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Early revenge

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Knights dominate BC in softball opener
KANELAND—The varsity softball team made its 2015 opener a memorable one, as it soundly defeated the Burlington Central Rockets 11-0 at home last Thursday afternoon. The five-inning (run-rule) victory gave the Knights a 1-0 record to start their season.”

Junior Courtney Davis (1-0) started on the mound for Kaneland and dominated in her opening day start. Davis struck out five and allowed only two walks with no hits or errors in a shutout victory. Burlington Central pitcher Emily Kisch (0-1) gave up 11 runs (all earned) on 11 hits with two strike outs while giving up two walks in 4.5 innings of work.

The Knights took care of business at the plate in a big way as well. Davis went 2-2 with a double, an RBI and two runs scored. Sophomore Rachel Goress went 2-2 with an RBI and three runs scored. Juniors Alexis Mullins (double) and Mary Clausen each went 2-3 with an RBI and a run scored, and senior Paige Kuefler (double) also went 2-3 with an RBI while adding another run.

Head coach Peter Goff praised his team’s win after the game.

“I’m really happy,” Goff said. “They came out and performed. They were really locked in. Every single day, they come to school, get their stuff done in the classroom and come out here and practice really hard. They focus on their own. (I’m) just really happy with their effort today.”

Goff also praised the performance of Davis as well.

“Courtney had really good control of the ball today and her placement. I think that’s what was key. (She) kept on the outside (and) we had some (opposing players) try to pull the ball and had some easy ground balls for our infielders,” he said.

“I’m just really excited. The team as a whole did good. It wasn’t just our defense. Our offense carried us too,” Davis said. “I’m just really happy the way it (the season) started.”

Davis considered where this particular win ranked for her.

“For here at Kaneland, it’s got to be one of the better games. It’s nice to come out and beat the team that you lost to last year in the last game of the season. To come out here, and beat them by so much … to pitch a no-hitter is always quite nice,” she said.

The squad plays host to Dixon this Thursday at home at 4:30 p.m.

2015 Preview: Kaneland softball looks to create excitement

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The Knights softball team runs sprints during its practice Monday at KHS.			Photo by Laura Gampfer
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.
The Knights softball team runs sprints during its practice Monday at KHS.			Photo by Laura Gampfer
The Knights softball team runs sprints during its practice Monday at KHS. Photo by Laura Gampfer
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.

Kaneland approves Goff as 2015 softball coach

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KANELAND—The Kaneland School Board on Monday voted 5-2 to approve the hire of this season’s varsity softball coach: Peter Goff, who is currently the athletic director at KHS.

Board trustees Pedro Rivas and Tony Valente were the two “no” votes.

Goff will replace former softball coach Brian Willis, who was released from his coaching position on Sept. 8 by way of unanimous board approval. Goff will receive a stipend amount of $7,896 for his coaching duties. His annual salary as athletic director is $85,000.

Goff is no stranger to the sport of softball, having been a head coach at Ashton-Franklin Center High School in Ashton, Ill., for three years before serving as an assistant for two years and head coach for six years at Sterling High School.

Goff’s teams won back-to-back Regional Championships during his tenure at Sterling, and he compiled a 63-47 record. He had also been a boys basketball coach at both schools, as well as Bloomington High School in Bloomington, Ill.

Willis is still employed by the Kaneland School District, serving as a driver’s education, physical education and adaptive physical education teacher at the high school.

School Board President Cheryl Krauspe on Monday was asked for the reason regarding Willis’ release. She stated that the situation was a “personnel matter.”

Goff said that he will not be the long-term coach at Kaneland, and his position is on an interim basis. In an interview Wednesday morning, Goff indicated that after interviewing five potential softball coaches, the committee in charge of hiring felt it best to wait until April or May, when the hiring process will renew.

“The position will be open for (2015-16) so we can have a bigger pool of candidates,” he said.

Goff indicated that hiring “in-house” would play a factor in the future hire.

Valente on Monday questioned whether the hire of Goff as softball coach would be “double dipping.” He pointed out that a “yes” vote would hinder Goff and take away from other programs.

“It’s not best practice to hire an administrator to be a coach,” Valente said.

Krauspe said she knew of two athletic directors who coach.

Valente continued his thought.

“It’s concerning how we have people who didn’t step up,” Valente said. “(The) assistant coaches resigned. It’s not something that I’m supporting.”

Goff would not be the only athletic director in the Northern Illinois Big XII Conference to coach at the varsity level, with Kevin Crandall serving as the head football coach at Rochelle, and Ottawa’s Mike Cooper serving as head girls basketball coach. Goff also referenced long-time Sterling athletic director Bruce Scheidegger—who was a varsity girls basketball coach—as being a mentor to him.

School Board Vice President Teresa Witt expressed her support for Goff.

“I approve the athletic director stepping up in this difficult circumstance,” she said.

School Board Secretary Gale Pavlak also weighed in on the matter.

“I think it’s important that the (varsity softball) girls are allowed to have a season,” she said.

Goff intends to lean on his administrative staff when it comes to his duties as athletic director.

“The admin team is on top of everything,” Goff said regarding the spring season. “People know me—I’ll still be everywhere like usual. If I were younger and had younger kids, it may have been tougher.”

Goff said he has already been at work with current varsity assistant Mike Kuefler.

“We’ve had a couple open gyms so the girls can get some swings in, and coach and I just watch and prepare for the season to start March 2,” Goff said. “(Kuefler) is a great resource and he knows the game very well. He is very knowledgeable about the sport, and we’re very fortunate he stayed on.”

Goff is optimistic about the upcoming season.

