GENEVA—The Kane County Cougars recently announced a special promotional giveaway for the upcoming season, commemorating the Cougars’ 2014 Midwest League Championship.
The first 1,500 fans who attend the Thursday, June 4, game against Bowling Green will receive a Cougars replica championship ring, courtesy of Melrose Pyrotechnics. Gates will open at 5:30 p.m. with first pitch at 6:30 p.m. Festivities that evening also include a Thirsty Thursday, sponsored by Miller Lite, with $1 select beers and sodas, and a post-game fireworks show. Following the game, fans can run the bases.
In what is sure to be one of the most popular promotional events in the history of the Cougars’ franchise, the replica ring giveaway night allows the first 1,500 fans through the ballpark gates on June 4 to receive a premium giveaway item and perfect commemorative keepsake from last season’s historic team. The Cougars’ 2014 season culminated in a Midwest League Championship and included a franchise-record 91 regular season wins, along with a perfect 7-0 mark in the postseason. The Cougars’ 98 total wins were the third-most across all Minor League Baseball teams in the past decade. Kane County also set franchise records last season with a 13-game win streak, 2.85 team ERA and 54-17 regular season home record. Following the season, Minor League Baseball named the ‘14 Cougars the “Best Team” during its “MiLBY” awards.
“We’d like to thank Melrose Pyrotechnics for sponsoring this season’s replica ring giveaway night, and for their loyal support of Cougars baseball for many years,” said Cougars Vice President/General Manager Curtis Haug. “We encourage fans to arrive early on June 4 as that evening’s giveaway, similar to last season’s Cougars team, will be remembered and treasured for years to come.”
Single-game tickets, catered event group outings, season tickets and ticket packages starting at five games, including a “Pick Your Own” plan, are currently on sale and available by calling (630) 232-8811 or visiting kccougars.com. Opening Night for the 25th anniversary season of Cougars baseball is set for Thursday, April 9, at 6:30 p.m. against Cedar Rapids. Fans can view a promotional schedule at kccougars.com, which includes information on weekly specials, theme nights, fireworks dates, ballpark concerts and entertainment acts for the upcoming season.
Head Coach: Eric Baron
2014 Season Recap: The Knights were runners-up at the Class 2A State Finals. Kaneland sent 12 events to the Finals, and was just six points shy of champion Cahokia. The bevy of qualifiers and State medal winners were highlighted by individual State Championships by long jumper Ben Barnes and Nate Dyer in the shot put. Coach Baron was named Class 2A track and field Coach of the Year.
KANELAND—After placing second at the Illinois State Class 2A Championships last year, this year’s Knights squad will be led by defending State long jump champion Ben Barnes, who went through the 2014 season undefeated enroute to setting a new school record of 23 feet, 5 inches. The University of Illinois recruit also led off the 4x200m relay team that placed third at State and broke the school record last spring.
However, a lot of talent and big meet points from the 2014 team were lost to graduation. Nothing will come easy as the Knights attempt to add to their recent winning ways, including the past three Northern Illinois Big XII indoor conference titles, the past two conference outdoor titles, the past three Kane County Team Championships, and the past six IHSA Sectional team titles.
To do that, the Knights will need big points from team members like Barnes, now a senior, and junior Brandon Cruz, a member of their state finalist 4x100m relay team who, last year as a sophomore, also ran one of the fastest 100 meters in the state by an underclassman at 11.17.
More sprint/relay points will need to come from Issac Swithers, another member of the Knights’ 4x100m and 4x200m relay teams in 2014. Middle distance points will be needed from junior Austin Kintz, who has been a star so far during the indoor season, and from Matt Richtman, who is proving himself to be one of the top freshman distance runners in the state. Kintz led off the Knights’ silver medal 4x800m relay at State last season as a sophomore, and also qualified for the State finals in the mile (1,600m).
Field event points are needed from Kaneland’s stellar pole vault corps, the depth of which is outstanding under assistant coach Andrew Drendel. Promising freshmen who could become varsity scorers this season include Clayton Hannula in the throws, Tyler Nance in the hurdles and Drew Gould in the High Jump. Bottom line, however, is Kaneland has a young boys’ team with great talent but very little varsity experience.
Looking around the NIB-12 Conference, head coach Eric Baron thinks the race fo the top spot is wide open.
“Our conference is very good and very balanced this season. It usually takes an All-State level performance to place in the top-three in any event at our conference meet. I believe a number of teams have the depth of talent to compete with us for the team title this year, including DeKalb, Geneseo, Sycamore and Yorkville. LaSalle-Peru, Ottawa, Sterling and Rochelle all return some state-ranked individuals. Our 2015 team goals, as always, include winning the conference, county and Sectional team titles.”
The Knights’ track and field program has a long-standing tradition of exceeding the expectations, and should be a force again in 2015.
Edit: Fixed error with Andrew Drendel mistakenly listed as “Ralph Drendel.”
Head Coach: Peter Goff
2014 Record: 20-12, 7-3 in NIB-12
2014 Season recap:
The Knights lost a wild 6-5 game to top-seeded Burlington Central in the Regional final. Kaneland was down 4-0 early before clawing back and tying the game heading into the final innning. The Knights won over Genoa-Kingston to get to the final thanks to Morgan Weber stealing home for a 1-0 win.
New coach hopes to keep team on top
KANELAND—Springtime. Warmer weather. Practicing hitting and catching fly balls in the schoolyard. Base-running and fielding exercises in the gymnasium. The head coach instructing his team to hustle, not walk, to a huddle for a pep talk.
All these factors add up to one thing: time for another season of Kaneland Knights softball.
Returning to the position of girls’ softball head coach for the first time in four years (first at KHS), Kaneland Athletic Director Peter Goff knows the kind of expectations he has for his team this season.
“I think in every year, and I’ve been doing this for awhile, our goal of course is to do the best we can in every game,” he said. “We want to win. Of course, we want to win every game. You’ve got to make small, little goals, and that’s the next game. In the overall picture, you want to win your conference (Northern Illinois Big XII). You win the conference, and then probably good things will happen. I told the girls in our parent meeting (that) our big goal is to make it into June. If we make it into June, that means we won a Regional (and) we’re heading into Sectionals, and anything can happen then.”
