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Brother Rice players celebrate a three-set victory over Lyons in the St. Rita Sectional semifinals. Photo by Jeff Vorva

Brother Rice players celebrate a three-set victory over Lyons in the St. Rita Sectional semifinals. Photo by Jeff Vorva

High School Boys Volleyball: Brother Rice and St. Rita reach Sweet 16

By Jeff Vorva
Correspondent

The four boys volleyball teams that battled it out on Saturday in the St. Rita Sectional all had major triumphs two days prior.

All four Southwest Regional News teams won regional titles during this wild and unpredictable year.

Top-seeded St. Rita beat fourth-seeded Argo 25-20, 25-16 in the first semifinal while second-seeded Brother Rice held off third-seeded Lyons Township 25-20, 16-25, 25-20 in the second semi.

The two winners are slated to face each other Tuesday for the sectional title and a berth in the Elite Eight.

St. Rita (18-7) won three straight postseason games after heading into the playoffs with a five-match losing streak to Sandburg, Glenbard West, Lincoln-Way West, Lincoln-Way East and Wheaton St. Francis — all regional-winning squads.

“We played good volleyball during that stretch,” Mustangs coach Brian Hagen said. “Even though we lost, we still played well. We had to hang onto that and remember that. We had a lot of big wins before that.”

Zach Carroll had nine kills and two aces for St. Rita while Ryne Jacobsen had five and Charlie Flynn four. Danny Chambers had 24 assists and James Sanders 16 digs.

St. Rita was eyeing its third straight trip to state after making it to the quarterfinals in 2018 and 2019 (2020’s season was cancelled during the pandemic) and losing to New Trier both times. If the Mustangs make it to state, they will not face New Trier in the first round as the Trevians were eliminated in regional play.

 

ARGO 14 ST RITA 24 scaled

Argo’s Damian Pardol (left) and St. Rita’s Danny Chambers battle at the net in sectional action on Saturday. Photo by Jeff Vorva

Brother Rice had one of the worst records in the Sweet 16 at 13-11 but the Crusaders are happy they got hot in the postseason. Outside hitter Kevin Fiedler banged down some big kills toward the end of the third set against Lyons to help preserve the victory.

The Crusaders had an up-and-down season but entered the campaign with no players with varsity experience.

Setter Sean Hollander, who is heading to St. Xavier University, enjoyed the season after the 2020 campaign was wiped out.

“It’s been a crazy year,” he said. “We had our ups and we had our downs. We turned our serving around. It’s been a great year.”

Lyons finished 12-14. To win a regional and play Brother Rice strong was a feather in the Lions’ cap.

“It was a rollercoaster game,” coach Brad Skendzel said. “It had ups and downs and Brother Rice had their ups in the third set.”

The Lions were down 16-15 in the second set and scored 10 straight to close it out. Alex Kostich had aces for the 23rd and 25th points. Loyola-bound Evan Markworth’s kill in the third set closed the gap to 21-20 but Brother Rice scored the last four points for the victory.

Argo headed into the postseason unbeaten and finished the season 14-1. They won the first regional in school history. The Argonauts were down 9-3 to open the first set to St. Rita and were outscored 15-4 to close the match. But there was a stretch in the middle in which the Argonauts were able to hang with the Mustangs.

“We beat Nazareth and Fenwick to get here, and it was a short stay,” Argo coach Matt LeVan said. “St. Rita is going to play tough all game and we played in bits and pieces. You have to play a complete volleyball game non-stop.”

Gavin Akoto of Argo was named the South Suburban Red Conference Player of the Year. And is heading to Vassar next season.

LYONS 18 scaled

Lyons Township’s Joe Watkins gets ready for a kill attempt against Brother Rice. Photo by Jeff Vorva

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High School Sports Postseason Roundup: Maia, oh, Maia — Sandburg soph finishes in top 8

By Jeff Vorva
Correspondent

It was cloudy.

It was windy.

It was rainy.

Many people might describe it as a lousy day, but Sandburg sophomore tennis star Maia Loureiro wasn’t complaining.

She was playing tennis.

In the state tournament.

She opened her state career on that crummy Oct. 21 day at Barrington High School with a 6-0, 6-1 victory over Jacobs’ Kylie Cohn. She would end up with a top-eight finish, becoming just the fifth singles player in The Regional-Reporter history to finish that high at state, and the first since 2009.

