Nazareth’s Danielle Scully prepares to take a shot while guarded by Carmel’s Mia Gillis in the East Suburban Catholic championship game. Photo by Steve Metsch

Nazareth’s Danielle Scully prepares to take a shot while guarded by Carmel’s Mia Gillis in the East Suburban Catholic championship game. Photo by Steve Metsch

Balanced Nazareth wins East Suburban Catholic

By Steve Metsch
Correspondent

Moments before the opening tip in the East Suburban Catholic Conference tournament title game, Carmel coach Ben Berg said his team was playing with house money.”

Berg was referring to how Corsairs — 4-3 in conference play entering the tourney — were not expected to be playing in the championship game.

As it turned out, Carmel ran out of house money and Nazareth cashed in for a 58-47 victory.

The Roadrunners (25-2 entering this week) had advanced to the title game with a 57-54 win over Marist in the semifinals.

Nazareth trailed by four points late in the second quarter and used a balanced scoring attack to hold off several Corsairs’ rallies.

Carmel’s twin towers, Grace Sullivan and Jordan Wood, combined for 37 points. Sullivan, a 6-foot-4 senior heading to Bucknell, scored 15 points. Jordan Wood, a 6-foot-5 junior who is verbally committed to Michigan State, led all scorers with 22 points.

Nazareth’s Olivia Austin had the task of guarding Sullivan.

“You just have to front her,” Austin said. “She’s very strong. It was challenging but we did a good job taking away the lob.”

Grace Carstensen led the Roadrunners with 15 points — 12 in the first half — while playing on a left ankle she sprained in the first quarter. She attributed the win to Nazareth’s diverse attack.

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Amalia Dray scored 12 points in Nazareth’s 58-47 win over Carmel in the East Suburban Catholic Conference title game. Photo by Steve Metsch

“One of the things [coach Eddie Stritzel] always says is we’re really hard to guard because all of us can score, “ Carstensen said.

Austin added 13 points, and Danielle Scully and Amalia Dray both scored 12.

Carstensen scored all her first-half points on 3-pointers.

“I was feeling it,” she said. “This proves a lot because we’re pretty young and we’re just trying to prove ourselves.”

Carstensen was not worried when Carmel cut the lead to 51-45 with 1:52 left in the game.

“We just kept our energy up and that’s all you really need in a game like this,” she added.

After Austin blocked a shot by Anna Hartman, Danielle Scully hit a jumper for a 53-45 lead with 1:10 to play.

Austin said the Roadrunners are very unselfish with the ball.

“That helps a lot, she said. “That’s the way we’re going to win games.”

The Roadrunners led 11-9 after one quarter, 27-21 at the half and 39-30 after three quarters.

After the Corsairs took a 21-17 lead with 3:11 left in the second quarter on a 3-pointer by Wood, but Nazareth went on a 15-0 run to take a 32-21 lead into halftime.

“Carmel gives us so many problems with size,” Stritzel said. “Wood and Sullivan, they’re bigger than I am. I thought our speed was the difference in the game. We got so many hands on their passes.”

Nazareth finished its regular season with two games this week. The Roadrunners are the top seed in the Class 3A De La Salle Sectional and will open their postseason Feb. 15.

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Girls Volleyball: Marist knocks Mother McAuley from unbeaten ranks

By Randy Whalen
Correspondent

Kamryn Chaney had the “eye of the tiger” and Marist got a huge win over their arch-rivals.

Hosting Mother McAuley in the regular season for the first time in four years, the RedHawks came out focused.

Chaney clubbed a match-high 12 kills and added five blocks and eight digs and an ace as the RedHawks knocked the Mighty Macs from the ranks of the unbeaten with a 25-22, 25-19 victory on Sept. 22.

Chaney’s performance helped Marist (14-4) defeat McAuley (17-1) for the first time since the 2019 sectional finals.

“Kamryn was just feeling so comfortable to take it on her shoulders,” Marist coach Jordan Vidovic said. “She was ready to step it up and she did.