Goff was quick to take a selfless, team-oriented approach when talking about if any of his players qualify as “players to watch” for the upcoming season.
“Getting to know them, all of them are the ones to watch for me right now,” he said. “I told them (that) we play for the team on the front, and that’s Kaneland. Ones to watch … you probably have your returners—(senior pitcher) Angie Morrow, Paige Kuefler, who’s a good catcher and at third base; (senior) Morgan Sikon (and) (senior pitcher) Anissa Becker. We’ve got some girls that are moving on through their hard work and dedication (and) what they do year-round. So I’m just very humbled and blessed that I’m able to coach them.”
Whether in softball or baseball, a lot of a team’s success is dependent on its pitching staff. Goff is confident of his own heading into the 2015 campaign, as he has an ace in the mix of a talented, senior-laden staff.
“Angie Morrow, who’s our ace, is going to the University of Wisconsin. I think (junior) Courtney Davis did some pitching last year. You have Anissa Becker. Another senior, Shannon Herra, (and senior) Rachel Urich. We’re pretty deep at that position just at the seniors. (Junior) Hailey Douglas is a pitcher. A lot of innings will go to Angie. We have a nice junior varsity schedule where girls are going to get their pitches in, too.”
As with all sports, teaching the fundamentals is crucial to a team’s ability to win on the field. As a veteran coach, Goff explained his approach to teaching the game of softball and it’s fundamentals to his players.
“The basic game of softball, is (to) keep the ball in front of you and make good, accurate throws,” he said. “Just keep everything in front. Hitting is (to) get the ball in play. You get the ball in play (and) you’re giving yourself a chance. Being smart on the base paths. You make a throwing error, you get down on yourself. It’s a mental game. Next play. If it’s a mistake, don’t worry about it. Get your chin up. Next play, next play, next play. It’s varsity softball. Things are going to happen.
“We’re not going to go through the whole season without making any errors. It’s how we react after we made that error. Do we just let it eat us up, or do we shake it off and go on to the next play?”
There are always games that all teams in all of organized sports get particularly excited about. The rivalries, the history, and what is yet to come. In his parting comments, Goff gave a small preview of the games that he has in mind.
“Every conference game. We’ve got some nice non-conference games. Our conference is pretty tough. Yorkville, DeKalb, Morris … just all good ones. Then on the other side you’ve got Sterling, who’s very good. They’ve been to State (championship round) the last three years. I used to coach them back when I first started. Sycamore has made it to the Super Sectional within the last four (or) five years. I think it’s a good, solid conference, both on the East and the West.”
From the words of Goff, there’s bound to be some genuine excitement as the Knights softball team marches toward the 2015 season.
Head Coach: Doug Ecker
2014 Season Recap: The Knights qualified 11 separate events to the State Finals after winning the Class 2A Freeport Sectional. At the State meet, the team placed 11th, and saw all-staters emerge from the 4x100m relay, 4x200m relay and 4x400m relay. Individual all-staters included Nicole Sreenan in the 100m and 400m, and Christina Delach in the pole vault. The Knights won the Wauconda Invitational and the indoor NIB-12 title, as well.
KANELAND—Like their male counter-parts, the Kaneland girls track and field team will be led by underclassmen this season. But unlike the boys’ team, those underclassmen have a lot a varsity competition experience under their belts.
The Knights won the Class 2A Sectional Championship last season and placed 11th at the 2014 State meet. Five individual State qualifiers return from that team, along with seven members of four relay teams that advanced to the State meet.
With senior leadership coming from Aislinn Lodwig in the middle distance races, the Knights expect big meet points to come from junior Brianna Bower in the metric mile and 2-mile races (1,600 and 3,200 meters), and from sophomore Nicole Sreenan, junior Allie Heinzer, sophomore Carley Elliott and junior Olivia Galor in the sprints and sprint relays.
Despite having to train indoors in crowded hallways with the boys during a winter that went seven weeks with only one day above freezing, to date the Kaneland girls have the fastest 2A indoor times in the state in the 4x200m and 4x400m relays, and the fifth-fastest time in the 4x800m relay.
In the field events, the Knights will be led by sophomores Maddie Keifer in the high jump and Lexie Guerra in the pole vault—events in which they were both county and conference meet scorers and state qualifiers last season as freshmen.
And the hits just keep on coming.
Head coach Doug Ecker reported that he has a large group of freshman who appear to be a very good track and field class, with sprinter/jumpers Crystal Durham, Shanya Hurston, and Jamie Martens, distance runner Andrea Wells, and pole vaulter Cierra Kuipers all having the potential to be varsity contributors this season.
Looking around the NIB-12, Ecker says that Yorkville is the clear favorite to win conference team honors this season, with its biggest competition expected to come from Geneseo. Despite their indoor season training limitations, he says he has been impressed by how high Maddie Keifer has jumped indoors (5 foot, 3 inches) and how Lexie Guerra has been vaulting consistently at, and above, 10 feet. The performances of junior Noelle Espino in the 800m and 4x400m relay indoors has been another pleasant surprise.
“Season to season, our goals are always the same. Train and compete in a way that keeps everyone healthy. Show steady improvement throughout the season. Try to win or place high in our invitational meets. Place among the top two or three teams at conference. Qualify for State and medal there in a number of individual events and relays,” Ecker said.
Head Coach: Scott Parillo
2014 Record: 14-4-2, 7-1-2 in NIB-12
2014 Season Recap: Rosary once again ended the Knights’ season, this time in a 3-1 upset off penalty kicks. Rosary knocked off Kaneland in 2010, 2011 and 2013 in the Regional finals. Rosary lost twice to KHS in the regular season. The outgoing senior class for Kaneland amassed a sparkling 50-24-9 record during its four years.
by Doug Oleson
KANELAND—Have fun, stay healthy, and improve with every game.