COVID-19 helped wipe out the state portion of the IHSA state meet in 2020, so the heralded player had to wait a year.

Loureiro couldn’t wait for the state meet this year.

“It feels special and amazing,” she said. “Last year, we weren’t able to come here. It’s really nice to finally be here. It’s exciting.”

She has enjoyed success on the United States Tennis Association circuit, but she relished the opportunity to play at Sandburg and follow in the footsteps of her sister, Anna.

“For sure — high school season for me is all about team bonding and having fun,” Loureiro said. “Now we’re getting into more serious stuff so that’s even more exciting because I love competition.”

Loureiro was seeded in the top four and after her first victory added triumphs over Lincoln-Way Central’s Kara Rimkunas (6-0, 6-0) and Libertyville’s Lena Dogadalski (6-3, 6-4) before dropping a quarterfinal match with a three-set loss to Plainfield North’s Jessica Kovalcik (2-6, 6-4, 6-3) and a consolation quarterfinal loss to Hinsdale South’s Chase Metcalf (6-3, 6-4) to finish in seventh-eighth place. The state meet does not feature seventh-place matches.

Sandburg’s doubles team of Samantha Pagnucci-Alex Petcu won its first match against Jessica Hernandez-Goncalves-Sruthi Sundar of Hoffman Estates (6-3, 6-0), but lost the next two matches to bow out.

The Sandburg duo of Josie Canellis-Neela Browne finished 0-2.

Richards’ Meghan McSweeney finished 1-2.

Stagg’s Vicky Lipinski-Izabella Slezakova, Marist’s Elena Ruzevich and Molly Malloy and Mother McAuley’s Mairead Doran-Maddy McNamara all finished 0-2.

In Class 1A, St. Laurence’s Ruby Olmos finished 0-2.

Chicago Christian’s singles players Iljana Maier and Jessica Vollan and the doubles team of Meghan Tiemens-Emma Tiemens all went 0-2.

Boys XC regionals
Sandburg, which is ranked first in the state in Class 3A by two media services, won its own regional at Midlothian Meadows Oct. 23 with 27 points. Stagg finished fourth and Shepard sixth as both advanced to the Hinsdale Central Sectional this Saturday at Katherine Legge Park in Hinsdale.

Brock Rice finished second with a time of 14:46 seconds for the Eagles, seven seconds ahead of teammate Sean Marquardt. Luke Barham led Stagg with a 12th place finish and Santana Garcia led Shepard with a 22nd-place showing.

Marist won its own Class 2A meet, also at Midlothian Meadows, with 40 points while Richards, Brother Rice, St. Laurence and Evergreen Park followed and will all head to the Fenton Sectional this Saturday.

Jake Phillips of Marist was the sectional champion with a 15:26.20 and teammate Andrew Kerlin took second with a time of 15:42.60. Owen Forberg led Richards with a third-place finish, Rocco Cipolla led Evergreen Park with a sixth-place finish, Charlie Walsh led Brother Rice with a ninth-place showing and Allan Potter finished 22nd to lead St. Laurence.

Girls XC regionals
Marist was a daily-double winner as the RedHawks won both the boys and girls Class 2A regional titles. Emma Karczewski won with a time of 19:15.14.

St. Laurence and Evergreen Park finished second and third to qualify for the Fenton Sectional. Jadie Chavez led St. Laurence with a seventh-place finish and Ariana Martinez finished eighth to lead Evergreen Park.

Sandburg finished second, Mother McAuley third and Stagg fourth at the Class 3A Sandburg Regional.

Sophomore Ava Giblin led Sandburg with a third-place finish in 18:15.29. Lillian Coakley led McAuley with 12th-place finish and Iza Lepkowski led Stagg with a 14th-place finish.

Chicago Christian took second at the Bishop McNamara Class 1A Regional as Anna Enderle took third with a 19:26. The Knights head to the Lisle Sectional at Community Park in Lisle.

Golf State Finals
Catching up from the weekend of Oct. 8-9, St. Laurence’s Missy McGuire tied for 29th in the state in the IHSA Class 1A division with a two-round total of 163. Evergreen Park’s Charley Burns missed the cut with a 90 for one round.