“We went back to doing what was working for us. We were so much more focused and so intense. We knew what we had to do.”

Chaney, a senior outside hitter, called the victory “very important.”

“I just really wanted to work hard for my team and have a good journey going forward,” Chaney said. “It feels great. To win on our home court was the best part.

“I’m just trying to beat the game and be smart. I’m just trying to do the best for my team.”

Freshman libero Elayna Davidson had 16 digs. Davidson wasn’t on the varsity team to start the season, but she came up after Labor Day and has shined ever since.

“It’s just so great and I trust my team very much,” Davidson said. “We put 110 percent effort into everything. I knew [McAuley] would be big at the net. So it was just locating the ball and then finishing.”

Vidovic believed Davidson would step up in the match.

“She’s very intelligent, plays great defense, and is not phased by it,” he said

RedHawks sophomore outside hitter Bella Bullington bashed six kills and added four blocks, and sophomore setter Maddie Berry passed out 19 assists.

“This is huge for us.,” Davidson said. “We have been getting better and better each week and working our butts off. This team is amazing.”

Junior outside hitter Ellie White led McAuley with eight kills and three digs. Senior middle blocker Maeve Moonan mashed four kills and had three blocks. Tess Hayes had 10 assists and seven digs while fellow senior setter Olivia Klapp dished out eight assists. Senior libero Gigi Navarrete added 15 digs.

“We knew coming in that it was going to be an intense, exciting match,” White said. “We put up a fight. We just didn’t play our best and our chemistry was off. We just have to put this in the past, bring fortitude and continue to push through it.”

Since 2016, which is the last five played postseasons, the two programs have combined to bring home a trio of Class 4A state championships (McAuley in 2016, Marist in 2017 and 2018), a runner-up finish (McAuley in 2021) and a third-place trophy (Marist in 2019).

The teams could face each other again in sectionals. Marist, McAuley and Lyons, three of the state’s top teams, will all be in the Lyons Sectional.

The Mighty Macs entered the match against Marist ranked fourth in the nation.

“They played a very clean game, blocked well, hit well and passed well,” Macs coach Jen DeJarld said of Marist. “I think our girls were feeling the nerves of being undefeated and ranked No. 4 in the country.

“Going undefeated is not a goal for us. We play one of the toughest schedules and this will be a growth moment for us.”

Football: Richards scores season-high 49 in win over Shepard

By Jason Maholy
Sports Editor

It took all of 16 seconds for the fireworks to begin in a high-scoring South Suburban Red matchup between district rivals Richards and Shepard.

Terangie Eskridge returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown, Myles Mitchell scored four touchdowns and the Bulldogs pulled away in the second half to top the Astros, 49-36, for its third consecutive victory.

Richards got off to a slow start this season, getting outscored 79-8 in losses to Morgan Park and Marist in their first two games. There is still work to do on both sides of the ball — the Bulldogs’ defense has allowed 142 points in five games — but an offense with a wealth of playmakers appears to be finding its groove.

The game was a back-and-forth affair in the first half, with the teams trading the first six touchdowns. Richards had the final word in the second quarter, scoring on a Joe Mayo-to-James Smith 50-yard touchdown pass to take a 28-18 lead into halftime, then increased its lead on a 2-yard run by Mitchell with 8:51 to play in the third quarter.

Mitchell, a sophomore running back, carried the ball 25 times for 142 yards and three touchdowns and added a 21-yard catch for a score. Mitchell saw an increase in his workload because of an injury to senior running back Michael Maura.

“In the beginning of the season I was getting my feet wet,” Mitchell said. “Now, I’m more comfortable in the offense.

“It feels great to get the ball a lot. The coaches had a great game plan this week, the O-line blocked great and it was just a great offensive effort.”

