me I had to get it together and in the second half we figured it out.’’

Moran called the Lemont battle a “must win” and the team’s next battle is Friday against unbeaten Reavis in Oak Lawn in the South Suburban Red Conference opener. The Rams beat South Bend (Adams) out of Indiana, 33-27, Chicago Washington, 49-12, and Evergreen Park, 48-21.


“We have to put a full game together because we have a tough one against Reavis,’’ Sheehan said. “We have to put a full 48 minutes together.’’

The Bulldogs, who two years ago finished second in the state in Class 6A, dug themselves a hole when they blew a 23-2 halftime lead against Lincoln-Way North and lost 30-29 in Frankfort. They followed that up with a 35-20 home setback to Geneva and getting down 14-0 at Lemont was not a recipe for a win.

Moran hit Jared Moore with a 27-yard touchdown pass, Nate Gimza with a 76-yard scoring strike and a 77-yard score to William Bridgewater to help the team get back into the game.

In the closing minutes, the Bulldogs were on the Lemont 2-yard line.

In Week 1, Moran and his offense were in a similar situation as the team opted for a 2-point conversion against Lincoln-Way North and was Moran was stopped short.

This time the ball went into the hands of what some people on the Richards sidelines are calling the “Mighty Quinn.’’

“It was definitely a similar feeling,” Moran said. “After that first game, our O line wanted to run a dive play. We knew we had to get the ball to Quinn. He’s the hardest worker on this team and we knew he would come through for us.’’

“I was thinking ‘I gotta score,’ ’’ Quinn said. “I had to find the gap and go.’’