Girls soccer preview: Downers Grove North, South, Westmont set to start season

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 Downers Grove North, Downers Grove South, Westmont and Benet as the season gets underway.

Downers Grove North Trojans

Coach: Bob Calder

2013 record: 8-9

Top players:

Kaitlyn Gunderson sr. D

Emma Krick jr. D

Gianna Marconi sr. M

Ellie Metros jr. M

Mary Rounce sr. M/F

Outlook: The 2013 season was a bit of a rebuilding year for the Trojans with several freshman and sophomores playing prominent roles. Even still, they enjoyed a solid campaign and are now primed for even more success this spring.

"Our team this year is fortunate to have several returning varsity players and a large and talented senior class," head coach Bob Calder said.

Foremost among the talented seniors is Gianna Marconi, last year's leading scorer with seven goals and a three-time all-sectional selection who will continue her career at Colorado State. Mary Rounce is new to North's varsity but has club experience and a scholarship to play at Michigan State. Another senior, Kaitlyn Gunderson, was West Suburban Silver all-conference last year.

Junior Emma Krick is entering her third season on varsity and was WSS all-conference last year, and classmate Ellie Metros is returning from injury nicely and looks ready for the season, according to Calder.

Downers Grove South Mustangs

Coach: Abby Anderson

2013 record: 13-9-1

Top players:

Jamie Furio sr. GK

Lori Niehaus sr. D

Ava Porlier jr. D/M

Autumn Rasmussen so. F

Emily Wauer sr. F

Stephanie Zurales sr.

Outlook: In Abby Anderson's first year as coach last spring, the Mustangs won conference, posted a winning record and played in the regional championship game. More of the same is expected this season.

"We look to leave off from last year's goals that we accomplished," Anderson said.

Last year's leading scorer, Nicole Janowiak (12 goals), has graduated, but Anderson said one of South's biggest strengths this year will be speed at the top of the attack. Autumn Rasmussen (10 goals, three assists), Stephanie Zurales (eight goals, six assists) and Emily Wauer (five goals, four assists) all showed the ability to find the back of the net last season.

Jamie Furio played the majority of time in the net last season and returns there. Lori Niehaus and versatile playmaker Ava Porlier are also back to bolster the defense. Senior leadership is another strength that Anderson has already identified.

"We have a strong senior class with a lot of great leaders," Anderson said. "We should have a pretty solid team dynamic, but we are definitely a different team than last year.

"A lot of girls have stepped into roles during the summer and off season – in the weight room, in off-season workouts, and playing outside of school. There are a lot of younger players who will compete for varsity spots and starting spots."

Westmont Sentinels

Coach: Ron Neurauter

2013 record: 0-19

Top players:

Brianna Gilley sr. D/M

Hailey Lechelt sr. D

Lily LaLonde so. F/M

Madeline Lubeck so. D/M

Halley Pardy so. GK

Outlook: A look at last year's record is a quick way to sum up last season for the Sentinels, but it only tells part of the story. What isn't seen is that 12 of the 22 varsity players last year were freshman, and of the 22, only two played for Westmont in 2012.

"We played a brutal varsity schedule against a number of 2A teams, and most of our games were away games," head coach Ron Neurauter said. "Basically, we were a JV squad playing varsity."

This season, 17 players are returning, and the addition of nine newcomers means the Sentinels have enough players to field both varsity and JV squads.

In Brianna Gilley, Hailey Lechelt and Halley Pardy, the Sentinels have a strong defensive foundation. Lechelt was a mainstay on the field at sweeper, Gilley was a co-captain, Interstate Eight all-conference and team MVP last spring, and Pardy is more acclimated to playing keeper after being new to the position last season. Neurauter said Gilley will move up and join the attack at times.

"We’re still a young team playing a tough varsity schedule, but we have numbers and this is the season we’re going to break into the win column, not once but several time," the coach said.

Benet Redwings

Coach: Bob Gros

2013 record: 17-5-1, regional champions

Top players:

Katie Baumann sr. D

Emily Curtis sr. D

Sophia Elbchiri jr. D

Emma Hlavin jr. GK

Jacquie Kaufman jr. F/M

Michelle Morefield sr. M

Outlook: A quick glance at the returning players and it's easy to see where Benet will be best this season.

"Our strength is on the defensive side," head coach Bob Gros said.

Katie Baumann and Sophia Elbchiri were East Suburban Catholic all-conference defenders last season, and Emma Hlavin was the Redwings' keeper. All three return, as does all-conference player and solid two-way midfielder Michelle Morefield.

At the same time, Benet is poised to improve upon the 60 goals it scored last year. Gros said a tweaked offensive scheme should help the goal total increase. Morefield and returning varsity player Jacquie Kaufman will spearhead the attack.

A solid nonconference schedule and the tough slate in the ESCC should help the Redwings get ready for the postseason, which is where many of their goals come into play.

"Our goal is to improve on last year's results," Gros said. "We're talking about making the final four in the state tournament."