Coach: PJ Hamilton (first year)
Last year: 16-3-3, Northern Illinois Big 12 East champions, lost to Crystal Lake Central in a Class 3A regional final
Keep an eye on: Speedy striker forward Mauro Talamantes was a Daily Chronicle All-Area first-team pick last year and is on the 2020 all-state watch list.
Also: TJ Vilet, midfielder, sr.
Hamilton’s take: “We had an outstanding summer campaign with positive numbers at every event,” Hamilton said. “Our players are continuing to compete and are looking forward to an extremely competitive schedule, as well as the introduction into the DuPage Valley Conference. We are excited to test our skills against some of the best schools in the state of Illinois. “
Lowdown: After heading up the varsity girls and JV boys teams at DeKalb in some capacity for the past nine years, Hamilton takes the reins for the varsity boys as they transition to a new conference. The Barbs have gone from being the biggest school in their conference last year to the smallest in their new conference. The team is loaded with 14 seniors and will rely on experience to keep the program going strong.
Coach: David Bachta (sixth year)
Last year: 11-10-1, lost to Rochelle in a Class 2A regional final
Keep an eye on: Senior defender Isaac Plagakis has been first-team all-conference for two years straight and is a vocal leader on the team.
Also: Miles Guiborat, jr., forward; Joseph Quinn, sr., midfielder
Bachta’s take: “The expectations for this year’s team are high,” Bachta said. “I can honestly say anything short of a sectional birth would be disappointing to the boys. “
Lowdown: The Spartans possess a lot of depth with 19 players having a legitimate shot at only 11 starting spots. The Spartans will need that depth as they hope to avoid the injury bug that bit them last year. This also is one of the most experienced teams in Bachta’s six years at the school. Most players have been playing on competitive club teams all year, which has brought them into the season physically and mentally ready.
Coach: Scott Parillo (18th year)
Last year: 12-9-1, lost to Marmion Academy in a Class 2A regional final
Keep an eye on: Senior forward Tucker Jahns scored 31 goals last year on his way to all-conference and all-sectional honors. He also was one of six Illinois players to be named to the Allstate All-America team.
Also: Gavin Cano, sr., defense; Tyler Chapman, sr., defense
Parillo’s take: “The intensity of our practices [has really stood out],” Parillo said. I’ve had to tell the guys to tone it down a few times in practice. Everyone is fighting for a starting position and playing time.”
Lowdown: The Knights have a veteran team returning with more than a few players with two years of varsity experience. They’ll need that experience as they continue their tradition of a meat-grinder schedule to open the season. Kaneland is focusing on finishing its scoring chances and improving overall team defense.
Coach: Randy Tate (13th year)
Last year: 7-15-0, lost to St. Edward in a Class 1A regional final
Keep an eye on: Senior midfielder Jack Bouque is the lone returning all-conference player from last year’s team
Also: Juan Campos, jr., forward; Lorenzo Diaz, sr., defense
Tate’s take: “We want to improve our overall record from last year and get another shot at a regional title,” Tate said. “Overall, we are impressed and excited about the prospects for this year’s group of guys, and they are hungry to get some wins.”
Lowdown: The Cogs have some holes to fill on the defense with three of the top defenders graduating last year. They’re hoping to make up for that with an improved attack. Tate expects to add some scoring punch with an influx of underclassmen and some upperclassmen kicking up some extra scoring punch.
Playing time will be tight with more than
40 players coming out for the team this year.
Hinckley-Big Rock Royals
Coach: Brad Phillips (third year)
Last year: 11-11, lost to Newark in a Class 1A regional semifinal
Keep an eye on: Senior defender Carson Pickert was an All-Area selection last year and will be leading the defensive effort.
Also: Remy Lynch, sr., forward; Riley Hogan, jr, midfielder
Phillip’s take: “I am very confident heading into the season,” Phillips said. “Barring major injuries, we should be able to compete for the conference and regional titles and hopefully beyond. They are a very competitive group. They don’t like to lose. I also feel like we are working well as a team. Our passing and ability to possess the ball is better than last year.”
Lowdown: The Royals will be without the team’s leading scorer for the past three years, Tate Sanderson, after his graduation, but return an experienced team of upperclassmen. Phillips believes that consistency will be the key to the team this year. If they can avoid injuries, the Royals should have enough depth to remain competitive.
Indian Creek Timberwolves
Coach: Eric Schrader (13th year)
Last year: 14-8, lost to Mendota in a Class 1A regional final
Keep an eye on: Junior forward Drew Gaston set team records in goals in a season (40), goals in a game (seven) and assists (22)
Also: Brennen McNally, jr. forward; Cameron Russell, jr., forward
Schrader’s take: “We’ve never won a conference or a regional, so that’s our two goals,” Schrader said. “Our conference is a tough soccer conference, but I’d like to think with everything we have coming back and the additions that we made we’ll be one of the top teams to beat.”
Lowdown: The offensive firepower should be off the charts this year with the top scorers returning and adding Paw Paw forward McNally to the mix. The only question is if this team will finally be able to beat the top teams in the conference. The Timberwolves added depth by almost doubling their roster size, going from 15 to 27. That depth should help them in their quest for a long-awaited conference crown.
– Lenny Eisele