Shepard senior wide receiver Elijah Tyson comes down with a catch during the Astros’ loss to Richards on Sept. 23. Photo by Jason Maholy

Mitchell’s touchdown catch came from wide receiver Donnie Burton, who took a pitch from quarterback Joe Mayo and launched a perfectly placed pass across the grain to the sophomore back, who was streaking down the left sideline.

Burton, a senior who sustained a season-ending leg injury in Week 4 last year, also caught a 10-yard touchdown pass from Mayo. He acknowledged he is still working his way back from the injury and said the Bulldogs’ offense will only get better moving forward.

“I’m feeling good now, trying to ease back in,” he said. “Our offense is nice. We’ve got a lot of weapons. You can’t stack the box and you can’t cover us one-on-one.”

Mayo, a senior, threw for 126 yards and two scores.

Smith, a 6-foot-6 senior wideout, caught two passes for 66 yards.

The Astros rushed for 243 yards and outgained the Bulldogs, 366 to 347. They were led by senior running back Xavier Rogers, who scored on runs of 25 and 7 yards.

Shepard senior wide receiver Elijah Tyson scored on a 7-yard run and sophomore quarterback James Lascola tossed two touchdown passes.

Lascola was forced into duty after starting quarterback Quran McClellan sustained what appeared to be a serious injury to his right leg. McClellan, a senior, was carted off the field in the third quarter.

Lascola’s first touchdown, an 8-yard pass to senior wide receiver Damarrius Hodges, brought the Astros to within 11 points with 8:03 to go in the third quarter and provided some hope for a comeback. Shepard forced Richards to punt on the visitor’s ensuing possession, but the Bulldogs recovered a Lascola fumble and scored one play later on the Burton-to-Mitchell pass to open up a 42-24 lead.

Richards wide receiver Donnie Burton reaches back before tossing a 21-yard touchdown pass during the Bulldogs’ 49-36 win over Shepard on Sept. 23. Photo by Jason Maholy

Football: Previously winless Sandburg takes down defending champ Lockport

By Randy Whalen
Correspondent

A season ago, Sandburg turned its season around after a big loss to Lockport.

This year, the Eagles hope their season has turned around after a big win over the Porters.

Sandburg was winless coming into the SouthWest Suburban Blue matchup against the defending Class 8A state champions, but pummeled the Porters, 34-3, on Sept. 23.

Sophomore Anthony Shelton threw for a touchdown and ran for another, and senior Katrell Thompson ran for more than 100 yards and scored twice in front of a big Homecoming crowd.

It was the first win of the year the Eagles (1-4, 1-1) and the second straight loss for the Porters (3-2, 0-2). Before the previous week’s 35-20 setback to Homewood-Flossmoor, Lockport had lost once in its previous 19 games.

“I just think we’ve had some new guys, some young guys in, and it’s taken them time,” Sandburg coach Troy McAllister said of Sandburg’s early-season struggles.

Eagles sophomores Shelton, lineman Matt Marek and wide receiver Charlie Snorek are starting on offense, and freshman Jaden Weaver starts on the defensive line.

“They are now catching up to the process,” McAllister said. “They are hungry, and no matter what happens in the last half of the season, they want to leave their own legacy.”

Last season, it was the Porters who went into Orland Park in Week 5, jumped out to a 33-0 lead after one quarter and went on to win 42-0 on the Eagles’ Homecoming. It would be Sandburg’s last regular season loss, as they went on to win four straight games to qualify for the playoffs for the first time since 2015.

“I was worried all week,” Lockport coach George Czart said of playing the Eagles. “They’re a good team, we could see that on film. People were just going to look at their record and think this was going to be a pushover.

“We didn’t match their intensity, aggressiveness, toughness and will to win. There’s the result up on the scoreboard. We have to live with ourselves.”

Sandburg scored on its seventh offensive play, a 9-yard touchdown run by Thompson with 9:24 left in the first quarter.

A 28-yard field goal by Lockport junior Nate Blazewski with 1:20 left in the opening quarter made the score 7-3, but the next three Porter possessions netted a total of minus-nine yards. Lockport totaled 18 yards in the first half.

