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Girls soccer preview: Countdown to kickoff

Wheaton and West Chicago teams have pieces in place for successful seasons

With a little luck of the Irish, girls soccer teams across the state will be kicking off the season on March 17, the first day games can be played. Here's the outlook for area teams as the season gets underway.

Wheaton North Falcons

Coach: Tim McEvilly

2013 record: 9-9-3

Top players:

Hannah Atkinson so. F

Lyndi Armstrong sr. D

Emily Barry sr. D

Clare Kocher so. M

Lexi Pelafas jr. F

Outlook: Wheaton North loses 10 seniors from a team that finished at .500 a season ago. Defensively, that group was especially strong, allowing two goals or less in 18 matches.

This time around, the Falcons have a mix of all four classes, with eight seniors, five juniors, six sophomores and one freshman on the roster.

The team is led by junior forward Lexi Pelafas, a future Division I player who is committed to Central Michigan. Senior defenders Emily Barry and Lyndi Armstrong also return for their fourth varsity campaign.

Sophomores Clare Kocher and Hannah Atkinson should be major contributors.

"Our younger players seem to possess the skill and desire to assist the seniors in bringing a regional back to the program this spring," Wheaton North coach Tim McEvilly said.

Wheaton Warrenville South Tigers

Coach: Guy Callipari

2013 record: 13-6-2, regional champs

Top players:

Anna Fank so. F

Abbey Fuster sr. GK

Caroline Holmes sr. M

AJ Jakuszewski jr. M

Nikki Molino jr. M

Outlook: South will try to build off how it finished a year ago. The Tigers went 8-2-1 over their final 11 matches and advanced to a sectional semifinal game before losing in penalty kicks to Lyons Township.

The squad lost seven seniors, which included four-year varsity member and current Miami of Ohio freshman Dana Miller, but brings back plenty of talent.

Abbey Fuster was an all-conference performer in goal in 2013 while AJ Jakuszewski notched all-sectional honors after totaling four goals and six assists from the midfield. Fellow midfielder Nikki Molino and forward Anna Fank also have varsity experience.

West Chicago Wildcats

Coach: J. Cesar Gomez

2013 record: 11-10-3

Top players:

Maddie Aguilar so. M

Karen Ibarra so. D

Kayla Kirkwood jr. M

Jessie Maldonado so. D

Stephanie Mata jr. M

Shelly Molskow sr. D

Gaby Navejas so. GK

Ally Oglanian so. F

Itza Salazar so. G

Alexa Vega so. D

Outlook: On one hand, the departure of leading scorer Andie Lazzerini to graduation leaves a definite hole. But on the other hand, the Wildcats return a core of 10 players with valuable varsity experience.

With eight freshmen on the roster in 2013, West Chicago was a young team. That is the case again this year with only one senior and three juniors on the squad.

"We have a lot of sophomores," coach J. Cesar Gomez said. "We will compete. We are a possession team. We don't just want to kick it, we have to pass the ball around. And we will be in your face on defense and try to make life difficult."

Replacing Lazzerini's production will fall to a host of players, including forwards Kayla Kirkwood and Ally Oglanian. Gaby Navejas returns in goal while fellow sophomore Itza Salazar could also see time in the net.

This spring marks the first year in the Upstate Eight conference for the Wildcats, who move over from the DVC.

"We've seen good competition before with teams like Naperville Central, Naperville North and Hinsdale Central," Gomez said. "I think it's going to be good for us."

St. Francis Spartans

Coach: Jim Winslow

2013 record: 17-2-0

Top players:

Brittany Douglass sr. F

Corky Hart jr. D

Andrea Ravlin sr. F

Taylor Van Thournout jr. M

Alexa Zepeda sr. M

Outlook: Last spring, St. Francis followed up its 2012 state championship by winning 17 of its first 18 matches before falling 1-0 to Fenwick in the sectional championship.

From that group, the Spartans lost eight seniors who played a large role in the program's recent success, which included the state championship.

"With us this year, there are a lot more questions than we've had the last two years," St. Francis coach Jim Winslow said, "You don't lose kids to graduation like we've lost to graduation the last few years and not take a hit."

The squad does return an outstanding trio of varsity veterans in Corky Hart, Andrea Ravlin and Taylor Van Thournout.

Wheaton Academy Warriors

Coach: Dave Underwood

2013 record: 10-10-3

Top players:

Eaden Bond sr. D

Gabbi LaMantia so. M

Abby Olson sr. F

Molly Thorson jr. D

Outlook: The Warriors were an extremely young team in 2013 with only five seniors on a roster that included five freshmen and eight sophomores.

Despite that inexperience, the squad was still extremely competitive, winning 10 matches while eight of the 10 losses were by one goal.

This time around, Wheaton Academy brings back 15 varsity players with experience, including nine starters.

"I am really excited about this team," Wheaton Academy coach Dave Underwood said. "I feel like we have good experience and additionally, the girls had probably the best off-season we have had in years.

Abby Olson is back to lead the offense after scoring 12 goals last spring. Sophomores Julia Della Torre and Jamie Netzley should also be threats to find the back of the net while Gabbi LaMantia moves from center back to the midfield to be a distributor. Molly Thorson and Eaden Bond anchor the defense in front of second-year starting goalie Julia McKee.

"We will be better than last year," the coach said. "How much better? I don't know. We struggled to score goals last year, so if we can create good opportunities and put the ball in the back of the net we will be pretty solid."

The team is competing in the Suburban Christian conference for the last time with the school moving to the Metro Suburban conference in 2014-15. Rosary is the defending champs.

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