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Soccer preview: Returning players give Panthers plenty of promise

Glenbard North goalkeeper Nathan Chalus stops a Naperville North shot during the Panthers' game against the Huskies on Tuesday.
Erica Glenbard North goalkeeper Nathan Chalus stops a Naperville North shot during the Panthers' game against the Huskies on Tuesday.

CAROL STREAM – At first glance, the 2013 Glenbard North boys soccer team appears to be a youthful bunch with four sophomores and three freshmen on the roster.

But don’t let that fool you.

With eight key returners back in the fold from a group that went 8-10-3 last fall, the Panthers bring plenty of experience to the field.

“Many of the returners saw extensive minutes last year at the varsity level,” coach Gregg Koeller said, “and both our returners and our newcomers played on very competitive teams at very competitive levels in the offseason.  

“We are far ahead at this point in terms of experience and depth than we were a year ago. We are also very fortunate to have experienced and versatile returners, kids who can play multiple positions on the field.”

Senior forward CJ Koeller and senior midfielder Hector Pineda are in their third year on the varsity while sophomore forward Danny Ramirez returns after leading the team in scoring as a freshman.

Aldo Nolasco and Eleke Bonsi bring additional experience to the midfield while Mike Ramirez, Jelani Brown and Zach Jones make up a veteran defensive line.

Nathan Chalus has taken over the goaltending duties after being on the JV team as a freshman.

As for goals, Koeller is not pointing to a specific win total.

“Our season will be successful if we play at the level I believe we are capable of playing at on a consistent basis,” the coach said. “We may have some growing pains early on in the season as we look to mesh as a group, but I truly believe that this group is capable of competing with anyone on our schedule. If we can do that, the wins will come.”

The DuPage Valley Conference is expected to be as challenging as ever. A year ago, Glenbard North went 1-3-3 in league play.

“Naperville North, Naperville Central and Wheaton Warrenville South are always some of the most successful programs in the area,” Koeller said. “Lake Park joins the mix this year coming from the Upstate Eight and they also are a class program.  

“That being said, I truly believe that we can go head-to-head with any of those teams and be a factor in the conference race this year. More importantly, I think our kids believe that as well.”

Even more promising, Glenbard North had nearly 80 players at tryouts, leaving the program in good shape for years to come.

“As a head coach, you’re never just coaching the varsity,” Koeller added, “you’re trying to build and maintain an entire program with an eye always to the future. With the talent, depth, and type of young men we have in our program right now, I feel very good about where we are and where we are headed.”

The Panthers began the 2013 season by going 2-1 at the Addison Trail Invite, beating the host Blazers 3-2 and Curie 2-1.

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