Those are among the goals head coach Scott Parillo has for the Kaneland girls soccer team, which was scheduled to open its season this week, weather permitting.
“Our goal is to score goals,” said Parillo, who is in his 11th season as head coach after two as an assistant.
At least two of his players have a slightly higher goal.
“Our biggest goal is to win the Regional,” junior forward Ashley Crotteau said.
Although fellow junior Emily Chapman is confident they can achieve this goal, she said, “We’re just going to take it one step at a time.”
Both girls are among the 17 returning players on this year’s 22-player varsity squad. A year ago, the Lady Knights went 14-4-2. One of their losses was to St. Charles East, which finished second in the Illinois High School Association’s 3A state playoffs. Another loss was to Normal, which took second in 2A. After sharing the conference title with Sycamore—who should contend for this year’s crown along with DeKalb—the Lady Knights season ended unexpectedly with a surprising loss to Rosary on penalty kicks in the Regional championship.
“It was an upset,” Parillo admitted.
Disappointing as it was at the time, the loss is serving as incentive for this year’s squad, which is headed by six returning All-Conference players: Chapman; Madison Jurcenko, a senior midfielder/forward; Holly Collingbourne, a sophomore midfielder/forward; Taylor Zitkus, sophomore defender; and Courtney Diddell, senior midfielder.
The other seniors on the team are Emily Grams, Colleen Landers, Taylor Opperman and Heather Ortiz.
Like all area sports teams, the Kaneland crew—which started practice March 2—has pretty much been confined to the high school gym because of the cold and the snow. In fact, it wasn’t until last week that the girls ventured outside for the first time.
“We put on our water wings outside and played,” Parillo said jokingly.
Being inside, everyone agreed, limits what a team can work on.
“You can’t do too much inside,” Parillo said.
According to Chapman, the team has mainly been focusing on getting in a lot of touches and small side scrimmages.
“It’s been hard in the gym,” Crotteau said, noting they’ve still been passing and playing well together. “I am really excited and can’t wait to see what we can accomplish.”
The girls were scheduled to start their season at home on Wednesday by hosting Hinckley-Big Rock. As of press time, Parillo said the match was in doubt because there was still ice on the field, which is shaded by the school and doesn’t get enough sunlight. The girls are also scheduled to play at IMSA on Thursday before traveling to Belvidere for a 10 a.m. match.
After playing in Rosary on Wednesday, March 26, the Lady Knights have a long break, not retuning to action until Tuesday, April 7, when they host DeKalb.
Photo: Senior Heather Ortiz (left) and the Knights hope to get past the Regional tournament in 2015. File Photo
Head Coach: Brian Aversa
2014 Record: 18-16, 9-6 in
2014 Season recap: A 1-0 loss to Sycamore in the Sectional semifinal ended the Knights’ season in 2014. Kaneland won the Regional title for the second time in school history over top-seeded Wheaton St. Francis. En route to the Regional title game, the Knights dispatch ACC 12-0 via a combine Anthony Holubecki/ Nick Henne no-hitter. The Knights lost their final regular-season game to ACC 6-0, and lost six of their last seven games before their State series run.
KANELAND—With the warmth of spring comes the promise of another baseball season. For the Kaneland varsity team, spring 2015 is no different. Big expectations have also surfaced at the plate and in the outfield, and the Knights have set their ceiling high.
“Our goals are always (to) compete for (a Northern Illinois Big XII) Conference championship, and then prepare ourselves throughout the season and make a deep run in the playoffs,” head coach Brian Aversa said. “We’re returning a lot of seniors and a lot of guys on defense, so with the experience that we have coming back, we have some pretty high expectations.”
Aversa referenced Kaneland’s “buzzsaw of a schedule.”
“With our schedule the way they have it set up, we’re going to be very prepared by the time the postseason rolls around,” he said.
There are always players to watch on every team, from first-timers to veterans. Coach Aversa was quick to point out a few of his varsity squad players to keep an eye on.
“Joe Laudont. He’s our catcher. He started as a sophomore last year for us, and he’s a junior now,” Aversa said. “He broke his thumb in the middle of the season last year. When he went down, the team went down with him. So having Joe back is big.
“We’ve got guys like (senior) Austin Wheatley (and senior Joseph) Panico. (senior) Nick Stratman is in center field for us (and) a pitcher. (Senior) Colton Fellows is another pitcher for us that we’re going to rely on heavily. Then we have some juniors that are coming up that are trying to make a name for themselves. Our pitching staff is going to have a lot of juniors on it, so we’re going to have to get a lot of good work out of those guys, too.”
Traditionally, every pitching staff has at least one ace, a closer and so on. However, Aversa noted that things work differently with his crew of mound masters.
“I’ve never had a No. 1, No. 2 (or) No. 3 (pitcher),” Aversa said. We’ve got some guys who we know can only do shorter innings. It’s up in the air right now. We’ve got some guys that play positions in the field that we don’t want to take out of those positions to come pitch. We’ve got other guys that we think can do the job, so we’re trying to work with them these next couple of weeks (and) get them ready for the season.”
Fundamentals are the backbone for every sport, and the fundamentals of baseball can be a challenge to teach, and in some cases, to learn. It is both sides of this proverbial plate that Aversa and his staff cover in abundance.
“Everything’s fundamentals,” Aversa said on his approach to teaching and coaching the game. “You can always build off it, or sometimes you have to take a step back and go back to the fundamentals. This game is an easy game if you can get the fundamentals down. What we try to do is work consistently on those things and put them (the players) in situations that they are going to see in a game: ball over the shoulder; ball that’s hooking on them. Every single situation on the infield. If we can get them in that game-type of situation, we really try to push that on them during practice.
“We try to make a competition out of it. We want our guys competing throughout the season in games. Why not make it a competition in practice, too, and get the competitive juices flowing early on?”
New players always bring heightened interest every season. Like most teams, the Knights have some new and returning players that could turn some heads (and perhaps double-plays) this year.