Eagles senior Lance Somerfield kicked a 26-yard field goal with 4:58 left in the second quarter and Shelton threw a 24-yard touchdown pass to senior Drew Selle with 5 seconds remaining in the first half to give Sandburg a 17-3 halftime lead.

Shelton, who became the starter when senior Christian Evans was injured in the second game of the season, finished with 195 yards, completing 18-of-22 passes with a touchdown pass and a 5-yard scoring run.

“You saw his maturation out there,” McAllister said. “Just seeing [on the touchdown pass] what was given in the game. They were in Cover 4 and Anthony read it, and Drew went up and made a great catch.

Shelton said the victory was a team effort.

“I don’t get any credit for this,” he said. “It was all the team, all the defense. It was all about momentum all game.

“We believed in the team and the team believed in me.”

McAllister said Shelton came to him with suggestions and ideas while game-planning for Lockport.

“That’s a lot for a sophomore to do and he has a high football IQ,” the coach added. “You can see that once he gets that confidence that he has the ‘it’ factor.”

Thompson carried the ball 25 times for 122 yards, including an 18-yard touchdown run. He said it felt great for the Eagles to flip the switch.

“Yes, we did remember that,” Thompson said of last season’s blowout loss to Lockport. “We wanted to do to them what they did to us. This felt good. We always want to stack the momentum and the defense made big plays. We got it done.

“Our defense and special teams did their jobs. I don’t know how many yards I had but the two touchdowns felt good. This was just our offensive line cleaning things up.”

Somerfield added a 35-yard field goal.

The Eagle defense, which gave up 83 points in the previous two games, was up to the task all game. They forced two fumbles, one of which was recovered by Weaver, and seniors Harrison Meyer and John Thompson had interceptions.

The Porters finished with 42 total yards in the game and converted only four first downs.

McAllister said linebackers Nate Biskup, Tommy Stotts and John Massino played very well. The Eagles had Thompson cover the Porters leading receiver, 6-foot-6-inch senior Hyatt Timosciek, who came in with 24 receptions for 435 yards and 5 TDS, and he held him without a catch.

The Eagles rebounded from last year’s loss to Lockport by stunning Lincoln-Way East the following week and rode that momentum to the postseason. To make the playoffs again, they will have to defeat their remaining four opponents, starting with the Griffins on Friday.

“This week’s game is big,” Shelton said of facing East. “But we’ve been getting better and everyone is on the same page. This team has a lot of desire and this is the product. We definitely want it.”

Pro Soccer Report: Red Stars playoff hopes dim with shutout loss in Portland

By Jeff Vorva
Staff writer

Well, this has quickly turned into a mess and it’s a mess that does not favor the Chicago Red Stars.

Heading into last week’s action, it appeared the regular-season finale between the Red Stars and Angel City on Sunday at SeatGeek Stadium would be cut-and-dried. The winner would take the sixth and final playoff spot in the NWSL and the loser would go home.

But, with the NWSL being the NWSL, nothing is that easy.

North Carolina, which was in eighth place entering last week, stuck its nose in the postseason hopeful mix and, seemingly in a blink of an eye, the Red Stars are on the outside looking in. Chicago entered this week in seventh place after a 3-0 loss in Portland on Sept. 25.

North Carolina is now in sixth with 31 points, followed by the Stars (30) and Angel City (29).

Boiling down a complicated scenario into its simplest form, the Red Stars need to beat Angel City. A win, however, does not gaurantee them a trip to the playoffs.

If North Carolina beats San Diego Friday and fifth-place Houston beats Washington, Sunday’s game at in Bridgeview will be about as meaningful as a Challenge Cup exhibition game.

The best shot for Chicago is for North Carolina stumble on Friday.

The Red Stars played a strong first half against first-place Portland with a 0-0 draw, but the second half featured the frustration of giving up three goals and having two players thrown out of the game with red cards. Zoe Morse picked up two yellow cards and Bianca St-Georges made an obscene gesture to the officials to get her red card.

