If DeKalb is going to overtake Sycamore for the conference title this year, Kelli Cardine’s play will probably be a big reason why.
Cardine scored 20 goals out of central midfield last season, and she’s even better coming into her senior year, DeKalb coach Phil Rouse said.
“Kelli’s been playing well. She’s been every bit as dominant as she was last year,” Rouse said. “She’s hands-down one of the highest-skilled players that we’ve had in a long time. She can do everything with her right foot, with her left foot. That’s what I’ve seen this year, more than anything, is an improvement on the left side.”
But Cardine doesn’t have to do it all by herself. If she’s heavily-marked, Rouse is sure other players will pick up the slack.
“I just want her to stay within herself,” Rouse said. “The nice thing about this team is that the scoring comes from a lot of different areas. There’s no one player that if you stop them, you stop DeKalb.”
Big shoes to fill at Sycamore
Three all-area seniors bolstered Sycamore’s Northern Illinois Big 12 championship team last year.
Fortunately, sweeper Sarah Papini was surrounded by three defenders who return this season, so defensively, coach Dave Lichamer isn’t too worried.
“Although we’re training a new sweeper, the other girls that are out there know what’s going on, so that’s helpful,” Lichamer said.
On the offensive side, Emma Norris and Michelle Doran were dominant, scoring a combined 36 goals and notching 19 assists. That production will be missed.
Junior Amy Schroeder came off the bench to relieve the senior duo last year, but Lichamer isn’t sure who will be starters by the end of the season beside her.
“Beyond Amy Schroeder, we have some other people who have played the spot,” Lichamer said. “But we’re going to try some different looks and decide who works out there.”
Cogs getting players back
Genoa-Kingston doesn’t have high numbers this year, but the Cogs do have a couple of key players who weren’t on the team last year.
Senior Julia Mendoza and sophomore Nicole Hebel each tore an ACL last season, and both should be starters when the Cogs start the season this week.
“They’ll be pretty important players for us,” coach Randy Tate said. “[Nicole] is fully recovered. … Julia took the winter off. She didn’t want to push it too much, but she seems to be doing pretty well in practice. I’m hoping she’s in good condition and can last through all of the games we’re going to have this month.”
Lauren Miller, Sycamore, junior
Miller scored two goals in a 3-0 win over Sterling to start the season. The forward has big shoes to fill this season after the graduation of last year's Daily Chronicle Player of the Year Emma Norris and All-Area first teamer Michelle Doran, and she's off to a nice start.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR...
DeKalb at Kaneland, today, 4:30 p.m.
Kaneland goalkeeper and Purdue commit Jordan Ginther will be tested by a strong DeKalb attack in the Northern Illinois Big 12 opener.
Hinckley-Big Rock at Hiawatha, Wednesday, 4:30 p.m.
The two local teams start their season.
1. Sycamore (1-0) – The defending Northern Illinois Big 12 champs lost a few key players, but still return talent and started the season with a 3-0 win over Sterling.
2. DeKalb (0-1-1) – The Barbs should challenge the Spartans for the top spot in the conference with one of the deepest returning talent pools in the area.
3. Kaneland (0-0) – Goalkeeper Jordan Ginther will need to have another stellar year to keep the Knights in the NI Big 12 race.
4. Hinckley-Big Rock (0-0) – Expect Lauren Paver to step into a goalscoring role this season after leading scorer Kaitlin Phillips' graduation.
5. Genoa-Kingston (0-0) – The Cogs won't be a deep team, but they'll bring back plenty of talent this season.
6. Indian Creek (0-0) – Freshmen will have to step up this season if the Timberwolves want to be competitive in the Little Ten Conference.
7. Hiawatha (0-0) – The Hawks graduated a lot of experience last year, but coach Kyle Monestero will rely on a few freshmen who have club experience.