High school lacrosse: 2019 season team previews

Prairie Ridge's Ryan Kirchberg and McHenry's Kyle Hephner battle in last year's Fox Valley Conference semifinal game. Local teams will all play IHSA lacrosse this season.
Prairie Ridge's Ryan Kirchberg and McHenry's Kyle Hephner battle in last year's Fox Valley Conference semifinal game. Local teams will all play IHSA lacrosse this season.


Fox Valley Conference


Coach: Zac Cheatle (first season)

Last year’s record: 15-1

Top returning players: Cole Eggebraten, sr., defenseman; Luke Eleftheriou, jr., midfielder; Blake Nolan, sr., goalie; Jack Hughes, jr., attacker; Jake Baird, sr., attacker; Braden Baird, sr., midfielder; Logan Baird, sr., midfielder; Zach Pearrone, sr., midfielder

Top new players: Nate Desmet, jr., defenseman

Noteworthy: The Trojans will return a strong group of seniors from one of the Fox Valley Conference’s best teams. “With this being the inaugural season in the IHSA, they are eager to prove themselves and leave a legacy behind that the underclassmen can strive to build on,” Cheatle said.

Crystal Lake Central

Coach: Leo Zimmerman (second season)

Last year’s record: 10-8

Top returning players: Brian Crowley, jr., midfielder; Nate McLean, jr., attacker; Mark Crowley, so., midfielder; Patryck Pruszynski, jr., defenseman; Gavin Ploczynski, so.; attacker; Joey Trowbridge, jr., midfielder; Eddie Metz, sr., defenseman

Top new players: Alex Amster, jr., goalie; Ken Bland, jr., attacker; Jason Christensen, jr., midfielder; Bryce Casimino, fr., defenseman

Noteworthy: Brian Crowley, who plays long-stick midfielder, is one of the FVC’s top players. “He can be a game changer causing turnovers and sparking transition in the midfield,” Zimmerman said. … McLean and Metz were the leading goal scorers last season and return. … “There is a lot of excitement as this will be our first year competing as an IHSA-sanctioned sport,” Zimmerman said. “Our key to success will be playing a disciplined style of offense to control the tempo of the game.”

Crystal Lake South

Coach: Jim Krol (first season)

Last year’s record: 7-9

Top returning players: Sam Storck, sr., midfielder; Midas Baciadore, jr., defenseman; Joe Krol, jr., midfielder; Tim Eilert, sr., attacker; Dan Wiebmer, sr., attacker

Top new players: Jack Wruck, sr., midfielder

Noteworthy: The Gators hope to build off what they did last year and compete better in the FVC this season. … Krol had two goals and two assists in their season opener and should be a big contributor on both ends. … Eilert and Wiebmer also should help on the attacking end for the Gators. … Wruck has not played organized lacrosse before, but has some informal experience. Coach Krol called Wruck “an excellent athlete.” Wruck played on South’s Class 2A state championship soccer team during the fall.


Coach: Dylan Maule (second season)

Last year’s record: 10-4

Top returning players: Dom Bianchi, sr., defenseman; Nik Karavidas, sr., defenseman; Mike Pielin, sr., midfielder; Damien Smiech, sr., midfielder; Jason Ridley, sr., midfielder-attacker; Ben Karl, jr., attacker; Dylan Henneman, jr., attacker

Top new players: Ricky Ibarra, sr., midfielder; Balthazar Rodriguez, sr., midfielder; Christian Alamillo, jr., midfielder; Aidan Didier, fr., goalie; Jordan Laing, fr., goalie

Noteworthy: Karl and Henneman will be key players for the Chargers on the attack. “If they can control the ball and make good decisions, we will be successful offensively,” Maule said. … Maule likes having athletes such as Ibarra, the football team’s leading rusher, Smiech and Rodriguez. “Once they get some experience, they will be a force,” Maule said.