“We want this year to be the best experience of the girls’ lives, not just here at Kaneland,” he said. “We have a good core coming back and some sophomores and juniors moving up. I don’t know all their names yet, but I’m learning as quickly as possible.”

Goff understands the concern some have regarding his pulling double-duty as athletic director and softball coach, but indicated he looks forward to the challenge.

“The busier I am, the better I am,” he said.

Ben Draper contributed to this story

School Board approves assistant softball coach resignations

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Kristyn Crawford
Kristyn Crawford
Andrew Franklin
Andrew Franklin
KANELAND—The Kaneland School Board on Monday voted 6-1 to accept the resignations of two Kaneland High School assistant softball coaches.

Board trustee Tony Valente was the lone “no” vote. He spoke about the two coaches, Kristyn Crawford and Andrew Franklin, during the meeting.

“We’re losing the majority of our staff,” Valente said.

Valente also mentioned former softball head coach Brian Willis. The School Board on Sept. 29 voted and approved Willis’ release from his coaching position.

Willis had said that a harassment charge was filed against him in May 2014.

“After an investigation, it was found to have no basis,” Willis read from a statement at the Sept. 29 meeting. “The root of the complaint was because an athlete was not playing as many innings as the parents thought she should. And they had to come up with something, thus the harassment charge.”

Valente on Monday called it “troubling” to lose three coaches at the high school, and noted that the coaches are “phenomenal teachers.”

Valente also said he was tempted to call the coaches, but decided to “stay off the dance floor.”

Kaneland Interim Superintendent Renee Goier said that the resignations were due to “personal reasons.”

Kaneland removes softball coach

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Screen shot 2014-10-09 at 12.52.34 PM

KANELAND—The Kaneland School Board on Sept. 29 voted 7-0 to release Kaneland High School softball coach Brian Willis from his duties as head coach.

Willis had spent the last five years as head coach for Kaneland varsity girls softball. He also teaches drivers education, physical education and adaptive physical education at the high school.

Willis at the Sept. 29 School Board meeting said that he had been asked to resign from his coaching position, but declined to do so. He also read a prepared statement prior to the School Board’s vote

“I am writing this letter to ask the Kaneland School Board and the high school administration to reconsider the decision to release me from the head coaching position of varsity softball,” Willis read from his statement.

Willis’ letter continued, noting his 25 years of teaching experience—13 of them at Kaneland—and 10 years of coaching with the Lady Knights.

“(I’ve) never had an accusation made against me for something I have done illegal or immoral,” Willis read from his statement. “This continues to be the case this evening.”

He said that a harassment charge had been filed against him in May 2014.

“After an investigation, it was found to have no basis,” Willis read from his statement. “The root of the complaint was because an athlete was not playing as many innings as the parents thought she should. And they had to come up with something, thus the harassment charge.”

In his statement, Willis said the reason he was informed of the decision to release him from coaching was “vague.”

“When I asked for the reason, I was told of concerns administration had about the program,” Willis read from his statement. “Those concerns were also documented in the harassment charge, and again possessed no evidence of wrongdoing—only the opinion of people who disagree with my softball philosophy.”

Willis said that he had been told any information gathered had to remain confidential and that it could not be shared with him. He noted that a person usually loses a job because of illegal activity, immoral judgment or poor performance.

Willis also acknowledged that his coaching performance last season was not equivalent to years past and by his own standards.

“The reality was, I couldn’t perform at the same mental or physical level I am accustomed to because of my ongoing battle with cancer,” Willis read from his statement. “I did my best in the classroom and on the field with tremendous support from everybody. I was not told by high school administration my performance was substandard.”

The KHS girls varsity softball team went 20-12 last season, after going 24-4 in 2013.
Regarding his release, Willis had just one question: why?

“I think that is a fair question,” Willis read from his statement. “And out of respect for my commitment towards Kaneland High School the past 13 years, I have earned the right to have that answered honestly.”

Willis said that both he and his staff worked hard to create a “winning program” on and off of the field. He said that tough decisions had been made that some didn’t agree with or like, but mentioned that he always has tried to teach his students and his athletes to be accountable for their actions.

“If you have done something out of favor, face the consequences,” Willis read from his statement. “If not, stand on the highest mountain and declare your innocence. Tonight, I stand on the mountain.”

Community members stood up to offer supporting words for Willis. Molly Cohrs, whose daughter plays for the Lady Knights, spoke of Willis putting together fundraisers for field improvements and returning Kaneland’s softball program to both a respected and winning program.

“Having recently waged a winning battle against cancer, he practiced until he could no longer stand, and then sat on a bucket so practice could continue,” Cohrs said.

She also spoke about what was expected of the Lady Knights softball team.

“Expectation is high, effort is required, and you have to be able to produce—defensively and offensively on the field, and in the classroom,” Cohrs said. “And yes, if a coach believes you are not giving 110 percent all the time; if he believes you are playing below your potential; he’s going to let you know it.”

Cohrs called student playing time the “most sensitive topic” in any high school sport played.

“I don’t think it is a coincidence that if you look back at the families and players who have complained about any Kaneland coach, their history of playtime at Kaneland will likely show that they were either cut from a program or they did not play as much as other players,” Cohrs said.

Paige Kuefler, senior Lady Knights player, wore a Team Willis gray T-shirt during the School Board meeting. She also spoke on behalf of the team about the one she calls “Coach Willis.”

“He wants the best for us,” Kuefler said. “Does he get frustrated with us? At times, yes. Because he knows we can do better; he knows how we play. He’s seen our 100 percent, and if he doesn’t, he will push us until he sees it.”

Kuefler mentioned that positions on the Lady Knights softball team had to be earned.
“Our positions were never handed to us,” she said. “Each and every athlete of the softball team had to earn a position.”

