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From break to busy, Red Stars to play three games in eight days

By Jeff Vorva
Correspondent

After two weeks away from competition, the Chicago Red Stars begin a three-game-in-eight-days stretch this weekend.

The NWSL took time off because many of their players were with their respective Olympic teams. That list includes Red Stars goalie Alyssa Naeher and defender Tierna Davidson representing the United States, and Bianca St. Georges representing Canada.

The Red Stars (2-2-1, sixth place) will get back to the pitch hosting Washington (2-1-2, third place) at 7 p.m. Saturday, June 19 at SeatGeek Stadium in Bridgeview.

They will follow that with a visit to Seattle to face OL Reign (1-2-1, eighth place) on Tuesday, June 22, then it’s back home for a battle with Racing Louisville FC (1-2-1, ninth place) on Saturday, June 26.

The depth of the team will have to come through in these matches and the national/international players may not play or play sparingly.

Friendly results
The United States beat Portugal, 1-0, on June 10 and Jamaica, 4-0, on June 13 in a pair of friendlies to warm up for the Olympics.

Naeher recorded the shutout in the first game and Davidson subbed in at the 79-minute mark. Naeher sat the second game and Davidson played the full game.

Carli Lloyd, who played at SeatGeek Stadium for Gotham against the Red Stars on May 22, scored the first goal of the Jamaica game in the first minute, and in doing so became the oldest U.S. Women’s National Team player to score, at 38 years and 332 days.

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Trinity Christian women’s soccer coach Josh Lenarz wins 300th game

By Jeff Vorva
Correspondent

It’s way, way, way too early to predict this, but it’s not something to dismiss.

At this pace, Trinity Christian College women’s soccer coach Josh Lenarz could someday win his 600th career game.

While the current NAIA record is 380 triumphs by Oklahoma City’s Brian Harvey over a 26-year span, Lenarz could pass that and win a lot more before he gives it up.

Lenarz earned his 300th career victory on Oct. 6 with the Trolls’ 1-0 victory over Judson at the Schaaf Athletic Complex in Palos Heights.

And he doesn’t appear to be going anywhere soon.

“This is my dream job. This is home,” the longtime Palos Heights resident said. “This is my alma mater. My wife [Kelly] and I feel called to be a part of this community. We have found that there is nothing better out there.”

His youngest son, Ryder, was a ball boy at Saturday’s 2-0 victory over St. Francis (Illinois) in a Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference home matchup.

He summed up his dad’s accomplishments in one word: “Cool!”

But Josh’s cool accomplishments are far from over.

This is his 20th season as the Trolls’ boss, but he is only 45 years old. He got an early start at age 25.

By 65? Who knows what he might accomplish?

Over the years, he has been named CCAC Coach of the Year five times, National Christian Collegiate Athletic Association (NCCCA) National Coach of the Year twice, and has won numerous other awards.

Under his watch, the team won the NCCCAA National Championship in 2005 – the first national title ever won by an athletic team from the Palos Heights school.

This year’s team is fighting for a CCAC title. Heading into this week’s action, the Trolls were 12-2 overall and 8-2 in the conference with four games left in the season. Cardinal Stritch leads the pack with an 8-1 mark, with its only blemish coming to the Trolls, a 4-1 loss on Sept. 18.

Trinity Christian College’s Brianna Uhl smiles as she scores her 18th goal of the season in a 2-0 victory over St. Francis (Illinois) on Saturday. Photo by Jeff Vorva

Why has Trinity been so good for so long?

“Early on, we decided we were going to recruit the right players,” Lenarz said. “We wanted players who were going to give us relentless effort and be great teammates to form a great team culture. We believe if we do that, it will give us a competitive advantage and the results will take care of themselves.”

Interestingly, the players on the roster come from all over. Lenarz scours showcase events, has a few favorite pockets in Michigan to look for talent, and still has connections in his native state of California. This year’s 33-player roster has nine from Illinois, as well at athletes from Michigan, California, Arizona, Canada, Massachusetts, Colorado, Idaho, Wisconsin, Indiana and Nevada.

Chicago Christian graduates Caroline Nowacki and Maddie Zamora are the only two area players on the roster.

Lenarz has to sell the school to some prospects, but he said there are times the school sells itself.

“We have a very good nursing program and the word is out,” he said. “If you are looking for a strong soccer program and you are a nursing major, this is a great fit.”

And Lenarz has been a great fit as the Trolls’ coach.

“I love every bit of it,” he said. “As I said, it’s dream job. I love the x’s and o’s. I love soccer. I love the travel, I love the recruiting, I love the scouting. I love to spend time with the team.”

Trinity’s Jade Maldonado tries to get by two St. Francis (Illinois) defenders on Saturday in Palos Heights. Photo by Jeff Vorva

Pro Soccer Report: Red Stars battling for home playoff match

By Jeff Vorva
Correspondent

The Chicago Red Stars played their final regular-season game at SeatGeek Stadium on Saturday night with a 2-1 victory over Kansas City in a National Women’s Soccer League game.

Is there a chance they will be back in Bridgeview for a postseason match?

Even though the top four teams in the league host playoff games, and the Red Stars opened this week in fourth, it’s no slam dunk they will host. They are likely in the six-team playoffs but the next few weeks, teams will jostle for playoff seedings.

Portland and the OL Reign are guaranteed to host their first season postseason games. Five teams, including the Red Stars (10-8-5, 35 points) are vying for the other two spots.

The Red Stars close the season visiting Orlando (7-9-7) Oct. 29 at Exploria Stadium. A win gives them 38 points but the team to worry about is NJ/NY Gotham, who has 32 points but also has three games left on the schedule for nine potential points.

Washington (36 points) is in the third spot and has a solid chance to host.

Houston and the North Carolina Courage (32 points for both teams) each have one game left and are hoping the Red Stars and Gotham falter.

After the Stars beat Orlando on an own-goal and a Makenzy Doniak score, coach Rory Dames is glad for a break to recover from a three-games-in-seven-days stretch and to get some players healthy.

“We’re playing for home field and we were 8-2-2 at home,” he said. “We certainly would love to get a home game in the playoffs.”

 

Home team wins!
Speaking of home, earlier in the week, the Red Stars scored an early goal and hung on for a home 1-0 victory over Orlando to end an unusual streak.

In the previous seven matches, the visiting team won until Oct. 13 when Kealia Watt scored in the sixth minute for the Red Stars while Cassie Miller racked up the shutout.

This game was a makeup of the match originally scheduled for Oct. 2 but was postponed because of league incidents involving sexual misconduct. The Red Stars were hoping to draw its best crowd in two years but ended up drawing an announced crowd of 3,198.

Members of the Red Stars and Orlando gather to show solidarity after an NWSL season that has included sexual misconduct allegations against coaches in the league. Photo by Jeff Vorva

Stars’ stars play for USA
The Red Stars will be without Tierna Davidson, Casey Krueger and Mallory Pugh, who will be joining the United States Women’s National Team for matches against Korea.

The matches take place Thursday, Oct. 21, in Kansas City, Kansas and Oct. 26 in St. Paul, Minnesota.

 

House Keeping
The Chicago House’s two-game winning streak was snapped Saturday with a 2-1 road loss against the Maryland Bobcats.

Maryland’s Molley Karpeh scored in the eighth and the 80th minutes while the House’s Leonardo Acosta scored in the 81st minute.

The House (3-6-2) was scheduled to host Chattanooga at SeatGeek Stadium on Wednesday and host Maryland in a rematch on Saturday.

 

HOPING FOR HOME
Portland and the OL Reign clinched a chance to host NWSL playoff games. Five teams are trying for the other two host spots, including the Chicago Red Stars.

