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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: Marmion Qualifies 4, Claims West Aurora Sectional Title

Through The Fence: Batavia’s Josh Cogan returns a serve on Saturday.

Marmion continued its historic season on Saturday when two singles players and one doubles team qualified for state as the Cadets finished in first place at the West Aurora boys tennis sectional.

Senior Will Graft and sophomore John Graft took second and third place respectively in singles, while the doubles team of senior Chris Pattermann and junior Jackson Rettig finished third.

“The boys made history. It’s the first time in a long time, if ever, that we won a sectional title,” Cadets coach John Tsang said.

The Cadets went undefeated in the regular season and were champions of the Suburban Christian Conference.

Marmion topped all teams with 25 points, while Naperville Central and Waubonsie Valley tied for second with 18. Batavia (16) came in fourth.

Batavia senior Josh Cogan, who tied for ninth at last year’s state tournament, knocked off Marmion’s Will Graft 6-2, 6-1 in the singles championship.

Cogan, a four-time state qualifier, was able to overpower Graft with his serve.

“The serve felt really, really good. I was hitting it really clean,” said Cogan, who claimed the sectional title for the second straight year. “I got into a rhythm, and I wasn’t really thinking about it. I was just stepping up to the line and hitting it.”

Waubonsie Valley’s senior duo of Deep Chatterjee and Abhi Singh defeated the Naperville Central team of junior Danny Albert and sophomore Wesley Lo 6-2, 5-7, 6-4 in the doubles championship.

With temperatures hovering around 90 degrees, Singh said the third set was mentally and physically challenging.

“It was just mental toughness,” Singh said. “Both teams were really tired, we both won a set, and basically, it was whoever wanted it more.”

Singh qualified for state the previous three years in singles, but Chatterjee will be playing at state for the first time.

The Redhawks’ No. 2 doubles team of Matt Mason and Justin Gillette placed fourth and will be joining Albert and Lo at state. Marmion’s Pattermann and Rettig knocked off Mason and Gillette 6-7, 7-5, 6-1 in the third place doubles match.

West Aurora senior Matt Kuntzi qualified for state after a fourth-place finish. Marmion’s John Graft defeated Kuntzi 6-2, 6-4 in the third place singles match.

West Aurora and Metea Valley tied for fifth place with eight points. IMSA (6), East Aurora (4) and Aurora Central (4) followed.

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: Neuqua Valley Finishes Second At Naperville North Sectional

Athletics compete in the 400 relay at Thursday’s Naperville North sectional. 

Minooka (80) edged Neuqua Valley (78) by just two points to take first place at Thursday’s 3A boys track sectional at Naperville North, but it was still a successful night for the Wildcats who had six individuals and three relay teams qualify for next week’s state meet.

Waubonsie Valley (72.60), Plainfield North (46.60) and Joliet West (40) rounded out the top five. Naperville North and Naperville Central tied for seventh place with 31 points each. West Aurora (28) finished in eight place, Oswego East (19.60) was in 11th, Oswego (18) finished 13th and East Aurora (4) came in 16th to round out area teams.

Neuqua distance runner Mark Derrick qualified for state in two events, taking first place in both the 1,600 (4:18.30) and 3,200 (9:12.37). In the 1,600, Derrick pulled ahead of Yorkville’s Chris Kellogg on the final lap to take his second title of the night.

“I was a little worried for a second, then I saw that he wasn’t really putting me away, so I got myself back into the race,” Derrick said.

Taylor Soltys will join Derrick at state in the 3,200 after finishing in second place. Jacob Bender qualified in both the 400 and 400 relay. However, the senior pulled in his hamstring during the 400 and was unable to participate in the 1,600 relay.

Neuqua received second place finishes Andrew Peterson in the pole vault and Carlos Varela-Hernandez in the discus. The Wildcats’ 3,200 and 800 relay teams also qualified for state.

Nobody was going to out-throw Waubonsie Valley’s duo of Riley Kittridge and Jamaal Bearden on Thursday.

Kittridge took home sectionals titles in both the shot put (55-3.5) and discus (164.5), while Bearden also qualified in both events, finishing second in the shot put (54-1) and third in the discus (157-3).

“I wanted to win both events, and I accomplished that,” said Kittridge, who qualified for state last year in the shot put. “Last year I struggled in disc, but this year it’s really picked up for me.”

Waubonsie had two other individuals place first – Kyle Schafer in the 300 hurdles (38.20) and James Travis in the triple jump (44-1). The Warriors’ 400 and 1600 relay teams also qualified for state.

Naperville North was paced by sprinter James Kerns who qualified in both the 100 (10.97) and 200 (22.24). The senior finished second in the 100, and third in the 200 with a time exactly at the state qualifying standard.