In Class 2A, Sandburg’s Jillian Cosler tied for 38th with a 159 and teammate Katie Misko finished 52nd with a 163.

In Class 2A boys, Mount Carmel’s Michael O’Keefe tied for 61st with a 158 while Sandburg’s Caleb Negley (82) and Brandan Joy (85) missed the cut.

 

QUEENS OF THE QUARTERFINALS

Area girls singles tennis players who have reached the IHSA state quarterfinals.

Year Player School Finish

1980 Lisa Lebold McAuley 5th

1997 Tanja Sukovic Shepard 5th

1998 Rachal Dybas Stagg 4th

1999 Rachal Dybas Stagg 7th-8th

2009 Melissa Kopinski Stagg 4th

2021 Maia Loureiro Sandburg 7th-8th

Note: Consolation matches for seventh place are not contested

Coyne Schofield to be honored as IBAM’s Person of the Year

By Jeff Vorva

Palos Heights hockey legend Kendall Coyne Schofield is picking up a huge award Friday night and it doesn’t have much to do with hockey.

Schofield was named the Irish Books, Art and Music Person of the Year and will be honored at the group’s 13th Awards Gala Oct. 22 at the American Irish Center in Chicago.

Coyne Schofield and her husband, NFL offensive lineman Michael Schofield, have used their success and fame to form the Schofield Family Foundation, which helps the military, first responders, families, youth sports plus education and research.

“Our committee receives names who would make good candidates for Person of the Year, and we pick from there,” said Cliff Carlson, a member of the IBAM committee. “They have to be Irish, anywhere globally, and the fact that she formed a charity to help others was a big part of her being considered.”

Coyne is a two-time Olympic medal winner for the United States. She helped the team to a silver medal in 2014 and a gold in 2018.

The 29-year-old is not slowing down as she was named captain of the International Ice Hockey Federation women’s World Championship in August, where the United States lost to host Canada, 3-2 in the finals. She had two goals and three assists in seven games.

The Sandburg graduate in 2020 became the first female player development coach in the Blackhawks organization.

Michael Schofield has had an interesting year. The 30-year-old started the NFL preseason with Baltimore but was cut and latched on with the Los Angeles Chargers, a team he played with from 2017-2019. He is first on the depth chart at right guard for the Chargers, who won four of their first six games.

He was a starting lineman and won a Super Bowl ring with Denver in 2016.

Evergreen Park welcomes own fields of dreams and honors Sexton

By Jeff Vorva

Brand new fields and a retired mayor were the stars of the show on Oct. 14.

Evergreen Park High School had a grand opening of its new turfed baseball and softball fields. The fields were used in late spring, but this event was to celebrate the fields and show them off to dignitaries and guests, including former White Sox star Ron Kittle.

District 231 Supt. Tom O’Malley also turned the event into a celebration of former Evergreen Park Mayor Jim Sexton and is naming the driveway area behind the school and in front of the fields Honorary James Sexton Drive.

“Mayor Sexton has been an important part of our school community in a number of ways,” O’Malley said. “He has guided us on construction projects and has been a driving force.

“I remember sitting in his office and he said, ‘Tom, if you do this right, you are going to hit a home run not only for you but for the whole community.’ He has always been there for us when called on.”

Sexton said he was humbled by the honor and remembered the time when O’Malley hit the former mayor with a slew of ideas – including creating an indoor sports complex out of the former Evergreen Bath and Tennis Club.

“I thought he was nuts,” Sexton joked. “But he’s a lot younger than I am and he got these done. It shows his dedication to this community and his dedication to the future.”

Former mayor Jim Sexton cuts the ribbon for the new baseball and softball fields at Evergreen Park High School on Thursday.

O’Malley said they are “one of-a-kind, state-of-the-art” fields with whistles and bells that include large press boxes, dugout and locker room areas. There are stadium seats that came straight from the Louisville Bats minor league baseball stadium.

The field can absorb rain and there likely will be fewer rainout games at the school.

Jim Froslid, an official with Brock USA, which helped build these fields, bragged these are two of the best fields in the country.

