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High school girls soccer: Success could be in store for Downers Grove North, Downers Grove South

Area soccer teams start season with success in mind

The season for Class 2A and 3A high school girls soccer teams culminates in the state finals in early June. The season has just started, but several area teams have hopes of going all the way to state. Here's the outlook for Downers Grove North, Downers Grove South, and other area schools.

Benet Redwings

Coach: Gerard Oconer

2016 record: 11-8-3

Top players

Name Year Pos.

Madeline Becker jr. MF

Claire Bumpus jr. D

Abby Casmere so. MF

Erin Flynn jr. F

Katie Gesior sr. MF

Mary Kate Hansen so. D

Anna Keefe sr. GK

Betsy Keefe sr. F

Mia Tommasone fr. F

Mary Kate Wilhelm so. D

Outlook: Gerard Oconer and Bob Gros flip-flop positions this season with Oconer the head coach in his 15th season at Benet. He has plenty of talent to work with as 10 of 11 starters return, including 2016 East Suburban Catholic Conference Player of the Year Gesior and all-ESCC selections Flynn, Wilhelm, and Betsy Keefe.

While freshman Kate Flynn will bolster a tough defense, offense could be Benet's calling card this year.

"I think we'll be much stronger offensively this year because we'll be able to slide kids up from the midfield and we have a couple freshman to help up front," Oconer said.

Gesior was last year's leading scorer, Betsy Keefe might have the best offensive arsenal and Tommasone might have the best shot. The Redwings have talent and depth on a roster of 21 and are looking to make noise in a tough Class 2A postseason that will include Wheaton Academy and Marian Central Catholic, the finalists in Class 1A last year, as well as Nazareth and St. Francis.

Downers Grove North Trojans

Coach: Brian Papa

2016 record: 14-6

Top players

Name Year Pos.

Simone Gardner sr. MF

Elizabeth Hodonicky jr. D

Francesca Marconi jr. D

Carissa Mysliwiec jr. F

Carli Nehls jr. MF

Chloe Nowka jr. D

Grace Stevenson sr. GK

Abby Swanson sr. MF

Outlook: Brian Papa is the new head coach for the Trojans, but his transition to the leader of the program should be made easier by the presence of 14 varsity returners. Swanson scored seven goals and added seven assists out of her midfield spot last year. Gardner, Hodonicky, Marconi, Mysliwiec and Stevenson also return to key spots in the formation.

Junior defender Olivia Bull and senior forward Haley Reynolds figure to see increased varsity roles compared to last year, and senior Kelly Doro and junior Isabella Scarlati will add depth to a defense that should be a strength for DGN.

"We should be very good in the back," Papa said. "Midfield is also solid with three starters returning. Questions will come from our forward line … but I believe our depth should allow us to sub without losing a high level of play. The deeper we can go to our bench, the stronger this team will be."

Downers Grove South Mustangs

Coach: Chris Hernandez

2016 record: 16-7

Top players

Name Year Pos.

Sarah Casey sr. MF

Paige Patera sr. GK

Lauren Travis so. F

Outlook: The Mustangs have yet to crack the win column so far this season ahead of an April 1 game at Downers Grove North, but with a roster that features 15 returning varsity players, DGS shouldn't have to wait too long for the wins to start coming.

It helps that South has experience at some key spots, including Patera in net, Casey in the middle of the field and Travis at the top of the formation.

A weekend trip to Bettendorf, Iowa, April 7 and 8 comes after the crosstown game and precedes a key West Suburban Gold conference game against Hinsdale South April 11. Later in the month the Mustangs will face Geneva and Waubonsie Valley as part of the Naperville Invitational tournament, and powerhouse Naperville North is also part of a tough nonconference schedule that will help them get ready for the Class 3A postseason.

Hinsdale Central Red Devils

Coach: Michael Smith

2016 record: 18-6

Top players

Name Year Pos.

Rachel Dannhausen-Brun jr. D

Erin Otto sr. MF

Emily Paul jr. MF

Outlook: Graduation plus the losses of some players that chose not to return to varsity hit the Red Devils hard, but there shouldn't be too much drop off from last year's success of a 6-0 West Suburban Silver title, a regional title, and a spot in the sectional final.

Dannhausen-Brun will bring some stability to the defense in front of junior keeper Kaitlin Barbour, who was on varsity last season, and her cohorts Sarah Berg (sophomore) and Fiona Fitzsimons (freshman). Otto and Paul have midfield experience. The top of the offense is more in question with freshman Haley Arnold and sophomores Brittany Doneske, Madigan Lynch and Samantha Moriarty, but Central is never lacking for talent in that department.

"The attention to detail displayed by this year’s varsity group is impressive," Smith said. "They ask thoughtful questions and are eager to execute complex concepts at a high level, which will be crucial to navigating … [our] challenging schedule."

Hinsdale South Hornets

Coach: Jen Belmonte

2016 record: 11-13-1

Top players

Name Year Pos.

Erin Alajoki sr. F/MF

Nicole Kilrea sr. D

Emily Ofenloch sr. D

Tess Sobol sr. MF

Outlook: It's no stretch to say defense will be a strong suit for the Hornets this spring. Off to a 5-0-1 start, South has yet to allow a goal. It won the Quincy tournament March 25 with wins of 2-0 (Ladue) and 5-0 (Plainfield Central) with goals courtesy of Sobol (two), Alajoki, Kilrea, Sydney Puz, Cali Havelka-Vanderplow, and Mackenzie Hill.

Senior sisters Gopika Patel (defense) and Radhika Patel (keeper) arrive after years of playing club to bolster the back line. Senior Havelka-Vanderplow is back after two years at the club level.

South should be in contention for the West Suburban Gold title, especially if it can get past host Downers Grove South in a WSG game April 11. Winners of four straight regional titles, the Hornets will look to keep that streak alive.

Lisle Lions

Coach: Paul Kohorn

2016 record:

Top players

Name Year Pos.

Corrie Hutchison jr. MF

Calli Tomko sr. MF

Francesca Wagoner jr. D

Caitlyn Webber so. GK

Outlook: A small roster with just 15 players means Lisle can ill afford any substantial injuries along the way against a tough schedule. Tomko and Wagoner will lead the way for a team that has 10 returning starters and will see everyone do a little bit of everything.

Webber and freshman Grace Hoscheidt have both seen action in net, which should be a trend as Kohorn tries to keep his thin roster as fresh as possible for the Class 1A postseason, where Lisle is looking to win its sixth regional title since 2004.

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