“We lost our composure,” Red Stars coach Chris Petrucelli said. “We gotta get going in the right direction really fast.”

The Red Stars were outshot 21-7 and 7-1 with shots on goal.

 

Fire wins friendly shootout

The Chicago Fire defeated Club León in a penalty shootout following a 1-1 draw at SeatGeek Stadium on Sept. 24.

Alfonso Alvarado opened the scoring for León in the international friendly, but the Fire countered with a second half goal from Javier Casas Jr. The match also featured appearances by multiple Chicago Fire FC II and Academy players.

The Fire’s Jonathan Bornstein opened the shootout with a shot well beyond the reach of León goalkeeper Alfonso Blanco. William Tessillo was next to step up to the spot for León, but Spencer Richey made a diving save to keep the Fire in the lead.

The goalkeeper added another save off Javier Ibarra’s attempt before conceding to Jorge Díaz. Stanislav Ivanov and Boris Sekulić finished their shots to make the score 3-1. Needing a goal to stay alive, León substitute Jose Salazar blasted a shot off the crossbar, sealing the shootout win for the Fire.

The Fire returns to Major League Soccer play on Saturday at Cincinnati and hosts New England in Bridgeview in the regular season finale on Oct. 9.

Area sports roundup: No drama here, St. Rita grad Hopkins named Mustangs football coach

By Jeff Vorva
Staff writer

There will be no drama waiting to see who the will coach St. Rita’s football team in 2023.

Even though there are four weeks to go in the 2022 regular season, the school last week named Martin Hopkins the successor to Todd Kuska.

Kuska, in his 25th season as the Mustangs’ boss, will retire after this season.

Hopkins, 31, played football for Kuska and was the student body president at St. Rita in 2009. Hopkins was a member of the 2006 Illijois High School Association Class 7A state championship team.

“I am beyond honored and thankful to be chosen as the next St. Rita head football coach and to carry on the strong tradition of St. Rita High School and St. Rita football,” Hopkins said in a news release. “It is my privilege to follow in the footsteps of a Hall of Fame coach in Coach Kuska, and also the great coaches before him like coach [Todd] Wernet, coach [Pat] Cronin and coach [Ed] Buckley].

“Thank you to my wife, family, friends, and coaches who have molded me into the man I am today. And thank you to St. Rita for making this dream a reality. It feels great to be home.”

Hopkins earned his undergraduate and graduate degrees at Iowa. He was a student-athlete playing football for the Hawkeyes until an injury forced his transition into a coach and analyst.

Hopkins brings nine years of high-level coaching experience with him to the Chicago school. During his tenure at Iowa, he served as a coach for defense, offense and special teams.

“The St. Rita football program will be in great hands with the selection of Martin,” St. Rita Athletic Director, Curtis Price said. “I look forward to working with him as we form our student-athletes in the Augustinian tradition.”

He is married to Elizabeth Hopkins (Sweeney), a Mother McAuley grad. He is also the son of the late Tom Hopkins, who is an honorary St. Rita alumnus and Margie Hopkins, who is the current St. Rita registrar and receptionist.

The Hopkins family is involved with raising money for families of cancer patients as well as providing sports equipment for area grade schools. The Papa Hops softball tournament has raised more than $500,000.

 

Love for the coaches

Marist coach Jordan Vidovic picked up his 200th career victory as the girls coach last week and St. Laurence’s Ellen Yopchick racked up her 100th career win.

At Stagg, former coach Missy Mason will be honored with a tournament named after her. The first Missy Mason Classic girls bowling tournament on Feb. 2.

 

Golfing greats

Golf is heading into the IHSA playoffs, but a couple of area golfers got ready for the postseason when they captured conference championships.

Evergreen Park’s Charlie Burns won her third straight South Suburban Conference title and Jillian Cosler of Sandburg won the SouthWest Suburban Conference Blue title.