Kerns will be joined in Charleston by long jumper Kareem Midani and pole vaulter Nick Lyon. Midani set a personal record in the long jump with a leap of 22-7.5.

“I honestly had no idea that I’d do this,” said Midani. “It was one heck of an accomplishment. I just went out there and did it. I was so psyched.”

Naperville Central will be well represented in the field at Charleston next weekend. Pole vaulters Mike Juretschke and Kevin Rzepczinski and shot putter David Goodalis all qualified for state.

The Redhawks also had three relays qualify for state – 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.

Hanies, a senior, got a week added to his high school career by qualifying for state in two relays.

“It’s not over for us,” Haines said. “It feels good knowing that I can continue seeing my friends even though tomorrow is the last day of school. We still get to hang out during practice.”

West Aurora will be represented at state by triple jumper Aaron Kennebrew and its 3,200 relay team of Calvin Robinson, Zach Truckenbrod, Vontrel Hawkins and Brandon McKay.

Kennebrew overcame an injured heel to finish second in the triple jump with a leap of 43-6.

“I had a lot of support from my coaches and my family. They just told me mind over matter,” Kennebrew said. “I just went out there and jumped. The adrenaline kept me going and it didn’t hurt anymore.”

Oswego East had two individuals qualify for state– Kalmon Strokes in the 300 hurdles and Chase Skenandore in the 800. The Wolves’ 3, 200 relay team of Dakoda Skenandore, Andrew Holm, Rene Salinas and Chase Skenandore also qualified.

For Stokes, a senior, qualifying for state meant a four-year dream realized.

“It feels amazing. It’s what I’ve been trying to get my whole four years of high school,” Stokes said. “To finally accomplish that, it makes me happy.”

Long jumper Alain Dixon was the lone qualifier for Oswego. The senior placed third (22-7), but he out-jumped the state qualifying mark 0f 22-3 by four inches.

East Aurora sprinter Desmond Gant was .14 seconds away from qualifying for state in the 200. The Tomcats’ sophomore placed fourth (22.38).

I wrote this story for the Chicago Sun-Times, Aurora Beacon, Naperville Sun and yourseason.com. 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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Boys Baseball: Rajewski Tosses Shutout As Benet Beats Waubonsie Valley

Going into Thursday’s game against Waubonsie Valley, Benet starting pitcher Jordan Rajewski just wanted to keep his team in the game.

The right-handed junior did that and more, tossing a complete game shutout as the Redwings defeated the visiting Warriors 8-0.

“I just wanted to hold them to low runs, and set up the next guy,” said Rajewski. “I had no idea I’d go that many innings, I just wanted to keep the game close.”

Rajewski scattered seven hits and one walk over seven innings while striking out two batters. The junior was able to keep the Warriors off balance by mixing up his pitches.

“I started off throwing off-speed, and got them out in front. Then I just tried to paint the outside with fastballs,” said Rajewski. “I really had them guessing.”

Rajewski was able to work out of some first inning trouble. Waubonsie Valley had runners on second and third with just one out after Warriors catcher Tyler Josupait doubled to right field. However, Rajewski struck out Warriors third baseman James Palasz and got Warriors outfielder Zac Steele to line out to Benet second baseman Chris Stout to end the inning unscathed.

Benet coach Scott Lawler thought his pitcher’s first inning escape set the tone for the rest of the game.

“I think what really set him [Rajewski] apart was that first inning. He got out of the jam, and I think that was a big statement inning for him right there,” said Lawler.

In the second inning, the bottom of Benet’s lineup produced the Redwings’ first two runs.

No. 8 hitter Greg Arend reached base on an infield error, allowing Andrew Mogni to score the game’s first run. No. 9 hitter Billy Tumpane then drove in No. 7 hitter Joe Boyle on a sacrifice fly to center field.

Benet (4-2) pulled away with a six-run fifth inning. Stout capped off the offensive explosion with a single to right field that drove in Arend and Tumpane and put Benet up 8-0. Stout had three hits and two RBIs to lead the Redwings on offense.

“I’ve been up in big spots in a couple straight games and I haven’t really come through. I’m just getting more confident, and I’m looking to be more aggressive at the plate,” said Stout. “In the fifth, I stayed back on a first-pitch curveball and got the hit.”

Waubonsie Valley (2-2) coach Dan Fezzuoglio said his team had too many mental breakdowns on Thursday.

“We just can’t have them. They’re a good team, and credit to them for swinging the bats, but we have to do a better job from a mental standpoint to keep us in games,” said Fezzuoglio.

Lawler believes his team has taken on the right attitude this season and that it has led to early success.

“They’re hardworking kids. I think there are some high school teams out there that probably could make a few mistakes and still win. But we can’t, and the kids know that. We have to play well to win,” said Lawler.

“We’re scrappy, and I love the kids.”

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

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