Place Team Record Points Games left

3. Washington 10-7-6 36 1
4. Red Stars 10-8-5 35 1
5. Gotham 8-5-8 32 3
6. Houston 9-9-5 32 1
7. NC Courage 9-9-5 32 1

 

Chicago’s Casey Krueger (left) and Rachel Hill have their eyes on the ball in a victory over Orlando on Oct. 13. The two teams face each other again Oct. 29 in the regular-season finale. Photo by Jeff Vorva

High School Football: Streaking St. Rita pounds Providence

St. Rita sophomore Ethan Middleton fights for extra yardage against Providence Friday night. He finished with 21 carries for 115 yards and a touchdown in a 35-0 victory. Photo by Jeff Vorva

By Jeff Vorva
Correspondent

St. Rita is still back on track.

On Sept. 11, St. Rita’s football team came home after being battered around by Loyola in Wilmette, 37-7. That dropped the Mustangs to 1-2 after suffering a tight loss to Mount Carmel two weeks prior.

In that game, they lost talented running back and wide receiver Kaleb Brown, an Ohio State recruit, to a season-ending injury.

Since that substantial setback in Wilmette, the Mustangs have put together a five-game winning streak including Friday night’s 35-0 home victory over Providence in a Chicago Catholic League/East Suburban Catholic Conference crossover victory.

The win guarantees the Mustangs (6-2) will make the playoffs. Playoff pairings will be announced Saturday, Oct. 23. St. Rita visits Notre Dame (3-5) on Friday to wrap up the regular season.

Things weren’t looking so hot after the setback to Loyola, the top-ranked team in Class 8A, according to the Associated Press.

“After the Loyola game, we had a Monday practice and we all came together,” said defensive lineman Djabril McNabb, who was given the ball on offense for the first time in his St. Rita career and scored a 1-yard touchdown against Providence. “We told ourselves that as a team ‘no more losing.’ We gotta keep going and no more losing. The mood has to stay the same.”

Quarterback Tommy Ulatowski, who ran for a touchdown and threw for two more against the Celtics (3-5), said the team had to forget about the losses to Mount Carmel and Loyola and play hard the rest of the way.

“We knew the first three games were going to be difficult,” he said. “After that Loyola game, we got a reality check. Let’s regroup and get back together again and get going.”

They did just that and the defense racked up three shutouts in the five-game streak.

“We fly to the ball — everyone flies to the ball,” McNabb said. “We’re a team. We don’t care who we’re playing. Fly to the ball and make tackles.”

Both Providence coach Mark Coglianese, left, and St. Rita coach Todd Kuska were honored before Friday night’s game. Photo by Jeff Vorva

Jake Polselli recovered a fumble and Matt Kingsberry had an interception and Liam Bartos broke up a fourth-down pass attempt in the first half against Providence while the offense piled up 28 points in the first quarter and seven more in the second.

Ulatowski threw a 25-yard score to Nikolas Norton and a 67-yard TD to EJ Nwagnu.

With Brown hurt since Game 1, Kyle Clayton came on strong as running back but at the last minute before the Providence game, he was unavailable because on an ankle injury so they called on Ethan Middleton, the only sophomore listed on the 62-man roster.

Middleton responded with 21 carries for 115 yards and a touchdown and gave Mustangs fans a little glimpse into the future.

There were some honorees before the game.

Mustangs coach Todd Kuska was presented with a plaque in honor of winning hit 200th game the week before — a 44-28 win at Marian Central Catholic in Woodstock. Retiring Providence coach Mark Coglianese was also honored with a plaque.

Former Mustangs baseball standout and Orland Park native Mark Payton, who is in the New York Mets organization, had his number retired before the football game.

Orland Park native and former St. Rita baseball star Mark Payton was all smiles before Friday night’s football game as he had his baseball number retired. Photo by Jeff Vorva

High School Football: Glenbard West, Pope roll over Lyons

By Steve Metsch
Correspondent

Lyons will visit Downers Grove North this week for the regular-season finale, in need of a victory to become eligible for the IHSA playoffs.

Joey Antonietti understands how the Lions have to approach the must-win situation.