 

Distance dominance

Chicago Christian had a dominant girls cross country performance at the Tolefree/Farley meet Sept. 24 at Midlothian Meadows.

The Knights finished with 21 points in the Olympic varsity division. Runner-up Glenbard South had 100 points.

Senior Anna Enderle won with a time of 19:12.90 seconds. Freshman Kihra Moes took third with a 20:29.10 and junior Grace Mullen was fourth with a 20:28.60. Freshman Kaley Van Til, senor Natalia Kiernia and freshman Mia Caporale finished sixth, eighth and ninth, respectively.

Football: Evergreen Park edges Reavis in SSC Red

By Steve Millar
Correspondent

The back-and-forth battle waged against Reavis in Week 5 was the kind of game for which Evergreen Park prepares. It provided the Mustangs a chance to test how they would respond in an intense situation.

They passed the test.

“Resilience was the key,” Evergreen Park coach Jerry Verde said after the 28-21 South Suburban Red win. “We’ve been preaching resilience. We’ve been working really hard on conditioning, working really hard on discipline. This is a game where that all came together and we needed all of that and we’re proud of the way the kids battled.

“We still made mistakes, but for the most part we’re very proud of the way they battled.”

A 68-yard touchdown run from Mustangs junior quarterback Deijon Feliciano late in the third quarter was the difference.

“Coach preaches how we’re a family and we just have to stay together,” Feliciano said. “We can’t blame somebody, we can’t be down or betray someone. We can’t turn our backs when we want to. We have to stay together, and if we do that we’re going to pull out the tight games every time.”

Feliciano ran for 108 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries and threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to Harry Measner.

Reavis’ Charles Campbell totaled 106 rushing yards on just eight carries, including a 60-yard touchdown. He added six catches for 73 yards (3-2, 2-1).

The game featured three ties. Both teams held leads with neither holding more than a seven-point edge at any time.

The Mustangs (4-1, 2-1) put together a strong opening drive, going 55 yards on eight plays, capped off by a 1-yard touchdown run on a quarterback sneak from Feliciano.

Reavis (3-2, 2-1) needed just one play to answer, scoring on its first offensive snap of the game as Campbell broke loose for a 60-yard touchdown run.

Both defenses settled in from there, but the Rams took their only lead early in the second quarter on a 3-yard touchdown run by Connor Whalen, a two-way player who made a big impact on defense as well, including coming up with an interception.

The game’s biggest momentum swing came over the final 69 seconds of the first half. Feliciano and Measner connected on a 25-yard touchdown pass to tie the game at 14 with 1:09 left.

Reavis then mishandled the ensuing kickoff and Evergreen Park’s Ke’Shaun Lee recovered. That set up a 3-yard touchdown run by Antonio Clay-Jones with 13 seconds left in the half, sending the Mustangs into the locker room with a 21-14 lead and plenty of momentum.

“I had to trust my teammates to do what they could do and they trusted me to do what I can do,” Clay-Jones said. “It’s just about us making sure we keep pushing. When we feel down, keep pushing harder.”

The Rams tied the game once again on a 1-yard touchdown on a quarterback sneak by Noah Caceres with 6:52 left in the third.

The Mustangs had the final answer, though, with Feliciano breaking free for a 68-yard touchdown run with 2:50 left in the third.

The Evergreen Park defense held on from there, with Asael Rubalcava making an interception and Jakob White coming up with a big sack.

Caceres did his best to keep Reavis in it on both sides of the ball. Playing a rare dual role of quarterback and linebacker, he had four tackles for loss and a sack.

“We play 10 guys both ways and when we have three guys get banged up, it’s tough,” Reavis coach Tim Zasada said. “Our guys really tried. We’re a running football team and they kind of shut that down between the tackles.

“We were able to get outside and do some gimmicks, make some things happen, but that’s only going to get you so far. You have to be able to run the football. They did a good job stopping that and they deserved to win the game.”

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