“(Junior) Matt O’ Sullivan is doing a real nice job on the mound for us,” Aversa said. “He’s a left-handed pitcher. He had a real nice summer, so we are excited to see what he’s going to do for us. We’re happy to have Joe (Laudont) back as a junior now. Those two guys are going to lead that young crew for us.”
In the game of baseball, there have been and always will be classic rivalries—the games that, as a coach or a player, you place a star next to on your schedule or perhaps even circle the date on your calendar. Aversa offered his parting take on this subject and how it pertains to the Knights’ 2015 season.
“We have one (heck) of a conference schedule. We have Morris, Yorkville, Sycamore and DeKalb,” he said. “There’s no off-week in there. Those teams are all very good. Anybody can win the conference any season. Our conference schedule is really, really tough.”
One conference, one big rivalry. And the varsity Knights are ready to play ball and aim high this season.
The Kaneland Fourth Grade Cagers won the Fox River Valley Travel Basketball League
Tournament on March 14 at the NIU Recreation Center. The team included coaches Jim Wituk (back, from left), Cyndi Violett and Jeff Violett; Ethan Krol (middle), Parker Violett, Collin Miller, Zach Weirersheuser and Jake Brost; Jackson Kelso (front), Troyer Carlson, Jake Gagne, Anthony Urban and Luke Wituk. Photo submitted by Theresa Miller to firstname.lastname@example.org
“There’s no substitute for a good attitude and hard work.
That’ll take you further than you think.”Casey Crosby
2007 Kaneland grad signs minor league deal with Red Sox
FORT MYERS, FLA.—The ache in his left shoulder is gone. The bone chips in his left elbow have been surgically removed. For the first time in two seasons, left-handed pitcher Casey Crosby is feeling great—and he has a new contract to play for a Boston Red Sox minor league affiliate.
Crosby, who was once named the 47th-best prospect in all of baseball, was drafted by the Detroit Tigers in 2007 and earned a spot on the team’s 40-man Major League roster in 2012, but has since been repeatedly sidelined by an inflamed shoulder and rotator cuff, as well as an elbow injury that required surgery to remove loose bone chips from the joint.
He played just a handful of games for the Toledo Mud Hens, a Tigers affiliate, in both the 2013 and 2014 seasons before becoming a free agent in December.
Though a number of teams showed interest in him, most were scared off by his medical history, Crosby said. The Red Sox were willing to take a chance on the southpaw and signed him in December.
“The Red Sox saw me throw, and though they saw my history, they think they have the ability to fix what’s been ailing me,” Crosby said.
Ben Crockett, the Red Sox’s Director of Player Development, said that the team had signed Crosby on the basis of his previous performance, which they thought showed promise.
He reported to the team’s spring training facility in Fort Myers, Fla., on Feb. 26 and has been receiving daily attention from the team’s medical staff.
“We have programs that we have all our pitchers adhere to for both elbow and shoulder maintenance, and we’ll use other measures as a particular case requires,” Crockett said. “Casey’s getting both the standard treatment and some specialized treatment.”
Those treatments have been working well so far, Crosby said, and are designed to prevent injuries rather than to simply treat them after they’ve occurred.
“It’s been unbelievable,” Crosby said. “They’re very hands-on and preventative, so they want me to come in every morning to align my joints. They align my elbow to the ideal spot so I don’t end up getting shelved for a few weeks, and they’ll do massage and deep tissue things when my joints are tight. They’re doing maintenance even when it feels fine.”
The joint troubles have been “really rough” on him, Crosby said, and he spent most of the off season working with a local chiropractor in St. Charles, Dr. Phillip Gamble of White Oak Family Wellness, to resolve the injuries that have plagued him.
“Every time he told me to do something, and I did it at home, the problem would be gone,” he said. “I was very impressed with everything he did, especially when it came to going for teams this off-season and getting ready for spring training.”
Crosby has also been working with Red Sox trainers to adjust his pitching mechanics, which were thought to have contributed to his shoulder and elbow issues.
“Our pitching coaches want to give him better balance through his delivery and help him repeat that, and it’s certainly a focus on the pitching side of things,” Crockett said. “We’re always looking for better body control on our players.”
Though it’s not easy to change a pitching style, Crosby has been working on developing a more controlled pitch and trying to retrain his arm with every throw he makes, he said.
“I’m throwing from a lower spot, which takes stress off the shoulder,” Crosby said. “I’m trying to be more controlled. I used to be like a wild man throwing off the mound, and I’ve definitely been more balanced and controlled.”
He will likely play for the Pawtucket Sea Dogs, the organization’s AAA affiliate in Rhode Island, but his performance at spring training will determine whether he plays AAA or AA ball.
“No teams have been decided at this point,” Crockett said. “He’ll need to come out and throw in spring training, and we’ll evaluate what role he’ll be in and what the best position for him is going to be.”
Though he’s thrilled to be in Fort Myers for spring training, it’s been particularly hard to be away from his family this year because Crosby and his wife, Haley Balluff Crosby, have a daughter, Tessa, who just turned 1 last month. He originally intended to bring his family with him to Fort Myers, but a lack of affordable short-term housing has kept Haley and Tessa at their home in Elburn, and Crosby is missing them.
“Haley and I have been doing this ever since we were together, so it’s something we deal with,” he said. “We don’t like it, but what else are you going to do? It sucks being away now because I’m missing a month of being with my daughter and watching her development. We FaceTime (a video chat program) every day, and I talk to her, but she’s off doing her 1-year-old things, whether it’s climbing on top of her scooter, climbing on top of the couch, running away, trying to climb the stairs … that time is precious, and once the call ends, I feel terrible that I’m not there. But it’s not like I can do anything about it—I’ve just got to do my job.”
His family should be able to join him in Pawtucket, which is located near Providence, R.I., he said. Rents are lower there, and it’s just an hour’s drive to Boston if the Red Sox call him up as a relief pitcher.
Eight years in MiLB and MLB ball have taught him that success is as much about hard work and attitude as it is about talent and luck.
“The only thing you can control is how hard you work toward your goal,” he said. “If it works out, great. If not, then you did everything; you can honestly look yourself in the mirror and say I did everything I possibly could to reach my dream.”