Following the meeting, Willis reflected on the support he received at the meeting.

“I’m very happy with the support I got tonight,” he said. “And the fact that even if I’m not reinstated as coach, I can lay my head on my pillow knowing that I had a positive effect on these young ladies’ lives.”

Lady Knights have bummer in Burlington

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After close regional semi win vs. G-K, KHS falls in last inning to hosts
BURLINGTON, Ill.—For the Lady Knights, a 20-12 final record coupled with a hard-fought win over Genoa-Kingston on May 28 would have the markings of a pretty successful 2014.

The Kaneland lineup was hoping for more.

Class 3A regional host Burlington Central, the top seed in the grouping, escaped the field with a 6-5 win after a wild ride on the basepaths led to the winning run scoring after a single from second. A throw trying to nab the baserunner went out of play allowing the final run to come home.

Before that wild action, Kaneland used heads-up baserunning on May 28, thanks to a Morgan Weber steal of home in the 1-0 win.

Morrow pitched both games of the regional.

In the win over the No. 3 seed Cogs, Morrow, headed to the University of Wisconsin, fanned 10 batters.

“We came together as a team and we’re all in right now. The fastball was working, and he was giving me that corner, so I was working it. I knew I had to get outs after the run, either groundouts or strikeouts,” Morrow said.

The run came home in the bottom of the third, set up by a Weber single and Lanie Callaghan reaching on a fielder’s choice. With runners moved to second and third two batters later, a throw-out attempt of Callaghan at second was botched, allowing Weber to sneak home for the game’s only run.

“When something like that happens, you have to take the next base that opens up. I think our team’s coming together, and I think we’re playing a good game of softball,” Weber said.

After the win, KHS coach Brian Willis was glad for the clutch performances.

“I don’t know how many 0-2 counts Angie had, a bunch,” Willis said. “0-2, 1-2, that gives her a big advantage. With the run, we try to practice every situation. If the ball gets away like that, we’ve got to be on our toes.”

Against BC, the Rockets went up 4-0 after one inning and KHS cut it to 5-2 in the third. Closer at 5-3 in the seventh, Paige Kuefler’s two-run single tied the score and set the stage for the last frame.

With the loss, the Lady Knights bid goodbye to seniors Allie Miller, Lexi Roach, Hayley Contorno, Callaghan and Caroline Heimerdinger.

Photos by Marshall Farthing

Softball steadying

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Photo: A Kaneland coach talks with a KHS baserunner at a recent game. The Lady Knights faced off against Genoa-Kingston Wednesday as part of the
Burlington Central Regional. Results were not available as of press time.
Courtesy photo submitted by Linda Kelley to

KANELAND—KHS softball was able to get itself into a groove at the late juncture of the regular season, and just in time.

Navigating its way through numerous cancellations and postponements two weeks ago, the Lady Knights were able to see action against Morris on May 21, winning 6-0 and facing off against host Rosary in a doubleheader to put a final note on the regular season, sweeping both morning contests on Saturday before beating West Aurora 1-0 in the afternoon.

KHS sits at 19-11 and finishes the Northern Illinois Big XII conference season at 7-3.

Angie Morrow won the game over the Morris Redskins, who dropped to 18-9, and allowed just two hits on the afternoon.

Courtney Davis excelled in the pitchers’ circle for the Game 1 win over the Royals, while Shannon Herra took the Game 2 win.

In the win over the Blackhawks, Morrow earned his second win in four days.

Up next for Kaneland was the Wednesday, May 28, meeting as part of the Burlington Central Regional as the No. 2 seed against No. 3 Genoa-Kingston. The Lady Knights-Cogs matchup was for the right to face BC, Hampshire or Sycamore in the Saturday, May 31, championship at 10 a.m. Results weren’t available at press time.

A year ago, Kaneland’s six-run rally against Rosary fell short in the final inning in the Rosary Regional title game.

Softball handles late-season stretch

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KANELAND—A slashed schedule this week meant it was as spotless a seven-day stretch as you could get for Kaneland High School softball.

With the regular season gradually coming to a full stop, Kaneland’s lone game this week was in DeKalb, ending with a 4-1 win along the Dresser Road campus.

Kaneland now sits at 15-11 on the season, with a 6-3 record in Northern Illinois Big XII conference play. At this point in 2013, the Lady Knights were 23-3 behind a stellar senior core.

Other games scheduled were shelved completely or postponed, bringing the total to five of the last seven contests. Friday’s game against Southwest Prairie Conference school Plainfield North was cancelled, while a home matchup with Morris set for Saturday was postponed to Wednesday. Monday’s contest with Plano in Maple Park was cancelled, as well.

The win over DeKalb took place in eight innings, with three plated in the top of the frame for the win. Burlington Central transfer Angie Morrow got the win, and Paige Kuefler’s RBI double broke the tie.

After Morris’ encounter, the Lady Knights head to Aurora to face Rosary in a doubleheader.

Softball ups and downs

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Split week sees big cancer benefit
KANELAND—Kaneland softball continued its late-season stretch with some run explosions, and some community help on the side, as well.

Monday saw a trip to Ogle County and a 12-0 win in five innings over Rochelle. Saturday saw a twinbill split against the Naperville North Huskies, first losing 13-7, and coming back with a 10-7 win. Friday in Yorkville saw a 4-3 walkoff loss to the Foxes, while last Thursday had a 21-1 win over Rochelle to begin the season sweep.

In the Monday win over Rochelle, the Lady Knights (14-11, 5-3 Northern Illinois Big XII), KHS scored four in the second and five in the fourth to cinch matters. Against the DuPage Valley Conference rep Huskies, Courtney Davis got the loss in the first game, but Morgan Weber had two homers in her doubleheader time, and Lanie Callaghan also went yard.

