Teams look for success on the field

Boys and girls lacrosse, girls soccer hope for strong performances this season

By Pamela Lannom

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The Red Devils boys and girls lacrosse teams and girls soccer team faced their first opponents last week, with two of the three coming away with a win.

This is the third in four-part series of previews on spring sports team at Hinsdale Central.

Next week: baseball, softball and boys tennis.

Boys lacrosse

First game: March 14 @ Stevenson (V wins 9-8)

Last year: 10-12, lost in IHSA sectional semifinal

Head coach: Joe Battaglia

Seasons as head coach: 2nd

No. team members: 35

Strengths: Overall, their strength - all offseason long and in the first two weeks - is the effort they are putting in, their dedication, their will to win, their drive to be better each day. Play-wise, I think our defense is going to be really strong this year. Offensively we lost Tommy Webster to graduation, so I think it's going to be much more team-based, getting a lot of other people stepping up in his big scoring absence.

Challenges: We've got some new players offensively. We lost our top two scorers in Webster and Chase Collignon, and we lost our face-off specialist as well, Dean Assicurato. I think it's going to be seeing the players step up in the offensive roles and on face offs as well. We're really excited about the group we have. I think tonight (March 14) is going to be the perfect window of opportunity for us to see where our guys are at and where they're operating in the schemes the coaches have put into place for them.

Who to watch: On defense, there's three - No. 2 Mason Brady, No. 25 Rocco Salvi and No. 12 Bart Bouchelion. They are going to be three key guys on our defense. Offensively, No. 5 Josh Randell, No. 20, Finn Bergin and No. 13, Nate Merz. Our goalie is a good dude, No. 66, Daniel Backus. He's been having a great offseason and he's had a great first couple of weeks of practice as well.

Outlook: We're pretty optimistic. I think one of the things that impressed me most was the offseason they had and all the work they put in through open gyms, through strength and conditioning. We participate in the Westmont Yard winter league and the boys were undefeated. Good way to get started. I think all of the work they put in, their outlook, their focus has just been so impressive. They have bought into the culture the coaches and I have wanted to instill. We're looking to take the next step forward from where we were last year. We had a young team last year. Seeing the next step in their growth is something that's really exciting as well.

Furthermore: Friday, April 26, is our lacrosse community night. It's going to be a varsity girls-boys double header. We invited the youth teams and the community out just for a night of lacrosse and to celebrate the community. It's something we're looking forward to.

Girls lacrosse

First game: March 14 vs. Lake Forest (V loses 7-9)

Last year: 2nd at state, won conference, regionals and sectionals

Head coach: Matt McNiff

Seasons as head coach: 4th

No. team members: 22

Strengths: This is probably the most athletic group I've coached. What stands out to me most is their speed. It's a very fast team. Agility wise, straight away, transitionally - really, really fast. The girls we took, a lot of them were a big piece in the offseason program. They wanted to do it in September. It was just an eagerness to succeed for the girls. The team chemistry is probably one of the best parts of the team as well. It seems as if they are really good friends off the field.

Challenges: I think we have a little bit less lacrosse experience on the team this year, but I do think their athleticism kind of makes up for it. We did bring up three freshmen and they will be playing. We have a boatload of juniors that will be playing. We're not necessarily a senior-dominated team. We've got five senior starters. The freshman class is loaded with talent and the junior class has a lot of talent. I think it's just a matter of getting some game experience.

Who to watch: Our goalie, Makenna Schultz, is arguably the best goalie in the state - at least one of the best. She's got a scholarship to New Hampshire, so Division I lacrosse. She's been on the team since her freshman year. She's been in the state championship two years. She's made saves that at times I don't understand how she does what she does. Another kid that's going to be exciting to watch is Peyton Moncrief. She's another junior. She's a midfielder. She's smaller, she's skinny, but when she plays, she's lightning quick. She can score from anywhere. She's a scrappy kid. Junior midfielder Logan O'Connor has been on the team since her freshman year. She's tall and put on some serious muscle in the offseason. She's looking to get recruited. She's going to be playing midfield for us, but her defensive skills are quite good - probably the best I've seen since I've been in Hinsdale.

Outlook: We have the same outlook as we always have. We believe we have the athleticism to go all the way. You have to take it one game at a time. We don't have the amount of Division I athletes we typically have. In 2022, we only had one Division I commit and we faced New Trier, who had seven Division I commits, and we lost by one point. On paper, we're not stacked with Division I athletes as of yet, but the girls kind of have that vibe that people don't think we're going to be successful this year. We do think we can be state contenders for sure.

Furthermore: The four seniors that we have returning, they are our captains, they are a really solid group of kids. They play an excellent role on the team. Parker Matthews and Daphne Venetsanopoulos on offense and Chloe Vande Lune and Regan Torsberg on defense.

Girls soccer

First meet: March 11 vs. De La Salle (V won 2-0)

Last year: lost in IHSA supersectional

Head coach: Tony Madonia

Seasons as head coach: 6th

No. team members: 20

Strengths: Athletically we're pretty fast and technical. Just as a team, really positive, motivated, mutual goals. Those would be the five main things I'd highlight.

Challenges: The girls have not really played together a lot, so limited experience. There's a wide range of age groups on the team, from freshmen to seniors. We had one at each grade level at the very least starting in our first game. We just always schedule a really tough schedule. It's going to be one of those seasons where we're playing strong opponent after strong opponent.

Who to watch: Kate McDonnell is our captain. She's been on varsity four years now and she started off with a bang, both on the field and with a goal in our first game. She is just kind of the glue - she's so positive and keeps everybody on the same page. The other captains are Claire Snodgrass, Julia Marinaccio and Ryann Knapp. They're all seniors.

Outlook: I think we're going to do really well. We have team meetings and individual meetings every year, and this year everybody has really said they want to make a run at conference, which we're typically the toughest conference in the state if not the Midwest. And they want to go further than we did last year, which is pretty close to the end. The girls have identified these things. I always tell them, "It's your team. We just want to get you where you want to go." They really have set the bar high for themselves.

Furthermore: I would like to plug our Julie Heidecke clinic that our captains have put on for the 26th straight year on April 7 from 12 to 3 p.m. in the fieldhouse. It's completely led by the varsity girls soccer team, particularly the captains, and then representatives from the ISU women's team. The Heidecke family is still in the community and they're there every year. The Julie Heidecke scholarship is given out. It's a special event.

Author Bio

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Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean