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Boys Baseball: Metea Knocks Off WWS, Advances To First Regional Final

After Metea Valley struggled in three straight losses last week, Mustangs coach Craig Tomczak had every right to be concerned about his team’s bats going into Thursday’s regional semifinal against Wheaton Warrenville South.

But the Mustangs pushed any doubt aside, pounding out 16 hits and 12 runs in their 12-5 victory over the Tigers.

Metea Valley, the No. 10 seed in the Romeoville sectional, advances to play second-seeded Hinsdale South at 10 a.m. Saturday in the Waubonsie Valley regional final.

“We didn’t swing the bats real well last week and I was a little nervous going in to the game today,” Tomczak said. “Our approach today was great. It took us a couple innings to get going, but everyone always says that hitting is contagious, and that one inning we put a bunch of hits together.”

The Tigers took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning on an RBI single by Ryan O’Neil. Wheaton South was in position to add more – they had the bases loaded with just one out – but Metea pitcher Tom Bolle induced a double play to end the inning.

The Mustangs’ bats broke out in the third inning, scoring five runs on six hits. Kenny Obendorf, Michael Mooney, Billy Sheeren, Austin Kinnavy and Ben Doiron all chipped in RBI singles during the inning as the Mustangs took a 5-1 advantage.

Metea (17-18) added two more runs in the fifth inning on RBI singles by Kinnavy and Obendorf.

In the seventh inning, the Mustangs had their second five-run frame. Andrew Fox started the scoring with an RBI single that brought home Kinnavy. Then with two outs and two strikes, Mooney launched a grand slam to left field that put Metea up 12-1. It was the junior first baseman’s first grand slam at any level.

“It was really exciting,” Mooney said. “I was trying to get the bat on the ball, it worked out.”

Obendorf went 3-for-5 with 2 RBI and 2 runs scored while Kinnavy went 3-for-4 with an RBI and two runs scored. Of the Mustangs 16 hits, 15 were singles. Mooney’s grand slam was Metea’s first and only extra base hit.

“We have the type of team that if we get a lead, I think we’re better offensively. Then we can bunt a little bit, we can hit and run, we can steal bases from time to time,” Tomczak said. “We have a lot of base hit guys, and when you’re trailing, it’s hard to do the things we like to do offensively.”

The Tigers got RBI base hits from Kevin Giltz and O’Neil as they scored four runs in the bottom of the seventh. Metea pitcher Adam Cielinski relieved Bolle with two outs in the inning and retired the only batter he faced to clinch the Mustangs’ 12-5 victory.

The Mustangs will make their first ever appearance in a regional final game on Saturday. Tomczak said the Mustangs want to go even farther.

“These kids have worked hard for it for three years. But our job is not done, we’re not satisfied by any means,” Tomczak said. “But we know the job Saturday is going to be really, really tough. They’ve got a real good team.”

I wrote this story for the Chicago Sun-Times, Aurora Beacon, Naperville Sun and yourseason.com. It appears here.

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Boys Track Preview: Neuqua Valley’s Derrick And Bender Among Local Contenders At State Meet

Runners get ready for the 400 relay at last week’s Naperville North sectional.

When Neuqua Valley seniors Mark Derrick and Jacob Bender step onto the blue track at the boys track and field state finals in Charleston this weekend, they will be looking to improve on their top-six finishes at last year’s state meet.

Both have a good shot.

Derrick – who finished sixth in the 3,200 last year – comes into this year’s meet with the third best 3A qualifying time (9:12.37). And Bender – last year’s runner-up in the 400 – enters with the second highest qualifying time (48.94), just .04 seconds behind Stepfan Thelemaque of Plainfield East.

The North Carolina-bound Derrick could place in two individual events.  He finished first in the 1,600 at the Naperville North sectional with the 11th best 3A qualifying time (4:18.30).

“Running both, it’s always tiring, but it kind of depends on the day. I ran a double at DGS and felt great after both of them,” Derrick said last week. “After the mile (at last Thursday’s sectional), it was like ‘Oh my God, this second race is going to be rough,’ but I was able to pull through.”

Derrick and the Nebraska-bound Bender are among the 20 individuals and 11 relays from local schools that will be competing at this weekend’s 118th annual boys track and field state finals.

Neuqua Valley will have three other individuals competing in Charleston: Senior Taylor Soltys in the 3,200, senior Andrew Peterson in the pole vault and junior Carlos Varela-Hernandez in the discus.

Varela-Hernandez – who qualified for state in the discus last year but didn’t place – will be a contender to place this weekend after having the 10th best 3A qualifying throw (164-1).

The Wildcats also qualified three relays for state: The 400 team of Bender, Joseph Younis, James Sampson and Eric Metoyer, the 800 team of Younis, Nick Rafacz, Dennis Thurow and Metoyer, and the 3,200 team of Andy Martinez, Kevin Skrip, Xander Jacobson and Rolan Dewgard.

Waubonsie Valley thrower Riley Kittridge has a good chance to place in both the shot put and discus. The junior placed first in both events at the Naperville North sectional with the fifth best 3A qualifying throw in the shot put (56-6) and eighth best in the discus (164-5).

“My goals down there are maybe not to win, but at least get personal records and do my best,” Kittridge said.

Warriors senior Jamaal Bearden also qualified in both throwing events.

Waubonsie senior Kyle Schafer won the 300 hurdles at sectionals and is a contender to do the same at state. His sectional run of 38.20 was the third best 3A qualifying time, just .08 seconds behind Derrick Willies of Rock Island.

Schafer also qualified for state as part of the Warriors’ 400 and 1,600 relay teams. He will be joined in the 400 by Austin Ameri, Tony Durns and Demitrius Gray and in the 1,600 by Ameri, Gray and John Burke.

The Warriors’ 1,600 relay qualified for state with a time of 3:19.07, the third best mark in 3A.

Waubonsie triple jumper James Travis will also be competing at state after placing first at sectionals with a jump of 44-1.

Naperville Central will be led in Charleston by its three state-qualifying relay squads: The 800 team of Brandon Lau, Tyler Haines, Kevin Kulling and Sam Bransby, the 1,600 team of Haines, Bransby, Kulling and Brad Kouchoukos and the 3,200 team of Kouchoukos, Forrest Thayer, Ethan Brodeur and Christian Schafer.

The 800 and 1,600 relays qualified for state despite entering sectionals with seed times above the state standard.

“We weren’t seeded at getting any qualifying state times and we weren’t in good lanes, but we didn’t let that discourage us,” Haines said.

The Redhawks also had three individuals qualify for state – Mike Juretschke and Kevin Rzepczynski in the pole vault and David Goodalis in the discus.

Naperville North had three individuals qualify for state – senior James Kerns in the 100 and 200, senior Nick Lyon in the pole vault and senior Kareem Midani in the long jump.

Midani earned second place at sectionals by jumping 22-7.5, more than a foot farther than his previous personal best.

“I wasn’t expecting to jump that far. I was expecting to get close to qualifying, but jumping that far, I honestly had no idea,” said Midani, who was only jumping 19 feet indoors earlier this spring. “I didn’t just make it to state, I passed that. It was awesome.”

Metea Valley had four individuals and one relay qualify out of the St. Charles North sectional. Twin brothers Joe and Matt Stewart both qualified in the 3,200. Joe won the race with a time of 9:15.27, the sixth best 3A qualifying mark, while Matt came in third (9:28.16).

The Stewart twins will be joined in Charleston by junior Colin Yorke (1,600), senior Ben Hulett (300 hurdles) and 1,600 relay team of Tre’sean Mackey, Alan Williams, Aaron Laskey, and William King.

Benet junior Anton Vershay qualified for the 2A state meet by finishing second at last Friday’s Lisle sectional. The Redwings’ 1,600 and 3,200 relay teams also qualified for state.

I wrote this story for the Naperville Sun. It appears here.