On Friday, the Lady Knights fell behind 2-0 before coming back to take a 3-2 lead. Yorkville’s Rachael Owens tied the game with a sixth-inning homer, while Corrine Rowe ended the game in the seventh off losing pitcher Angie Morrow. Weber had two doubles, while Paige Kuefler also added a double.

Before the massive double-digit win over Rochelle, the Lady Knights and Hubs came together for their usual charity proceedings and their cancer awareness game. After collecting money all season for its “Change for Cancer” promotion throughout the 2014 season, a $200 check was provided to Dr. Perry Menini of Oncology at Cadence Cancer Center in Geneva. $200 was also donated to the family of Julia Pratte, a Kaneland softball player battling Ewing Sarcoma, as well as an additional $100 to the MadiStrong Foundation, benefiting the treatment of Madi Bettham, a Yorkville fourth-grader who’s battling cancer.

For KHS coach Brian Willis, going through his own colon cancer battle, the impact was certainly not lost.

“The day was awesome and emotional at the same time,” Willis said. “Being able to give back to others in need the same way people have given to me is an emotion that is hard to put in to words. I know the struggles people go through on a personal basis physically, emotionally, and financially during this process.”

Kaneland next heads to DeKalb on Thursday, May 15.

Softball outlast Morris, has rematch with Sycamore

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KANELAND—The Lady Knights softball team’s overall record is staying afloat as the regular season inches closer and closer to its end.

Last Thursday, the Lady Knights defeated the capable Morris Lady Redskins down in Grundy County territory by a final of 8-6.

For KHS, senior Burlington Central transfer and future Wisconsin Badger Angie Morrow was the winning pitcher, while senior first-baseman Hayley Contorno added a three-run homer in the winning effort.

On Tuesday, just 11 days after a thrilling 10-9 comeback win, KHS hosted Sycamore and won 8-3.

Kaneland is now 11-9, with a 3-2 record in Northern Illinois Big XII conference play.

Tonight the Lady Knights host conference rival Rochelle at 4:30 p.m.

Photo by Mary Paulson

Pack the Park event at Fifth Third Bank Park May 19

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GENEVA—The Kaneland Knights and Batavia Bulldogs baseball teams want to pack the park at Geneva’s Fifth Third Bank Park May 19 to raise money for three honorary families to help them in their battles with cancer.

This year’s honorees include Kaneland softball head coach Brian Willis, Kaneland senior baseball player Kevin Kassinger’s father, Phil, and Drew Hahn, a 12-year-old Kaneland Harter Middle School student, whose father is the head baseball coach at Geneva High School.

The event will also be a senior night celebration.

Admission is $5, and in addition to sophomore and varsity baseball action, the event includes silent auctions. The sophomores play at 4:30 while the varsity teams take the field at 7 p.m.

For general information, donations or sponsorship information, contact Brian Aversa at or visit

Case of the missing bats

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Baseball, Softball levels bear witness to no-hitters, perfect game
KANELAND—To win on the baseball or softball field, many things have to go right.

For a no-hitter or perfect game to be thrown, pitches have to go right past the bats with regularity.

Area residents have been privy to each of those if they’ve ventured out to see Kaneland baseball and softball this 2014 campaign, with softball talent Angie Morrow’s no-hitter in the first game of a doubleheader at Geneva on April 19, and baseball’s Nate Hopkins tossing a no-no at Plano April 9, and sophomore hurdler Matt O’Sullivan’s perfect game for the lower-class level Knights against Yorkville last week.

For Morrow, this pitching feat was nothing new, having thrown a no-hitter against the Hampshire Whip-purs her freshman year as a Burlington Central Rocket. Morrow was able to keep composure during the 3-0 win.

“I had one my freshman year against Hampshire at Burlington. Those games don’t feel different. You don’t usually realize it until someone tells you. I just try to stay within myself,” Morrow said.

The very act of pitching and concentrating can almost serve as a distraction from the daunting task.

“There’s always something you’re working on, and it’s until the end of the game when it’s over and someone says congratulations,” Morrow said.

For Hopkins’ 11-0 win in Plano against the Reapers, the Knights saw no-hit stuff from Hopkins in the six-inning affair, but it was a multi-faceted victory.

“I feel like defense is definitely a big part of it,” Hopkins said. “There was a play at shortstop that saved my no-hitter and really helped me.”

It made for a memorable April Wednesday.

“I think I was dealing, and I feel like I was going really well, and the team’s not supposed to say anything during the game. I didn’t even know there were no hits until the sixth inning.”

Elements from multiple areas need to converge for the noteworthy achievement.

“A no-hitter or perfect game takes a lot to happen,” KHS varsity baseball head coach Brian Aversa said. “It’s not just the pitcher, but defense is very important, as well. You need a few things to go your way. Joe Panico made a diving stop up the middle to save a hit at short. You need to catch a break or two. I think no-hitters are a culmination of many things, not just someone going out there and throwing well.”

KHS also got a glimpse of what could be on the horizon with a “perfecto” tossed by lefty sophomore Matt O’Sullivan against Yorkville last Thursday.

The 21-up, 21-down effort went 11-0 in the favor of the Knights, with O’Sullivan aware of the Foxes’ tendencies.

“The game before, we kind of saw and learned they liked to chase the high stuff,” O’Sullivan said. “I tried to get ahead in the count and then throw the high stuff.”

The sophomore knows that it’s a team effort for a perfect result.

“You’ve got to have defense. There were a couple of diving catches. There’s no way that a no-hitter’s possible without it,” O’Sullivan said.