It’s a lesson he’d like to pass on to the young Kaneland baseball players who are dreaming of a baseball career.
“There’s no substitute for a good attitude and hard work,” he said. “That’ll take you further than you think. If you are a good guy and you work hard, a professional team is going to hold on to you longer. I’ve seen guys in the pros have all the talent in the world, and they have a head full of crap, and it doesn’t work out for them. Nobody wants a player who’s selfish or has problems off the field. Just keep your head down and keep working toward your goal.”
Waubonsee celebrates Field House grand opening
SUGAR GROVE—On Tuesday, Waubonsee Community College and more than 500 local community leaders, including the mayors of Aurora, Batavia, Geneva, North Aurora, and Sugar Grove, and Kane County Board chairman Chris Lauzen, celebrated the grand opening of its new $19 million Field House. The Field House, whose construction began in December 2013, marked the completion of Waubonsee’s 2020 master plan, which also included five new academic buildings. The new 50,000-square-foot athletic facility is attached to the east side of Erickson Hall basketball arena. It features two indoor volleyball/basketball courts; a large artificial turf field for soccer, baseball and softball practices; a suspended three-lane, nine-laps-to-the-mile running track; a 2,500-square-foot dance and fitness studio; an athletic training room; a strength and conditioning center, team locker and meeting rooms; new coaches offices and an Athletic Hall of Fame.
The new facility offers athletic programs and space they have never had before.
“In a word, what the new Field House allows us to achieve is efficiency, said head baseball coach Brad Unger. “Our practices and practice time can now take advantage of multiple training areas simultaneously. We have turf space for infield practice and another area for three pitching/batting cages. We have the indoor space and ceiling height to long-toss. And we can run on the track upstairs without invading any of the other practice areas below. Before, going into the fitness center with 35 players to weight train was just not feasible. The new student-athlete weight room gives us the opportunity to have a year-around strength training program for the first time. It has already affected our recruiting, with us having landed 12 of our top-13 recruits for next year.”
While the basketball programs will still utilize Erickson hall for their practices, women’s basketball coach Jim Sury noted the new Field House will give Waubonsee a powerful recruitment tool.
“The Field House isn’t going to affect our basketball practices, because we practice in Erickson Hall,” Sury said. “But it gives a whole new, professional look to our Waubonsee athletic programs, starting with its impressive entry and visitors lounge. It also gives us new, modern coaches’ offices, a conference room, and team meeting rooms with large-screen smart TVs that allow us to play back game and practice footage from our iPads. The Field House gives us the credentials we need to successfully recruit outside our district … and that’s huge.”
The indoor turf will play a big role in early-season practices for the soccer programs.
“The turf section of the field house will allow us to play short-sided games and do grid work—anything short of playing on a full-size field,” said head women’s soccer coach, Brad Schlemmer. “I really didn’t expect it to be such a great facility—it’s equal or better than what most major universities have to practice on indoors. Recruiting-wise, we’re now getting a lot of interest from prospective student-athletes from outside our district. The huge athletes-only strength and conditioning center gives us the space and equipment to weight train, (which) we didn’t have before when we had to share the fitness center facility. The Field House and all the new buildings on campus are going to be a game-changer for all our athletic teams.”
Chilly fall days on the Waubonsee tennis courts will be a thing of the past for Jennifer McMullen’s tennis program.
“Women’s tennis is a fall sport at the junior college level, so the field house courts will be an escape we’ve never had before from rainy/cold weather,” McMullen said. “Overall, having such an impressive, state-of-the-art facility, it makes a strong statement about the support of Waubonsee College for its sports programs. The facility even has an athletes’ study hall with a computer room and tutoring services.”
At the end of the day, the sheer size will help the Waubonsee sports programs work together in a space built to accommodate almost all of their needs.
“Three different sports can practice in the Field House at the same time. We used it for the first time last week for indoor infield practice. Simultaneously, we can also hit in three different batting cages and long-toss over distances up to 200 feet. It’s just great,” said head women’s softball coach Perry Clark. “Our sophomores have been waiting two years for this. As far as recruiting, we’ve already signed players for next year who we would not have been able to without this centerpiece facility.”
Photo: Juniors Mitchel Groen (left) and Ryan David fight for a rebound Friday against Hampshire. Photos by Laura Gampfer
Kaneland survives Burlington Central, falls to Hampshire in Regional Championship
BURLINGTON, ILL.—A great defensive battle against Burlington Central March 4 saw Kaneland boys basketball shoot 11 free throws in the fourth quarter while scoring zero field goals to win 53-46.
Two nights later, the Knights could not overcome a 20-point first quarter deficit to the Hampshire Whip-purs in a 71-63 loss in the Class 3A Regional Championship.
Burlington Central struck first with a 10-4 run in the first five minutes of the contest. Rockets guard TaVonte Harris led the way with a pair of three-pointers en route to five first-quarter points. Kaneland kept themselves in it early thanks to aggressive play by guard Connor Fedderly (14 points) and forward Ryan David (14 points). Burlington Central sophomore Joseph Ratzek hit a trey at the end of the first frame to give the Rockets an 18-11 lead.
After Burlington Central center Ryan Fitzgerald scored four straight points to open the second quarter, Kaneland came out on fire offensively. A 4-0 run led by Fedderly (six points on two three-pointers in the quarter) cut the Rockets’ lead to two in the first two minutes. Although the Rockets matched their extremely fast offensive tempo with good ball distribution, they managed only seven points in the second frame, thanks to Fitzgerald and guard Andrew Wiss. Two-point field goals by David and guard Dylan Vaca (six points), along with a three-pointer by forward Steven Limbrunner and a trey by Fedderly, cut Burlington Central’s lead to 25-24 at halftime.
Burlington Central went on a 12-3 run in the first 3:45 of the second half. With the Rockets lead at 10, the Knights came roaring back behind three three-pointers from David, Vaca and guard Mark Lilly (10 points). Forward Zach Douglas’ two free throws allowed Kaneland to take the lead with 1:36 to go in the third quarter. The Knights took a 42-40 advantage into the final period of play.