Coach: Collin Rustay (second season)

Last year’s record: 2-14

Top returning players: Will Buterbaugh, sr., midfielder; Zach Slaten, sr., attacker; Andrew Baeder, sr., defenseman; Austin Penrod, sr., goalie

Top new players: Nick Johnston, so., midfielder; Brady Holtz, so., midfielder; Jackson Smith, fr., midfielder; James Borgardt, fr., midfielder; Carson Collinbourne, jr., attacker

Noteworthy: Rustay likes his skilled senior group that anchors a team which has a lot of young players. “This is helpful for the younger guys when it comes to handling situations in practice and games,” Rustay said. “We have talent, but we need to be able to put it all together and flow as a group.” … Slaten was one of the Whip-Purs’ best scorers, and Buterbaugh came through in crucial moments. Baeder leads the defense and Penrod was solid in goal, making saves in big moments.


Coach: Dom Saccomanno (first season)

Last year’s record: 9-10 (playing an IHSA schedule)

Top returning players: Will Peterson, sr., midfielder; Max Greco, sr., midfielder; Isaac Ober, jr., defenseman; Rafael De La Paz, jr., defender

Noteworthy: The Red Raiders are looking at a building season after graduating 17 seniors. “We have some returners with big-game experience that will lead us in key moments,” Saccomanno said. “The goal is to improve each game and hit a stride right before the playoffs.”


Coach: John Bigler (12th season)

Last year’s record: 7-13

Top returning players: Nate Romano, sr., attacker; Jake Skrzypinski, sr., midfielder; Joe Gorham, sr., attacker

Top new players: Cameron Mollsen, jr., goalie; Luke Bertone, so., attacker

Noteworthy: The Golden Eagles’ lineup will look different this season with only two returning starters from last season. … Romano was the Eagles’ leading scorer and is back to help the offense. … Mollsen steps into a big role as goalie and Bigler feels he gets better each day. … “We’re excited to compete as an IHSA sport and are looking forward to representing our school and building excitement for the sport.”


Coach: Mike Richberg (sixth season)

Last year’s record: 8-7

Top returning players: Ryan Strach, sr., attacker; Kyle Hephner, jr., attacker; Daniel Tolan, sr., goalie; Christian Garcia, jr., midfielder; Josh Lanman, jr., defenseman

Top new players: Ryan Hephner, so., midfielder; Jake Myer, so., midfielder; Andrew Lehst, so., attacker; Hunter O’Brien, so., defenseman; C.J. Oliver, so.; defenseman; Kevin Sandoval, jr., midfielder; Alex Nowak, jr., midfielder

Noteworthy: The Warriors will be a young team with seniors Starch and Tolan leading the way. … “We expect to be a higher-scoring offense this year than in past seasons,” Richberg said. “With a lot of offseason efforts on the part of Ryan (Starch), Kyle (Hephner) and Christian (Garcia), we have added to our offensive depth.” … Sandoval and Nowak will help up front, while Oliver and O’Brien add quickness to the defense.

Prairie Ridge

Coach: Josh Cole (fourth season)

Last year’s record: 20-1

Top returning players: Ethan Kirchberg, sr., midfielder; Sam Ripple, jr., goalie; Adam Diskin, jr., attacker; Trevor Schwallie, sr., defenseman; Brett Nygren, jr., defenseman; Ryan Kirchberg, sr., midfielder; Jarred Tabor, sr., attacker; Ben Wheeland, sr., midfielder

Top new players: Zach Clark, so., attacker; Zach Orr, jr., midfielder; Kyle Koelblinger, jr., midfielder

Noteworthy: The Wolves return five of their top seven scorers, led by Ethan Kirchberg. … Cole feels like their attack and midfield positions will be the strength of the team with so many experienced players coming back. … “Our attack will benefit from the experience of Adam Diskin and the addition of Zach Clark, who adds several facets to our offense,” Cole said. “Graduation hit our defense hard, but we have some athletically talented players there and an outstanding All-FVC goalie in Sam Ripple.”