With the recent rash of exceptional pitching accomplishments, the Kaneland baseball and softball programs have shown what’s possible with all aspects working on the diamond.

Can’t count ‘em out

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KHS softball earns come-from-behind win
KANELAND—Under wind-swept and sunny skies, the forecast was less than appealing for the Lady Knights softball squad in Sycamore on Friday.

A three-run barrage in the top of the first inning soon gave way to a seven-run rally for Sycamore, but a run in the second, two in the fourth and four more in the sixth put a cap on a KHS comeback and a 10-9 win.

Other action during a packed week saw Kaneland drop a 3-1 decision to visiting DeKalb on Thursday, while hosting Northern Illinois Big XII crossover foe Geneseo on Saturday. The Lady Knights took the opener 4-3 while losing the second game 17-9.

KHS’ game against Yorkville in Kendall County on Tuesday was postponed.

KHS now sits at 9-9, with a 1-2 record in NIB-12 play.

In the matchup against DeKalb, it was Angie Morrow tagged with the loss.

Against Sycamore, Anissa Becker was unable to get out of the first inning, while Courtney Davis came on and pitched until the sixth when winning pitcher Angie Morrow came on to cinch the game.

“Our pitching was a little erratic, to say the least,” KHS coach Brian Willis said. “It was at the beginning at the game, and I explained to (Becker) that everybody has a day like that. You’ve just got to pick each other up, and our other pitchers came in and picked her up and only allowed two runs the rest of the game.”

After Morgan Weber doubled and Lexi Roach walked to kick off the game, Lanie Callaghan reached on an infield single before Meg Cohrs drove two home with a double. However, Callaghan was ruled out at third. After Cohrs went to third on a wild pitch, Hayley Contorno drove her in with a single for a 3-0 edge.

Sycamore was able to blow the game open with seven runs and nine hits in the bottom of the first and necessitating Davis’ entrance. Davis allowed just one hit to the first batter she faced.

The Lady Knights were able to reach home plate in the top of the second thanks to a Callaghan double that brought home Roach, who walked. Callaghan was again ruled out at third base trying to advance.

Two more runs came the Kaneland way in the top of the fourth. Davis singled, while Mary Clausen sacrificed her over to second. Davis would move to third on a passed ball and Weber would walk, setting the stage for Roach’s RBI single. Callaghan walked to load the bases and Cohrs’ sacrifice fly sent in the second run. Contorno’s groundout would end the rally at 7-6.

Sycamore plated two more in the bottom of the fifth before KHS sent 10 batters to the plate in the top of the sixth. Morgan Sikon’s RBI made it 9-7, and pinch hitter Paige Kuefler’s fielder’s choice made it 9-8, but Clausen’s squeeze play to drive home Kuefler ended as an out after Clausen was first ruled safe at home.

With the bases still loaded, Weber’s two-run single gave Kaneland the lead for the first time since the first inning.

Morrow and the defense were able to stifle a burgeoning rally that had a Sycamore runner in scoring position in the sixth and made it through the seventh for the dramatic win.

“The situation was, we couldn’t let them score,” Morrow said. “That was the biggest thing for me, and I needed to get a ground ball or strike somebody out. I was throwing fastballs; my curveball wasn’t working the way I wanted it to.”

Future action has the Lady Knights trek to Morris for an NIB-12 clash on Thursday, May 1.

Softball stuck by Yorkville

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Photos: Junior pitcher Angie Morrow (right) pitched well against
Geneva Saturday, earning a win. Senior center fielder Lanie Callaghan (below) set up an early run at Yorkville Thursday, but the Lady Knights lost to the Lady Foxes 5-2. Photos submitted by Jake Morrow to

Games in Geneva complete week
KANELAND—When Paige Kuefler takes a line drive off her wrist on the first batter of the game, resulting in her removal from the contest, you know it’s a difficult Thursday.

Dealing with a rising Yorkville program and an early-inning hole, the Lady Knights took it on the chin in a 5-2 loss, before splitting a doubleheader in Geneva with a 3-0 win and a 9-8 loss on Saturday.

Kaneland softball now sits at 7-7 through the first 14 contests in 2014.

Errors and extra-base hits plagued Kaneland and starting pitcher Angie Morrow, as the Lady Foxes emerged from the first two innings up 5-0.

Lanie_Callaghan The Lady Knights finally struck home plate when Morgan Weber laced a one-out double and a Lanie Callaghan groundout sent her to third. Rachel Goress smacked an RBI double before the inning ended to close it to 5-1 after four innings.

While holding the visitors scoreless, KHS was threatening in the bottom of the sixth, but couldn’t advance the runners after Callaghan reached on an error and Goress beat out an infield single.

In the bottom of the seventh, Hayley Contorno hit a single, and two batters later Morgan Sikon drove her home with an RBI single to make it 5-2. But the Foxes’ Rachael Owens was able to induce two Ks to end the game.

“I thought (Yorkville) pitched well today,” KHS coach Brian Willis said. “They played decent defense. You look at the scoreboard; they outplayed us. They didn’t do anything after their first two innings, but it doesn’t matter. You play seven innings.”

Kuefler’s absence didn’t do much to help KHS chances of victory, either.

“I don’t like anybody to get hurt. That first ball, nobody in the world is going to catch that. That’s a great ball by (Yorkville’s) Corrine (Rowe). After that, they dinked and dunked us,” Willis said.

Against Geneva, it was Morrow earning the win in game one, while Shannon Herra took the loss in game two.

A trip to Rochelle set for this past Friday was postponed until Monday, May 12.

KHS prepares for a challenge in the form of visiting DeKalb on Thursday, April 24.