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Boys Tennis: Neuqua Valley Takes First At Upstate Eight Valley Tournament

South Elgin’s Andre Norasith serves at Saturday’s UEC Valley Tournament.

Neuqua Valley left no doubt that it is the top team in the Upstate Eight Valley at Saturday’s conference tennis tournament at Waubonsie Valley.

The Wildcats won six of seven tournament title matches – including all three singles – on their way to finishing in first place with 83 team points.

“I think we’re really privileged in the respect that we do have depth,” Neuqua coach Trudy Bennorth said. “I can just pretty well count on all of them, it makes it really special.”

Metea Valley and Waubonsie Valley tied for second place with 47 points. South Elgin (36), Lake Park (33), Bartlett (13) and East Aurora (3) rounded out the seven team conference.

Neuqua first singles Mike Baiocchi knocked off No. 1 seed Andre Norasith of South Elgin in quick fashion, 6-1, 6-2, in the title match.

“I felt my serve was pretty much what got everything else going,” Baiocchi said. “If I’m serving real well, everything else just falls into place.”

Norasith, just a sophomore, was the Storm’s highest finisher at the tournament.

The Wildcats also got first place finishes from second singles Tim Worley and third singles Naveen Krishnan.

Neuqua’s Jack Warning and Andi Kosova and Waubonsie’s Abhi Singh and Deep Chatterjee met for the third time this season in the first doubles final. After the duos split the earlier meetings, Warning and Kosova won Saturday’s rubber match 7-6 (11-9), 3-6, 6-1.

“We definitely wanted that. The match was the deciding one – best two out of three,” Kosova said. “It was also a good boost going into sectionals and state.”

Neuqua’s third doubles team of Jeff Ohmer and Amit Iyer and fourth doubles team of Zach Bauernfein and Colton Luburgh also took home conference titles.

Waubonsie’s second doubles team of Mike Cioffi and Alex Tadeuch were the only first places finishers not from Neuqua. In just their fifth match together, the Warriors duo overcame an early deficit to knock off Metea’s Bill Finnerty and Nick Ohl 4-6, 6-3, 6-2.

“The first set we couldn’t get our serve returns in play. We were kind of letting them win the match just by us missing,” Cioffi said. “In the second set we started turning it around just by getting balls in play.”

Cioffi and Tadeuch are now 5-0 as a pair and will play together at next week’s West Aurora sectional.

In addition to Finnerty and Ohl, Metea received second-place finishes from third singles Kevin Brown and third doubles Rishi Sriram and George Lin.

Of the seven title winners, six came into the tournament seeded first. The only upset occurred in first singles where Neuqua’s Baiocchi, the No. 2 seed, knocked off South Elgin’s Norasith, the No. 1 seed.

I wrote this story for the Chicago Sun-Times, Naperville Sun, Aurora Beacon and Elgin Courier. It appears here.

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Boys Volleyball: Sophomore Simmons Shines As Waubonsie Knocks Off Metea

The teams gather on the court pregame for the National Anthem.

Waubonsie Valley has made a habit this season of coming back from the brink of defeat. Things were no different on Tuesday as the Warriors fought off five game points in the second game of their 25-23, 28-26 victory over host Metea Valley.

The Warriors had previously come back in matches against Marist and Glenbard West.

“We know that when we get in that position, we can come back. It’s not a done deal,” said Waubonsie Valley coach Al Lagger. “We know that’s prime time for us, we can step it up and do what we need to do.”

Waubonsie Valley (24-5, 4-0) trailed 24-20 in the second game on Tuesday before going on a 5-0 run that featured a kill and block from outside hitter Mike Storm.

The Warriors then lost back-to-back points, and faced another Mustangs game point – their fifth – at 26-25.

Waubonsie came back again to win three straight points, the last coming on an ace by middle Seth Salmon, to win the game and the match.

The back-and-forth second game featured 12 ties and seven lead changes.