East Suburban Catholic Conference

Marian Central

Coach: Jim Blaz (first season)

Last year’s record: 5-13

Top returning players: Kevin Blaz, jr., attacker-midfielder; Jason Kleeburg, sr., midfielder; Thor Paglialong, sr., defenseman; Charlie Koscinski, sr., defenseman; Harrison Stanko, jr., midfielder; Joey Savage, jr., attacker; Steven Foster, jr., attacker; Austin Mascarinas, jr., goalie

Top new players: Jayden Thiergood, jr., defenseman; Patrick Kelly, sr., defenseman; Jack Whalon, fr., midfielder

Noteworthy: Blaz was the Hurricanes’ leading scorer with 49 goals, and Kleeburg plays long-stick midfielder, where he brings versatility to the offense and defense. … The Hurricanes have plenty of other experienced players to battle in the tough East Suburban Catholic Conference. … “The team has grown in experience and players over the last two seasons and welcomes the challenge of the season,” Jim Blaz said.


Crystal Lake Central co-op

(with Cary-Grove, Crystal Lake South and Prairie Ridge)

Coach: Joe Capalbo (first season)

Top returners: Bailey Steinkamp (C-G), sr., midfielder; Sammy Johnson (PR), so., midfielder; Lauren Getner (C-G), jr., defenseman; Jessica Anichini (CLC), jr., defenseman; Lauren Hughes (C-G), fr., attacker

Noteworthy: This is the first year that Central co-op has a girls lacrosse team, meaning many are playing for the first time. Despite their inexperience, Capalbo is thrilled about his team’s progress in such a short time. ... Steinkamp was one of two captains on C-G’s girls basketball team in the winter and the team’s top 3-point shooter. ... “Many of our girls are new to the sport, but they put in a lot of hard work and are eager for competition,” Capalbo said. “We’re most excited to be a part of the lacrosse community, and help such a great sport continue to grow. This is the first Crystal Lake Central co-op team, and that’s something to be super proud of. We can’t wait to watch these girls represent our program on and off the field.”

District 300 co-op

(Dundee-Crown, Hampshire and Jacobs)

Coach: Nicole Paukovits (first season)

Top returners: Jade Swanson (Hamp), sr., midfielder; Kara Brill (Hamp), sr., midfielder; Brooke Grauf (Jacobs), sr., defenseman; Olivia Gard (D-C), jr., midfielder

Noteworthy: The District 300 co-op team includes 12 seniors, but there is a good mix of newer and experienced players, Paukovits said. Some have been playing for four years, while others are picking up the sport for the first time. ... Players voted “Novas” as the team nickname. ... Swanson has played primarily on defense but will be asked to pick up midfield. Brill will play center, while Gard also will be in the midfield mix. Gard is one of the team’s quickest players, Paukovits said. Grauf is transitioning to defense after playing mostly on the attack. ... “We have a very mixed bag this year,” Paukovits said. “Some girls don’t have a ton of experience, and other girls have been playing for three or four years. I’m excited to see how that comes together.”


Coach: Tony Nigro (fourth season)

Top returners: Kaz Black, sr., goalie; Brooke Borchart, jr., attacker; Taylor Wentz, jr., attacker; Olivia Wombacher, jr., attacker; Sydney Leonard, sr., defenseman; Kelly Campana, jr., defenseman; Bella Wiechec, so., attacker

Noteworthy: Despite going 1-10 last year, the Red Raiders had 77 girls try out across all three levels. ... Huntley brings back eight seniors, including four on defense. ... Black became the goaltender halfway through last year and finished with a 66 save percentage. ... Wentz and Wombacher combined for the majority of the points on JV last year at the attack positions. ... Leonard and Campana will shore up the defense. ... “We are excited about the growth of the team and the popularity of the sport at Huntley,” Nigro said. “We expect to compete in every game this year. This group really plays well together. It will be exciting to see them work as a team.”


Coach: Adam Tolan (first season)

Top returners: Shaina Tolan, jr., midfielder

Noteworthy: The Warriors didn’t have a club team last season, and, like Crystal Lake Central co-op and District 300 co-op, are fielding a varsity team for the first time this year. ... Tolan coached the McHenry boys lacrosse club for six years. This is his first year coaching the girls, and energy levels have been high so far, Tolan said. ... The majority of players do not have prior experience, but four played two years ago when the Warriors had a girls club team. ... “We only have four or five girls who have ever picked up a lacrosse stick before,” Tolan said. “Our focus will be on fundamentals and a relentlessly positive environment, which will hopefully create passion and honor for the game and, at the same time, build a solid foundation for McHenry Lady Warriors lacrosse.”

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