The Devils are Red-dy for fall action

Boys soccer, girls swimming and girls volleyball have visions of postseason success

The Red Devil girls swimming and diving program has finished second at state the last two years, hoping to be in contention again. After a spectacular regular season and deep run in the 2022 playoffs, Central boys soccer has state trophy designs. And Central girls volleyball is poised to make a name for itself this season, too. See what the teams' head coached had to say in this final installment of our fall sports preview series.

Boys soccer

First game: Aug. 22 vs. Oswego East (V tied 1-1)

Last year: 18-2-1; regional and sectional champs, lost in super-sectional to Naperville Central

Head coach: Mike Wiggins

Seasons as head coach: 22

No. varsity members: 23

Strengths: It takes a couple games to get the team situated, from assessing strengths and weaknesses to putting guys in the right spots. We've worked through some injuries and the players are settling into a pretty good understanding of what we need to do. I'm encouraged by the fact that we're getting guys minutes and getting guys in games.

Areas for growth: I think we can always be better on the defensive side. We've been emphasizing the importance of our team defense. I still feel like we're giving up too many goals.

Who to watch: Senior forward Luca Davies is relentless, hardworking, finds a lot of success taking players on and has a natural ability to score goals. Fellow senior forward Robbie Rocque is back in the starting lineup and scoring goals. Senior midfielder Martin Montoya, Ardit Abdullai and Austen Szurgot are getting a lot of touches. Sophomore Matt Gantar is playing some midfield for us, too. Our backline of junior Enzo Cinque, senior Oliver Pohlenz and junior Michael DiTomasso, along with senior Austin Ward and junior Denis Altman. Junior Martin Contreras has been playing strong in goal for us.

Outlook: It's about developing a competitive piece to the way we play every game, are we putting ourselves in position to handle the big games and the big moment. We just don't want any letdown.

Girls swimming

First meet: Aug. 26 vs. Kendall Pickering Invite (V placed 4th)

Last year: sectional champs, state runner-up

Head coach: Bob Barber

Seasons as head coach: 24

No. varsity members: 31

Strengths: We did a nice job of offseason training so the girls were prepared for the new season. We have an incoming freshman class that brings a lot of state-level swimmers in. We were able to capture a couple of meet records at the Kendall Pickering Invite and show our top-end speed. We're starting to identify who will be rounding out our sectional lineup and focusing on specific events for people.

Areas for growth: We knew that we were going to suffer from the departure of last season's senior class to graduation. We don't have a lot of variety in our swimmers. The kids are specific to their skill set and just have to keep doing it over and over again. I think we're pretty solid on what we know the kids can do. We just need to stay healthy and get a little faster.

Who to watch: Senior Burly Bokos, a returning state finalist in both the 200 medley relay and the 500 free; Elizabeth Lahmann, who swims both middle distance and butterfly as well as adds to our relays; junior transfer Kamile Zinis; freshmen Karina Miller and Lilia Barber; returning junior diver Meghan Martell finaled at state last year and is going to play a key role for us well; and senior Kelechi Ojiako is a school record-holder.

Outlook: We did significantly better than we thought at (Kendall Pickering). Our top-end speed was there. There were several strong schools competing and we found that we are still competitive with them. I think I entered the year thinking a top-10 finish at state would be good, and I left (Pickering) thinking we're a top-5 team. I think the ceiling is unknown.

Girls volleyball

First game: Aug. 21 @ Plainfield North (V wons 25-17, 25-21)

Last year: 21-17, lost in regional championship

Head coach: Kelly Stapleton

Seasons as head coach: three

No. varsity members: 13

Strengths: I'm really excited and optimistic about where this team can go. The mentality of the girls is very, very competitive. They are just putting the success of the team above everything else.

Areas for growth: Our communication on the court and our first contact skills need to improve. We have not handled the ball well at times. The serving and passing game has been our strength, but we need to work on the setters' connection with the hitters and on developing consistency.

Who to watch: senior outside hitter Elizabeth Sessa is coming back from injury, as is junior libero Ava Young. Sessa is trying to reach the 500-kill mark for her career, and Young is on her way to 1,000 digs and a school record. Senior outside hitter Siena Steines will be a key player, and junior Caitlyn Peterson is a versatile hitter and solid defender. Senior outside hitter Emma Quast has a lot of power and is hard to read for defenders. Senior Grace Scott and junior Lauren Nieman play middle. Sophomore right side Caitlin Leddy is a setter for us sometimes. Last year on JV she broke her wrist and is taking on a little more of a leadership role this season. Senior Kendall Chen and junior Allie Garchar are two setters who also moved up from JV.

Outlook: Our conference prepares us very well for the post-season. Four out of the six WSC Silver are ranked in the state's top 20. After we start to get into a rhythm with having everyone back, we can make a run for the postseason. We want to get past the regional championship and into the sectional this year.

Author Bio

Ken Knutson is associate editor of The Hinsdalean