The fourth quarter was both a defensive battle and perplexing offensive stalemate throughout most of the final frame. Both teams were held scoreless through the first 4:43 of the last quarter until Rockets’ guard Luke McCurdy hit his only two points of the contest—a field goal-to tie the game. David hit two free throws to give the Knights their first points of the quarter. As Kaneland kept drawing fouls late, the Knights proceeded to shoot nine more free throws—three from Lilly and six from Fedderly—without hitting a single field goal to seal the win for Kaneland.
“That’s what this team needs me to do. I’ve been there before; (I’ve) been the end-of-the-game guy for three years now. I’m pretty confident at the line,” Fedderly said. “I know that I’m a senior leader on this team. If I bring my level of intensity down, then everyone else will. I’ve been here four years. I know how to crank it up at the end and stay intense the whole time.”
Head coach Brian Johnson was pleased with his team’s effort.
“We kept getting stops. Even though we turned the ball over, we kept getting stops, and that’s the name of the game,” Johnson said. “Our goal is to keep teams to 44 points a game. They (Burlington Central) came out strong to start the third quarter. We just started hitting some big shots. Dylan (Vaca) hit a big three. Mark (Lilly) hit a big three. We had some big put-backs (and) some offensive rebounds. You gotta make good plays to win big games, (and) it’s not one guy who steps up. It’s a bunch of different guys who step up. It was definitely a unified effort.”
When asked if he’d ever coached a Regional game that didn’t have his team score a regulation basket in the fourth quarter, Johnson said, “Definitely not,” with a laugh.
On Friday, the No. 1-seeded Hampshire Whip-purs broke quickly out of the gate to start the first half. Hampshire went on a 6-0 run in the first 1:15 of the first quarter. Despite two early three-pointers by David (14 points), the Knights had a slow offensive attack to start the game. Kaneland committed five team fouls early on as its defense faltered, as well. Whip-purs forward Brennen Woods poured in 13 first- quarter points of his own as Hampshire led 30-10 after the first frame.
Kaneland slowly began to show some fire on offense in the second quarter. Center Jacob Gomes scored four straight points to begin the quarter for the Knights, and scores by Lilly (six points), Fedderly (three points) and forward Limbrunner (Kaneland game-high 20 points) helped the Knights to tally 13 points in the second frame. The Whip-purs tied Kaneland with 13 points of their own and took a 20-point lead into halftime.
Kaneland began a furious comeback to start the second half. Limbrunner fired three treys and Vaca (10 points) added one of his own. David and Douglas (four points) chipped in field goals as Fedderly showed early aggression on defense. Despite 13 third-quarter points scored by Hampshire, the Whip-purs were outscored by the Knights 18-13. Hampshire took a 56-41 lead into the final period of play.
“We were down by 20 (points) or so. We were all just talking at halftime about getting it (the deficit) down to 10,” Limbrunner said. “Get into the fourth quarter down by 10 (and) give us a chance to come back. You’ve just gotta fight hard and not give up. In the first half, our defense was not up to where we needed it to be exactly. We just needed to step it up more on defense.”
The Knights began a last-ditch rally in the fourth quarter. Limbrunner connected on two more three-pointers early on as Kaneland fans began chants of “MVP! MVP!” and the Knights cut Hampshire’s lead down to 11. Hampshire continued to keep the surging Knights at bay as Matt Bridges scored 10 points in the final period. Another trey by Vaca and two-of-two free throws by David cut the lead to 11 again late in the game. Limbrunner drilled his sixth three-pointer of the game to cut Hampshire’s lead down to eight with 29.4 seconds to go in the contest. The Knights would draw no closer as Hampshire retained possession in the final seconds to seal the win and the Class 3A Regional Championship for the Whip-purs.
“Steven (Limbrunner) was outstanding. (He) put on a show. What a way to go out as a senior,” Johnson said. “What Steven did tonight was special. He’s one of those kids that’ll be there (practicing) at 6 in the morning, working on his game whether you know it or not. He doesn’t tell anybody. He just goes and works.”
“We were down 20 (points) at the end of the first quarter. You can only fight so much. I’ll give credit to our guys. They never gave up and made a game out of it. You can’t dig a hole that big in the first quarter and expect to win the game. Hampshire’s a good team,” Johnson said. “They were able to find the open man and hurt us when we were trapping. That’s (having poor starts) been an issue for us all year. When we’ve started well, we’ve been in games. When we’ve started poorly, we usually lose by a lot. (Our boys) fought hard. Connor Fedderly (was) consistent and really worked hard, and so did Zach Douglas.”
Johnson took time to reflect on the 2014-15 season.
“At times we struggled, and we played poorly. At times we looked liked world-beaters and played well and played really hard. The season was an up and down roller coaster. At one point we were 2-7, and to finish 14-16; to be the only team to beat DeKalb (Barbs) in our league; to beat Central on their own floor, and the playoffs; that says something to how hard the boys worked, and how they never gave up,” Johnson said. “These guys stuck with it and fought hard.”
“We started off rough—I think 1-6. We just told ourselves (that) we can’t have a season like that,” Limbrunner said. “So we battled back and got to .500 midway through the season, I’m sure. Around mid-season, we just kept fighting and got ourselves to the Regional Championship.”
March 9 @ Mustang Relays
(North Central College, Naperville, Ill.)
TEAM SCORES: No team scores kept; 35 teams
4X200 RELAY: 3) Kaneland, 1:45.21
4X400 RELAY: 12) Kaneland, 4:13.28
4X800 RELAY: 24) Kaneland, 10:15.84
March 6 @ Batavia (HS)
TEAM SCORES: 1) Batavia, 139; 2) Burlington Central, 87; 3) Bartlett, 65; 4) Lake Park, 62; 5) Kaneland, 54; 6) West Aurora, 55
LONG JUMP: 1) Barnes, 21-11.5
POLE VAULT: 3) Rinella, 12-06
HIGH JUMP: 5) Peterson, 5-05
TRIPLE JUMP: 4) Barnes, 37-08; 5) Delach, 36-10.5
4X800 RELAY: 5) Kaneland, 9:10.91
3200M: 5) Park, 11:12.93
800M: 4) Kintz, 2:03.51
400M: 6) Spaetzel, 55.9
1600M: 4) Ricthman, 4:53.2
200M: 6) Cruz, 24.80
4X400 RELAY: 5) Kaneland, 3:47.02
March 9 @ Mustang Relays
(North Central College, Naperville, Ill.)