Outside hitter Mike Simmons, who led the Warriors with 16 kills, said the team’s practice routine – with a threat of running – has helped build a never-say-die attitude.

“We have a lot of fight. We’ll never quit on a game, we always know we can come back and win,” said Simmons. “At practice, we always start off down and have to come back and win the game or else we have to run. That really helped today.”

Setter Luke Furman had 21 assists, two kills and two aces, Storm had eight kills and an ace and middle Tyler House had two kills and two blocks as the Warriors improved to 4-0 against Upstate Eight Valley competition.

Simmons had eight kills in the Warriors’ 25-23 opening game win. After Metea tied the game at 21-21, Simmons had two kills and a block as the Warriors went on a 4-2 run to finish off the game. The 6’6” sophomore’s perfectly-placed tap over two leaping Mustangs on game point gave the Warriors an early advantage.

Simmons’ strong play on Tuesday drew high praise from Lagger.

“He’s a consummate leader. He puts the ball in play when he has to, he swings hard when he has to,” said Lagger. “He’s a very intelligent player. If he sees a triple block, he’ll go up there and tip it in over the block.”

Outside hitter Martin Krasuski had seven kills and two blocks and opposite hitter Adam Miller had five kills and five blocks to lead the Mustangs.

Metea Valley (19-10, 2-4) coach John Aister is looking for someone to step up late in games for the Mustangs.

“I’d say half our losses this season have been just like today,” said Aister. “We’ve been up in a match, we’ve had control of a game, and we just can’t finish. We just need that one person to close for us.”

I wrote this story for the Chicago Sun-Times, Aurora Beacon and yourseason.com. It appears here

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Kenny Obendorf Leads Metea Valley To Victory Over Oswego East

Metea Valley 75 Oswego East 67

Metea Valley has been relying on Kenny Obendorf all season long, and things were no different Tuesday night as the Mustangs defeated Oswego East 75-67 in Aurora.

The senior guard hit three-pointers on three straight possessions in the third quarter as the Mustangs (22-3) went on a 10-2 run and pulled away from the Wolves. Obendorf had 14 points in the quarter while making all four of his three point attempts.

“The shots weren’t falling for him in the first half and he wasn’t being aggressive. He hit those first two and I just kept going to him, because he has a tendency to get hot like that,” said Metea Valley head coach Bob Vozza. “He’s been our leader all year. And in big moments, he hit big shots for us today.”

Obendorf led the Mustangs with 23 points, while fellow starter Milan Bojanic added had 13 points and 7 rebounds.

Raysean Parker (12 points, six rebounds and three steals) provided a spark off the bench for the Mustangs.

“We got some contributions off the bench in a big way. I think Raysean is finally getting healthy. He’s been battling some stuff all year, and he’s looked great the last few games,” said Vozza.

Metea led by as many as 13 points in the first half, but Oswego (12-12) was able to cut the deficit to 35-27 at halftime.

Kendall Dorsey got the Wolves within six points after knocking down two free throws with five minutes left in the third quarter.

But then Obendorf went off, knocking down three-pointers on three straight possessions as Metea pulled away.

The Mustangs lead grew to 21 midway through the fourth quarter, but the Wolves didn’t give up. Oswego responded with a 12-0 run to cut the lead to single-digits with two minutes remaining in the game.

However, Obendorf was able to knock down free throws and Metea hung on for victory.

Kenny Battle Jr. led Oswego with 24 points, while Kalmon Stokes notched a double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds.

The Mustangs will have nine days off before their Upstate Eight Conference crossover game on Fri. Feb. 24. Vozza hopes his team will be able to rest-up for the playoffs during the lay-over.

“We’ll try to mend some soreness and bodies, but at the same time we want to continue to get better. I think we’re going in the right direction,” said Vozza. “We just want to be playing at a high level when playoffs come, and they’re coming now, so we’ve got practice time to prepare and then one game to get ready.”

I wrote this story for the Chicago Sun-Times, Aurora Beacon, Naperville Sun and yourseason.com. It appears here.

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