Softball recovers vs. Batavia after taking it on helmet

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Photo: Morgan Weber
scored six runs, and had
three hits and a home run
in the Knight’s doubleheader
wins over Batavia

Runs come home after two non-conference losses
KANELAND—While it might be nice to be close to home, the Lady Knights softball team would like to cross home itself and stop the other team from doing so.

Fresh off a trip to Tennessee, the Lady Knights hosted Oswego High School of the Southwest Prairie Conference on April 9, only to fall 3-0. On Friday against Marengo in Maple Park, the Lady Knights lost 7-4, before the non-conference three-headed tour ended with a 12-2 and 19-5 five-inning sweep over former Western Sun Conference foe Batavia.

KHS sits at 6-5, thus far, after the split week.

Against the Lady Panthers, the Lady Knights fanned 11 times in the loss, and laced just three hits, with the Panthers’ go-ahead run coming in the third inning.

Facing off against the Indians, the visitors scored four in the top of the third inning, with Courtney Davis getting tagged with the loss. Morgan Weber had a two-run homer to her credit in a four-run fourth inning. Middle-of-the-order presence Paige Kuefler went 2-for-3 with a double and run scored, while Lady Knight teammate Meg Cohrs had a double and RBI.

In the prolific doubleheader solving of the Lady Bulldogs, Weber had three hits and a HR, while scoring six runs. Kuefler starred again with three doubles and a single in the sweep.

Burlington Central transfer Angie Morrow earned the game one win, while Anissa Becker took the back-end win.

A Monday matchup with West Aurora was cancelled due to inclement weather, while a Tuesday conference matchup against Rochelle in Ogle County was postponed until Friday, April 18.

On Thursday, April 17, the Lady Knights attempt to handle the visiting Yorkville Lady Foxes.

Kaneland softball steers clear of Tenn. trouble

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CLARKSVILLE, TENN.—With the struggles of most area teams in northern Illinois to get softball games in, Kaneland went with a tried and true formula: get out of the state.

Visiting Clarksville, Tenn., for the Play It Again Classic and set in the gold division, the Lady Knights lost to Union County of Kentucky by a final of 4-0 in six innings, and also dropped a 4-2 matchup in five innings against Christian County of Kentucky on Saturday. KHS also lost to Peoria Notre Dame by a 3-2 margin on Friday.

Kaneland is now 3-3 on the season. KHS was set to host Oswego on Wednesday, April 9, with results unavailable for press, and hosts non-conference rival Marengo on Friday, April 11, at 4:30 p.m.

Toward the end of last week, the Lady Knights learned of their postseason assignment, and compete in the Class 3A Burlington Central Regional along with rivals BC, Genoa-Kingston, Hampshire and Sycamore. The winner of the regional moves on to the Marengo Sectional.

Kaneland softball gets in more outdoor swings

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DEKALB—It was only one contest, but the more outdoor diamond time the Lady Knights get, the better.

On Monday, the lone contest of a Spring Break week, the Lady Knights met their former conference mates Batavia out at the DeKalb Park District fields and won 4-0.

The Lady Knights improve to 3-0 on the young season.

Burlington Central transfer Angie Morrow dealt a one-hitter against the Bulldog lineup, with outfielder Lanie Callaghan smacking two hits.

“Hayley Contorno also played well offensively, laying down two key bunts that led to runs,” KHS coach Brian Willis said.

A scheduled meeting against Northern Illinois Big XII West division foe Ottawa was cancelled on Thursday, while a Saturday doubleheader against Oswego was postponed to Wednesday, April 9.

Kaneland begins a Volunteer State stay in Clarksville, Tenn., for a tournament beginning on Friday, April 4.

Joy Division: Knight athletes know what they’ve signed up for at D-I peak

in Boys Cross Country/Boys Track/Football/Girls Track/Softball/Sports by
Lexi Roach

KANELAND—High school athletes’ talent can bring them amazing things: wins, titles and even the chance to keep playing the sport they love.

With powerhouses like senior Joe Komel, future Central Michigan University Chippewa, it also brings certainty.

“I think every kid wants to ideally compete at that next level,” Komel said.

That’s echoed by speedster classmate Kyle Carter.

“I just knew I wanted to go to the next level and I knew I didn’t want to stop,” Carter said.

Last month, 13 Kaneland High School athletes participated in National Signing Day, with several athletes signing letters of intent with Division I schools.

For a speedster like Brandon Bishop, who signed as a preferred walk-on at the University of Iowa, he’s aware of the unique task and slot that awaits him on the gridiron.

“I just look at it as I get to do a sport that I love to play. I don’t look at it as a job,” Bishop said.

One of six Knight football players that signed to play with various levels of college programs, Bishop doesn’t know how big of a role he’ll have as part of the Hawkeye program, but will take what comes.

“Any level of college football is big time,” Bishop said. “I was originally with a D-II school, but once you experience a Big 10 program, you dream about that stuff. It’s a big-time mentality there.”

Bishop was also present at a Hawkeyes practice when the squad was practicing for the Outback Bowl in Tampa, that resulted in a 21-14 loss on New Year’s Day to LSU.

“It’s an eye-opener, and I was fortunate to see it,” Bishop said. “They have great facilities in the Big 10.”

Bishop, who wishes to major in social work and possibly be a position coach, is no stranger to the work as a gridiron and track standout.

“It just matters that I compete. I believe in myself to play at that level,” Bishop said.

Bishop joined fellow Knight football gladiators Justin Diddell (Indiana State), Gary Koehring (St. Cloud State), Komel (Central Michigan), Dylan Nauert (St. Cloud State) and Tyler Slamans (Western Illinois) in the Class of 2018 football group.

Komel joins a Mid-American Conference outfit that also boasts former Knight offensive threat Blake Serpa.