“We’ve got a playoff game,” the senior quarterback said after the Lions lost, 35-3, at home to Glenbard West on Oct. 15. “It’s win or go home the rest of the season. We have to prepare like it’s a playoff game and keep fighting.”

The defeat has forced Lyons (4-4, 2-3 West Suburban Silver) into elimination-game mode a week early. Five victories is the threshold teams must reach to be considered for one of 32 spots in each of the IHSA’s eight playoff classes.

The possibility exists that a handful of four-win teams can break into the 256-team field, but no team is counting on that happening. In most seasons, five wins do not guarantee a playoff berth.

Glenbard West (7-1, 4-1) played its best football of the season in the second half, said Hilltoppers coach Chad Hetlet.

“Our offensive line dominated in the second half and Joey (Pope) made the most of what he had, as did (quarterback) Korey (Tai),” Hetlet said. “They are explosive kids. … Our defense played really well.”

The Hilltoppers’ stingy defense never let Lyons near the end zone in the second half. Pope, a junior running back, scored three touchdowns. Tai added one.

Pope’s first touchdown was a 42-yard run 36 seconds into the game.

His second was a dazzling 35-yard run that saw him evade the grasp of two defenders with 7:41 left in the third.

His third came two minutes later on a 43-scoring pass from Tai.

“I had three touchdowns a couple other times this year,” Pope said. “It’s more about the team. It’s nice to have a dominating win against a good team like LT. It’s a good feeling for our team.”

Glenbard West’s Joey Pope wriggled free of Lyons’ James Georgelos (left) and Ricky Cavaliere to score the second of his three touchdowns on this play. Photo by Steve Metsch

Lyons coach Jon Beutjer said the Lions “were right there,” trailing 7-3 at halftime.

The turning point was an interception by senior defensive back Egan Foley of Lyons quarterback Aidan Sullivan on a
pass intended for Cullen McManaman near the Glenbard West 45 yard line with 8:56 let in the third.

Foley returned the ball to Lyons’ 43-yard line. Two plays later, Pope scored for a 14-3 lead.

“They got some momentum there,” Beutjer said. “But I’m really proud of our kids because they kept fighting.
They were playing the right way.”

Tai scored on a 26-yard run for a 28-3 lead with 20.4 seconds left in the third. Jack Oberhofer closed the scoring with 9:30 left in the fourth.

Lyons’ attack had a new twist as Antonietti, senior Sullivan and sophomore Ryan Jackson all played quarterback.

The idea is to get the ball in the hands of the “electric” Antonietti more often as a running back and receiver, Beutjer said.

“Aidan Sullivan did a nice job tonight and we have a really special sophomore in Ryan Jackson,’ Beutjer said.

Junior kicker David Waight accounted for Lyons’ points with his 25-yard field goal in the first quarter.

Football Forecast: Week 8

With two weeks remaining in the regular season, Millar has a three-point lead over Vorva and Wally. All three picked Argo over Oak Lawn in this week’s GOTW and there is little variation in their picks overall, so the current leader is guaranteed to still be ahead come Week 9. Maholy and Whalen are lurking in fourth place, and the former has an opportunity for upward movement this week if things play out in his favor.

That Argonauts-Spartans matchup, by the way, has some potential playoff implications. The winner will be sitting on four victories heading into the final week of the regular season. Both have tough games in Week 9, with Argo facing Shepard and Oak Lawn up against Evergreen Park. The Astros are themselves in a fight for their playoff lives and will take on Reavis this week, while the Mustangs can all but assure themselves a spot in the postseason with a win tonight over Eisenhower.

 

High School Football: Jake Maziarka runs for 4 TDs in Sandburg’s win over Stagg

By Jason Maholy
Sports Editor

During the week heading into Sandburg’s matchup with Stagg, Eagles coach Troy McAllister’s message to his players was to not take the winless Chargers for granted.

The Eagles were coming off the program’s most significant victory since at least 2015, a 30-27 triumph over powerful Lincoln-Way East in a game they entered as a heavy underdog. One week later, they were facing a Stagg program that came into the matchup with 20 consecutive losses.