TEAM SCORES: No team scores kept; 35 teams
4X200 RELAY: 23) Kaneland, 1:38.02
4X400 RELAY: 26) Kaneland, 3:41.31
4X800 RELAY: 17) Kaneland, 8:24.27
The eighth-grade Cagers boys basketball team put on quite a show in capturing the title at the 22nd annual Princeton Shootout. The team included assistant coach Noel Delgado (from left), Spencer Brown, Sheldon Bartmann, Brett Wallner, Will Marshall, Chase Carlson, Wyatt Peeler, Kyle Angelotti, Chris Angelotti, Drew Hahn, Declan McDonald, Joe Such and head coach Hunter Emigh. Photo submitted by Neil Wallner via ElburnHerald.com
WHEATON, ILL.—Competing against five teams with an average enrollment approaching 2,500 students, coach Doug Ecker’s girls track and field team last week opened the 2015 season against some of the best.
The Knights travelled to Wheaton-Warrenville South’s indoor track Feb. 26 and walked away with a fifth-place showing. Naperville Central ran away with the meet, scoring 133 points, followed by the host’s 106, Palatine’s 92.5, Hoffman Estates’ 74, KHS at 48.5 and Waubonsie Valley’s 42.
The Knights had one event winner in Lexie Guerra in the Pole Vault (10 feet). Sydney Davison tied for fourth in Pole Vault with a 7-06 effort. Also in the field events, Maddie Keifer opened with a 5-02 for third place in the High Jump.
On the track, Nicole Sreenan placed second in the 55m dash, running a blistering 7.48 seconds. The KHS 4x200m relay also took runner-up honors with a 1:53.48. Allie Heinzer placed third in the 400m dash in 1:05.09. The 4x800m relay placed fourth in 10:55.45, while the 4x400m relay was fifth in 4:29.75.
The Knights travel northward this Saturday to take on the 34-team field at the Hononegah Classic, beginning at 9:30 a.m. Then they head to North Central College in Naperville, Ill., Monday for the Downers Grove South Mustang Relays at 6:30 p.m.
Frigid conditions keep track team confined
SYCAMORE—It’s far from uncommon to see coach Eric Baron’s track and field team sprinting through the hallways after school at KHS. It’s just what they have available after what is now considered the coldest February on record.
“We are struggling with getting quality training in due to the weather and lack of facilities to train in this time of year,” Baron said.
Of course, that didn’t stop the Knights from opening the season at their traditional late February stop at Sycamore.
The Spartans defended their home indoor track, winning the four-team meet with 70 points. Kaneland followed with 60 points, while Yorkville (58) and Grayslake North (34) rounded out the field.
Kaneland saw two events take home the win: the 4x400m relay team of Drew Franklin, Sean Spaetzel, Jim Walker and Brandon Cruz (3 minutes, 50.81 seconds), and Mike Rinella in the pole vault (12 feet, 6 inches).
Earning runner-up finishes were the 4x800m relay of Austin Kintz, Franklin, Walker and Spaetzel (8:54.33), and 4×160 relay of Ben Barnes, Cruz, Aaron Olson and John Delach (1:19.72). Also earning second place were Mark Dohm in the 800m (2:22.11), Cruz in the 400m (56.83), Connor Peterson in the High Jump (5-08), Jared Mathys in the Pole Vault (11-06) and Barnes in the Long Jump (19-11).
Earning third-place finishes were Mitch Reger in the 3200m (11:46.16), Andrew Lesak in the 400m (57.11), Kintz in the 1600m (4:46.63), Matt Vanderborn in the Pole Vault (8-00) and Logan Strang in the Shot Put (39-02).
“What we saw was good,” Baron said. “We just need to get some quality practices in once we can get on the track.”
The Knights will travel to Batavia Friday at 4:30 p.m. before heading to North Central College in Naperville, Ill., on Monday for the Downers Grove South Mustang Relays at 6:30 p.m.
Kaneland defeats Sterling, blasts past Wheaton Academy in Regional
KANELAND—Kaneland boys basketball defeated the visiting Sterling Golden Warriors 74-60 on Friday night, and then beat the Wheaton Academy Warriors 67-53 in the opening round of the IHSA 3A Regional Tournament at Burlington Central on Monday.
The wins give the Knights a 13-15 overall record and a record of 7-6 in Northern Illinois Big XII Conference play.
In last week’s home finale, Kaneland controlled the lead throughout the contest and outscored Sterling in three of four quarters of play. Dylan Vaca led all scorers with 19 points. Also in double-digit points for the Knights were forwards Mitchel Groen with 13 points, Ryan David with 12 points and center Jacob Gomes with 10 points.
Wheaton Academy opened the Friday contest on a 4-0 run in the first 1:30. Two early turnovers by Kaneland, combined with great ball distribution by the Warriors, turned into points for Wheaton Academy forwards Evan Williams and Anthony Polinski, as well as guard Christian Smith.
The Knights answered right back with an 11-0 run in the last five minutes of the first frame, courtesy of forwards David (Kaneland and overall game-high 17 points) and Zach Douglas (six points), and guards Mark Lilly (13 points, including eight-of-nine free throws) and Tanner Robertsen (four points). Lilly set the tone for the entire game, setting up his teammates for scoring opportunities while looking for his own shot and aggressively drawing fouls throughout the night. Kaneland led Wheaton Academy 14-8 at the end of the first quarter.