“Most of those fields are just the infield are just turfed in the infield and here, there is also turf on the outfield,” Froslid said. “The mindset is that in addition to softball and baseball, they have all other field sports where they are playing and training in the outfield. It’s not being done in other parts of the country. They are utilizing every inch of this field.”

Former White Sox great Ron Kittle, left, talks with Jim Froslid, who helped build the Evergreen Park High School baseball and softball fields.

He added that safety is a plus for the fields.

“We built them in mind with the athlete first,” Froslid said. When you are on this field, you will notice there is no crumb rubber in the field. It is wood. It absorbs rubber and it cools the field. Under there is a shock pad that if you fall on it, it absorbs impact.”

Current Mayor Kelly Burke was impressed. She had a sneak peek before the grand opening.

“Like most people, it was always driving past it on 99th Street and wondered ‘what the heck is going on in there?’” she said. “Now that I got to see it, I was wowed by this facility. It’s just fantastic. This is something the whole community can take advantage of.”

Kittle said he didn’t start playing on a turf field until he reached the Class AAA level in the pros.

“It’s a beautiful facility and the school system and the town is lucky to have something like this,” he said.

Evergreen Park Mayor Kelly Burke gives a speech to the crowd at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new baseball and softball fields at EPHS.

Bedford Park’s Wintrust Sports Complex is a ‘one-stop’ monster

By Jeff Vorva

The Wintrust Sports Complex has not even held its grand opening yet in Bedford Park, but it’s already bringing ESPN to town in July.

The facility’s general manager, Wade Walsh, said the American Cornhole League will host its Final Chase at the new site and ESPN will be broadcasting the finals on July 4, right after the Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest.

Walsh said that the 116,000-square-foot building at 5499 W. 65th St., will house concerts, graduations, trade shows, birthday parties and “you name it.” It has a laser tag room, an arcade, a restaurant, a concession stand, meeting rooms and a section for e-sports.

But the main event for the sport palace is…well…sports.

Officials are banking that this place, which has eighth hardwood basketball courts and can turn it into 16 courts for volleyball, will be filled every weekend with youth and high school tournaments.

Here are just a few of the basketball courts at Wintrust Sports Complex in Bedford Park.

Unlike most monster sports buildings, this one has a lot of whistles and bells with the arcade, laser tag and e-sports rooms.

“We have one-stop shopping here for everyone,” Walsh said. “If you come to watch your brother play basketball, you can hang out and play in the arcade.

“Every weekend, we will be packed with youth tournaments for basketball, volleyball, cheerleading, wrestling – you name it, and we’ll have it here.”

The facility had an open house on Saturday and people couldn’t help but to stop and take in the enormity of it all and being impressed.

“It’s big,” Homewood’s Robert Maszak said. “I can’t believe that there are that many volleyball courts. Sixteen volleyball courts – wow!

“This is some place.”

The official grand opening is slated for Nov. 6.

Wintrust General Manager Wade Walsh is excited about the amount of events and activities the Wintrust Sports Complex will host.

One Day Shootouts, an organization that specializes in youth basketball tournaments for boys and girls from second through 12th-grade, is already making a home at the facility and it plans on hosting a Winter Tip-Off on Dec. 5.

Swarm Basketball has clinics planned and a volleyball points series league hosted by the Junior Volleyball Association will take place Oct. 23-Nov. 14.

Ground broke on the building two years ago and in September, the Village of Bedford Park inked a multi-year deal for naming rights for the facility.

“We’re excited to get to work with Winstrust, a valued community partner of ours that will aid us our business and economic goals for our community,” Mayor David Brady said in a statement.

“Wintrust is the right partner for us in many ways and we look forward to creating wonderful experiences for everyone who visits the Wintrust Sports Complex. We collectively believe in building a better future for our kids and for our community.”

The project has been going on awhile and Walsh, a native of Dwight and a resident of New Lenox, got on board in January and is excited about this venture.

“It’s unbelievable,” he said. “I’ve been on the staff for eight or nine months and to see it back then as kind of a shell and to see it transformed into what it is today is amazing.”

Birthday parties will be among many things offered at Wintrust Sports Complex in Bedford Park.

High School Football: Oak Lawn routs Argo to keep playoff hopes alive

By Jason Maholy
Sports Editor

Through one half, a pivotal Week 8 matchup between Oak Lawn and Argo had the appearance of one that might be tight until the very end.