McAllister’s point of caution was reiterated, albeit not by himself, when the Chargers scored on their third offensive play to knot the score at 7-7 four minutes into the game.

But the Eagles responded in grand fashion, scoring 45 unanswered points before halftime and locking down on defense, and rolling to a 59-14 win in Palos Hills.

“This was a trap game,” McAllister said afterward. “We were Lincoln-Way East’s trap game and Stagg was ours. [A victory] means the world to us and they’ve got nothing to lose, and the mindset all week was ‘don’t take them lightly, let’s get after it.’

“Other than that first touchdown they scored, the rest of the game we took care of business.”

Sandburg (3-4, 1-2) has won two straight heading into a South Suburban Blue matchup with Homewood-Flossmoor (4-3, 1-2). The Eagles would likely earn a playoff berth with wins in their final two games.

Stagg will travel to Bradley-Bourbonnais, where they will try to break into the win column for the first time since a 36-16 victory over Little Village in Week 1 of the 2019 season.

The teams traded touchdowns on their opening drives. Sandburg senior running back Jake Maziarka ran for the first of his four touchdowns to stake the Eagles a 7-0 lead three minutes into the game. The Chargers pulled even barely more than a minute later when Lebarion Gilmore hooked up with TJ Griffin for a 48-yard score.

McAllister said the play resulted from a blown coverage and got the attention of his defense.

“Sometimes you hate having that happen, but it was a wake-up call for sure,” he said.

On Sandburg’s ensuing drive, Maziarka scored on a 10-yard run on 4th-and-3. Before the half was over he would add touchdown runs of 6 and 5 yards, with those being part of a 35-point second-quarter outburst that initiated a running clock at the start of the second half.

Sandburg senior defensive lineman Nathan Gibbons sacks Stagg quarterback Lebarion Gilmore during the Eagles’ win over the Chargers. Photo by Jason Maholy

Maziarka finished with 12 carries for 100 yards, and consistently broke tackles to gain yards after contact. After playing wide receiver his junior season, his skill set opened eyes in summer camp, prompting McAllister to move him to running back, filling a position of need for the Eagles.

“He’s a fast, agile player, but when he see something in front of him he tries to run it over,” McAllister said of Maziarka. “He’s become a very versatile back for us, which is what we needed from him his senior year.

“The first couple weeks of camp we were trying to figure things out, and we thought he was pretty good when he runs with the ball, and he has a big frame and he’s nice-sized kid with some good speed. It was pretty straight-forward what to do with him.”

The Eagles’ big second quarter was punctuated by a 36-yard touchdown run by Christian Evans. The junior quarterback took the snap with 6 seconds remaining on the game clock, ran up the middle, then cut left across the grain and toward a field of green along the sideline as he turned up-field. No Stagg defender was within five yards of him until he got to the end zone, with zeros on the clock.

McAllister said the plan had been to kick a field goal.

“[Evans] was going to run 5 yards and take a knee, but he just saw it open on that side of field,” McAllister said. “He said, ‘Coach, I had to go [for the touchdown].’”

Evans completed 12-of-17 passes for 141 yards and tossed a 23-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Jake Wantroba. He added seven rushes for 75 yards and a score.

Wantroba caught six passes for 67 yards. Also for the Eagles, Sanad Alshubbak kicked a 42-yard field goal and junior running back Katrell Thompson had a 1-yard touchdown run.

For the Sandburg defense, junior linebacker John Thompson returned an interception 16 yards for a touchdown. The Eagles recorded four sacks, two by senior defensive lineman Nathan Gibbons and one each by Alex Szczeniak and Jaylen Wright. Joe Shelton forced a fumble that was recovered by Dylan Schick.

For Stagg, junior running back Aiden Taylor had a 6-yard touchdown run.

Stagg senior wide receiver TJ Griffin sprints toward the end zone for a touchdown during the Chargers’ loss to Sandburg on Oct. 8. Photo by Jason Maholy

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