“Blake is good friends with my older brother, Sam, and he was able to help me meet with officials from the football program. I had been looking at MAC and Missouri schools,” Komel said.

Komel, part of the solid offensive line that yielded three consecutive Northern Illinois Big XII championships, feels the success at KHS helped buoy him and his chances at the top collegiate level.

“When CMU talked with me, they told me that I came from a program that knows how to win, and that’s what a lot of those schools are looking for,” Komel said. “Kaneland prepared me for that and they know how to win.”

The spring season action in the higher collegiate ranks look to highlight Sydney Strang (Indiana-Purdue at Fort Wayne) and Carter (Southern Illinois), who are joined by Nathaniel Kucera, who recently committed to Stanford track.

Kucera’s options opened up after receiving a packet from universities following the June Midwest Distance Festival at Benedictine University in Lisle, Ill.

“Things really opened up for me after that,” Kucera said. “I would have competed at any level after high school, Division III, whatever, but I jumped at the chance.”

Kucera, who’s a verbal commitment to the Pac-12 Conference school, visited the Palo Alto, Ca., institution in the fall.

“It was a surreal moment whenever you get out there. They are such high-caliber athletes, but I was able to talk to everyone on the team. There’s no big egos there,” Kucera said.

The senior looks to be taking a different path than his fellow classmates, all the way to the west coast.

“The first time I got there, it was mindblowing and not something I pictured. It’s a really beautiful city,” Kucera said.

Carter, who’s excelled at cross country and track for his four years as a State qualifier, always had a continuation of his gifts in mind.

“I was getting contacted by D1 schools. I think going to State multiple times and being the best in the NIB-12 prepared me,” Carter said.

Strang, headed to Division 1-AA territory, echoes her distance counterpart.

“I’m glad to move on,” Strang said. “Running is such a part of me. I have so much passion for it. My teammates and (coach Doug) Ecker helped me through it all and help keep that. I just want to continue getting better and keep my love for it.”

Commonplace among the Knight athletes that get picked is a flexibility that comes with the wide-eyed enthusiasm.

“I’ll be able to go anywhere, and wherever they need me next year,” Carter said. “I just want to compete with the best.”

Kaneland’s presence of Division I athletes, which includes the trio of Lanie Callaghan (Valparaiso), Lexi Roach (Youngstown State) and Lauren Zick (St. John’s) that committed to D-I softball outfits in late 2013, not only have the athletic talent, but also seem to know what to expect.

For those that have seen the group in action, that comes as no surprise.

2014 Softball Preview: A slugger’s chance

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Photo: Junior All-State catcher Paige Kuefler drives a ball off the tee during a recent practice indoors.
Photo by Patti Wilk

Kaneland softball lineup primed and ready for ’14 season
KANELAND—With a regional rally at Rosary that fell just short last May, it would be easy to be discouraged.

But Kaneland softball brings back a wealth of talent in all aspects of the game.

“It’s impossible to put that feeling in the past, because they’re going to know it when the time comes,” fifth-year head coach Brian Willis said. “It left a bad taste in our mouths. Rosary played well; we didn’t. That’s sports.”

KHS finished 24-4, but still has much to prove after last season’s end. Even with the loss of six seniors from the 2013 squad, the Lady Knights sport two Division I signees in top-of-the-order hitter Lexi Roach (Youngstown State) and middle-order presence Lanie Callaghan, both All-State.

More help is always available for the squad that has lost just 11 games in the last two seasons on the way to back-to-back Northern Illinois Big XII titles.

Seniors include infielders Roach, Allie Miller and Hayley Contorno, and outfielders Callaghan and Caroline Heimerdinger. Juniors are Burlington Central transfer Angie Morrow in the pitchers’ circle, All-State slugger Paige Kuefler at catcher, infielder/pitcher Shannon Herra and pitcher/infielder Anissa Becker. Sophomores include infielder Meg Cohrs, back after an exposure to varsity play a year ago, and catcher Mary Clausen. Two freshmen join the ranks in outfielders Morgan Weber and Rachel Goress.

Becker, off of a commitment to Wisconsin, could serve as the steady presence in the pitchers’ circle.

“If you believe all the hoopla, she’s going to get the ball, but we have to see them pitch live,” Willis said. “Anissa Becker was great last year when Ellissa Eckert wasn’t throwing. We can’t throw Angie every game. We have some good competition with three pitchers.”

Kuefler provides the backstop help, with Contorno supplying the glove at first. Miller mans second base, and shortstop is up for grabs in a position battle. Cohrs gets a chance to take the mantle at third base after driving in a handful of runs a year ago.

“She had a lot more good games than bad games last year. She was a freshman last year, and hopefully she’ll stay away from the sophomore slump,” Willis said.

Manning everyday outfield looks to be Roach, Callaghan and Heimerdinger supplying upper-class experience.

The Lady Knights are looking forward to warmer weather and a spring break trip to Clarksville, Tenn.

“We’ll be playing in the gold division against some upper-echelon competition, and I have confidence in the girls,” Willis said. “We have six before we go to Tennessee, and I don’t expect to play any of them.”

With the tumultuous elements having put a wrinkle in the season opening, and a potentially tough trip in Tennessee ahead, the 2014 beginning could prove interesting.

“I don’t anticipate a big dropoff,” Willis said. “I don’t believe our older girls will lose that edge, even if the younger girls lose that confidence. They’re not going to settle.”

The Northern Illinois Big XII setting is ripe for the taking once again if the KHS lineup plays to its capabilities.