The Knights out-hustled the Warriors in the second quarter, sparking a 6-2 run in the first four minutes of play. Aggressive defense, good offensive ball distribution, a trey by forward Steven Limbrunner and a three-point-play by Gomes got the Knights off and running. The Warriors cut a 10-point deficit down to five in the last three minutes of the frame with three-pointers from Christian Smith, Polinski and guard R.W. Rienow. A last-second trey by Lilly helped give the Knights a 30-22 lead at halftime.
Kaneland opened up its lead even further in the second half, as the Knights exploded for 20 third-quarter points. Lilly continued his aggressive play on both sides of the court as David scored eight points. Vaca chipped in five points, including four consecutive. Guard Connor Fedderly (eight points) fired a three-ball, while Robertsen hit two from the free throw line and forward Groen (five points) sank a two-pointer, as well. The Warriors tallied 13 points in the frame behind five points from Williams, another trey by Christian Smith and two-point baskets by guard Bryce Sandberg and forward Tommy Blum. Kaneland took a commanding 50-35 lead—their biggest of the night—into the final period of play.
Both teams looked to take advantage of the other being over the foul limit early in the fourth quarter. Although the Warriors, who outscored the Knights 18-17 in the final frame, cut Kaneland’s lead to 10, thanks in part to three three-pointers by Sandberg and Polinski, a total of 13 free throws by Gomes, Groen, Lilly and Fedderly (five apiece for the latter two) and great team defense helped seal the win for the Knights.
Lilly’s ability to draw fouls late was a key factor in Kaneland’s victory.
“He’s (Lilly) a point guard. That’s a leadership position. I thought by far that was his best floor game he’s had all year,” said head coach Brian Johnson. “He just competed. He made free throws down the stretch, and he made good decisions with the basketball. That’s something that we’ve talked about all year, and it’s nice to see it come to fruition.”
David knew the Knights had to ramp up the effort.
“We just tried to bring our intensity to the next level, come out here and leave it all on the floor,” David said. “Me and Mark (Lilly) were just on the same page tonight. Everything was just working. When it came down to the end, he had some big free throws throughout the entire fourth quarter.”
The Knights on Wednesday took on Regional host Burlington Central in round two of the tournament, with results unavailable as of press time.
“It’ll be a tough game,” David said. “I think we can do it. We competed against them earlier in the season. I think it’ll be a good game.”
Suffer four-point loss to West Chicago Tuesday
KANELAND—Although the Kaneland boys basketball team kept the score much closer this time than in its previous game against Yorkville, the Knights once again fell to the Foxes 54-52 on Friday night.
On Tuesday, it was more of the same, with the Knights dropping a 60-56 game to visiting West Chicago.
Kaneland’s overall record sits at 11-15 and 6-6 in Northern Illinois Big XII Conference play.
The first quarter against Yorkville began with an evenly-matched defensive battle between both teams as Knights guard Connor Fedderly (five points) controlled Kaneland’s offense early. Forward Zach Douglas hit two early free throws, and guard Mark Lilly and forward Mitchel Groen (four points) showed good hustle early in the game. Additional free throws by Lilly and Douglas, a two-point basket by guard Dylan Vaca (seven points) and a three-pointer by Fedderly gave the Knights their first 11 points of the contest.
The Foxes led the Knights by one at the end of the first frame.
The second quarter found Kaneland struggling to find the open man early. Still, center Jacob Gomes led the Knights with five second-quarter points. Two-point shots by Lilly and Vaca and a trey by forward Ryan David (Kaneland and overall game-high 17 points) contributed to Kaneland’s scoring, as well. However, the Foxes tightened up their defense and turned up the heat on offense, going on an 11-6 run in the first five minutes. Bondurant led the way with six points as the Foxes out-scored the Knights 18-12 to take a 30-23 lead at halftime.
The third quarter saw the Foxes go on a 4-0 run in the first 4:19, including four straight points by Payne. Kaneland’s team foul trouble (six) and early difficulty at the free throw line enabled Yorkville to gain its biggest lead of the night—11 points—midway through the frame. The Knights fought back, outscoring the Foxes 14-11 behind four points from David and continued scoring by Lilly, Vaca, Groen and Douglas. Kaneland cut Yorkville’s lead to four at 41-37 heading into the final frame.
In the fourth quarter, David was relentless on offense, with 10 points, including two three-pointers, as the Knights took the lead with 5:20 to go in the game. The Foxes answered right back with treys of their own—Bondurant hitting two—as the lead shifted back and forth. A three-point play by David gave the Knights the lead 52-51 with 46.5 seconds remaining. With 12.6 seconds left, Yorkville guard Dan Kaczmarek buried a three-pointer to give the Foxes a 54-52 advantage. Vaca missed a last-second three-point shot attempt for Kaneland as Yorkville hung on for the win.
“Ryan (David) stepped up and made some big shots. Unfortunately down the stretch, we had a lot of turnovers. I thought our free throw shooting was pretty poor. That altogether equals a tough game, but Ryan made some tough shots,” head coach Brian Johnson said. “I though we had some nice defensive stops down the stretch to get back in the game. Unfortunately, we turned the ball over when we were up by one, instead of making them (Yorkville) foul us and us hitting shots at the free throw line.”
Johnson also addressed his decision to start Lilly and Douglas ahead of guard Tanner Robertsen and Gomes.
“Zach’s been playing extremely well. He brings a little different energy. He’s a senior, and I thought it was time to maybe mix some things up—take Tanner out of the lineup (and) put Mark (Lilly) in. I thought the way we’d been starting in games the last week we needed to have a change. It was a little different look, but sometimes roles change,” he said.
On Tuesday West Chicago jumped out to an early 17-11 lead, before the Knights closed the lead to 31-29 at halftime. An evenly-matched second half helped West Chicago hold the Knights at bay for the victory. Vaca led all scorers with 20 points, while Steven Limbrunner had 17.
Sterling travels to the KHS gym this Friday at 7 p.m.
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Boys Soph. Basketball
Feb. 24 vs. West Chicago—The Knights won 36-28. Jack Marshall led KHS with 15 points, while Luke Calabrese had six. Jake Hed and Garrett Hukle each had four points.