The Spartans had a different idea, opening up a commanding lead by the end of three quarters and putting the game away with a flurry of fourth-quarter touchdowns in a 54-12 final on Oct. 15 in Summit.

Oak Lawn’s offense scored six touchdowns; the defense intercepted two passes, recovered two fumbles and scored twice; and the kickoff coverage team recovered an onside kick in the Spartans’ best game of the season.

Oak Lawn coach Ryan Pattison said his team had a great week of practice leading up to the game, and that his players executed the game plan almost to perfection.

“Offense, defense, special teams — I thought it was our most complete game of the year,” Pattison said, noting special teams was a point of emphasis during the week. “This is great: Week 8 going into Week 9, we can make the playoffs with one more win. And to have a win like this and feed into Week 9 … I’m really happy for the guys.”

Both teams entered the game with their playoff dreams still alive and knowing that a loss would all but eliminate them from postseason contention.

Oak Lawn (4-4, 2-2 South Suburban Red) is now one win away from being eligible for the playoffs, per the IHSA’s five-victory standard, heading into the regular-season finale at home against Evergreen Park (5-3, 3-2). The Spartans have not played in the postseason since 2009, the final year of a run under Art Panka and Ron Thornburgh that saw them in the playoffs six of seven seasons.

Argo (3-3, 1-3 SSC Red) will try to close out the fall with a win over Shepard this Friday in Summit. A fourth win would match the program’s best win total over the past seven full seasons (2014 and 2018).

Oak Lawn running back Gavin Butler tries to elude an Argo would-be tackler during the Spartan’ win on Oct. 15. Photo by Jason Maholy

The Argonauts have not qualified for the playoffs since 2013, when they went 7-2 in the regular season and advanced to the Class 6A second round before losing to SSC Red rival Richards.

Oak Lawn broke the game open with 13 points in the third quarter, then exploded for 27 more in the fourth to turn what was a 14-6 halftime lead for the Spartans into a rout.

Pattison said scoring on the opening drive of the second half and answering Argo’s last-second touchdown before halftime was a crucial component to the Spartans’ effort.

“We grabbed the momentum back, and that was great to see them respond like that,” he said of his players.

Senior running back Gavin Butler extended the lead to 21-7 with a 3-yard touchdown run 5:16 into the third quarter. Four minutes later, junior wide receiver Eduardo Chiquito hauled in a pass from Gabe Duer and ran the final 50 yards to paydirt on an 85-yard scoring play.

The Duer-to-Chiquito connection came two plays after Argo failed to convert on fourth down deep in Spartans’ territory.

Oak Lawn padded its advantage to 34-6 when junior quarterback Ayham Salah hit Davion Lawrence on a 12-yard touchdown pass.

Argonauts junior wide receiver Davonte Evans scored on a 1-yard touchdown pass on a flea-flicker as time expired in the first half. Senior quarterback Deiontae McDonald scored on a 58-yard run in the fourth quarter.

The Spartans rolled up 396 yards of offense, 248 of that on the ground. Nicco Reyes led all rushers with 98 yards on 17 carries and he scored one of four Oak Lawn rushing touchdowns. Gavin Butler, Ayham Salah and TJ Vrabel had the others.

Duer, a senior quarterback and linebacker, ran for 61 yards and completed 2-of-5 passes for 96 yards, with both throws going to Chiquito and the majority of the yards coming on their long scoring play. Junior Ayham Salah completed both his attempts for 52 yards and the touchdown to Lawrence.

Oak Lawn also scored two defensive touchdowns, a pick-6 by Vrabel, a sophomore, and a scoop-and-score by senior Ryan Conrad. Jeremy Williams had an interception and Evan Zambrano recovered a fumble.

Pattison knows the Spartans are in for a battle against Evergreen Park, which has five wins but will be gunning for a sixth to ensure it earns a playoff berth. But he would never doubt his guys stepping up and getting the program’s biggest win in 12 years.

“They just want to win football games, and they think they’re going to win every single football game,” he said. “They show up on Friday night ready to play and they’re legit. They think they’re going to win and they come out and play that way. They don’t always get the job on the scoreboard, but they compete their butts off game in and game out.”

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

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