“Our record speaks for itself. The last couple of years, we were picked by coaches and the media to finish in the middle of the pack. That goes back to our pitching, I don’t think we got credit for the staff that we had and what the coaching staff does with these girls. The other teams want to take that conference championship away, and we’re going to give our best effort,” Willis said.

The season was scheduled to begin on Tuesday at home against Marengo, weather permitting. Conference action begins on Tuesday, April 15, in Ogle County against Rochelle.

Kaneland softball will be brandishing cans during the season for its “Change for Cancer” promotion for donation to Delnor’s Cancer Center, while partnering with Rochelle for its traditional cancer awareness game on May 8.

Raising their game

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Signing November 13

Kaneland High School softball players Lauren Zick (left to right), Lexi Roach and Lanie Callaghan signed their college intent papers on Nov. 13 at the KHS library, surrounded by teammates, family and coaches. Zick signed with St. John’s University in Queens, N.Y.; Roach signed with Youngstown State University in Youngstown, Ohio; and Callaghan signed with Valaparaiso University in Valparaiso, Ind. Photo by Kimberly Anderson

Three Lady Knights sign letters with D-I softball programs

by Mike Slodki

KANELAND—Lady Knights athletes are not only continuing their respective games beyond Kaneland, they’re doing so in a big way.

The latest was the Nov. 13 letter of intent signing of softball star Lanie Callaghan to suit up for the Valparaiso Crusaders softball program in the 2014-15 school year.

The Crusaders, part of the Horizon League of Division I fame, can welcome a middle-of-the-order outfielder who has a 2012 regional championship under her belt.

The feeling is mutual on Callaghan’s part.

“The coaches are amazing,” she said of Valparaiso’s program. “We had to follow guidelines of when we could talk. But coach (Jordan) Stevens really made an effort. I fell in love with the program.”

Callaghan, one of seven signees to the “Valpo” program, will join Lexi Roach, who chose the Youngstown State University team, and Lauren Zick, who is headed to St. John’s University in New York, as Lady Knights to recently sign letters with D-1 softball programs.

Callaghan, who battled illness and injury to begin her varsity career as a freshman, has been a slugging force on the Lady Knights team, coached by Brian Willis, and she’s provided a deft glove presence, as well.

The Elburn resident feels fortunate to have another year to improve her skills and to drive in runs for the Lady Knights program, which fell in a dramatic regional final in May.

“We were disappointed with how the last season ended against Rosary. The players will be ready to step up. I think I’ve matured as a player and speak up more. We’re going to miss the seniors that left, and the juniors from last year are going to have big shoes to fill,” Callaghan said.

The Crusaders program, located in Valparaiso, Ind., has gathered 77 victories in coach Stevens’ three years, and has Chicagoland-area flavor familiar to Kaneland fans, with players from locales including Huntley and Lisle, Ill.

What’s appealing to Callaghan is not only the proximity to the Chicago metro area, but also to family elsewhere, specifically older brother Tyler, who just completed his junior football season for the Division II St. Joseph’s Pumas of Indiana.

“I consider myself very close with him,” Lanie said. “It’ll be close enough for family, and I can visit them if I’m home sick.”

Lanie, who has also brandished a right-handed bat for the Kane County XPlosion team, coached by Rick Neubauer, plans to major in nursing.

“They’ll always need nurses, and after talking with some of the professors, I could tell they were really dedicated,” Lanie said.

The Crusaders softball team will begin their 2014 spring season as part of the Hampton Inn Invitation in Blues Creek, N.C., on February 7, 2014.

Roach, who has done a great service to Kaneland softball with top-of-the-order talent, heads to Youngstown, Ohio, to try and take care of business within the Penguins lineup in 2014.

“I’m a slap hitter, and I have to move the runners around,” Roach said. “I just have to focus on what I can do this year and next year.”

Roach, who had visited Manhattan College in New York, went through the college search with the feeling that people she came across had her best interests at heart.
“My travel team (Wasco Diamonds) was able to send video of me playing to Youngstown State. The assistant coach handled most of the recruiting and asked how I was feeling; the college had me speak with professors. I want to be a wedding planner, which is kind of rare. They had me talk to an event planner,” Roach said. “I’d like to travel abroad to Spain or Italy once I’m in school. It seemed other schools were putting softball first, but Youngstown knew I won’t be playing softball forever and that school comes first.”

Roach is thankful the pressure is off when it comes to one of the most important decisions she’ll make in her young life.

“There would be travel showcases, and we’d play in tournaments and I’d be thinking, ‘Oh my God, I have to be perfect,” Roach said. “Now I think all I have to do is stay focused.”

The Horizon League outfit, located in a city hit by economic woes, still looks to feel home to the Kaneland senior.

“It’s been hit hard by the economy,” Roach said. ‘But the campus is beautiful, and they’ve re-done the campus and have new athletic facilities.”

Zick, who has mastered the business of state qualifying for Lady Knights track, will bring her talent to Big East Conference staple St. Johns, which has isolated charm even in a big city.

“It’s actually in Queens, and the campus is gated and away from the city. It’s almost like Sugar Grove like that,” Zick said.

Zick, who plays off the beaten path in the travel softball circuit for the New Lenox Lightning, had a seemingly built-in connection to the school.

“The assistant coach, who handled most of the recruiting, is from the Chicago area and knew the Lightning coaching staff, so he was sent video and then I was able to come for a visit,” Zick said.

The top-of-the-order asset is ready for the new experience.

“My first time on the subway in New York was an experience,” Zick said. “The team is a different kind of team. They have some girls from California, so it’ll be a new experience, too.”

Having spoken with professors and wishing to major in biology or chemistry enroute to the radiology field, Zick looks forward to the D-1 challenge.

“I’m glad that part of it is over, and that this is more of the direction I’m going to go,” she said.

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