Lacrosse: Piszczek provides spark for Glenbard West

  • Neuqua Valley's Dan Curtis, right, pictured with Naperville Central's Patrick Riordan, will play next year at Florida State.

      Neuqua Valley's Dan Curtis, right, pictured with Naperville Central's Patrick Riordan, will play next year at Florida State. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

 
By Gregg Voss
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 5/22/2021 1:10 PM

Recently graduated Glenbard West boys lacrosse midfielder Aaron Piszczek has stepped into the faceoff role once dominated by his mentor, former Hilltopper Ben Frick.

There was a lot to learn, but Piszczek listened carefully, and that tutelage is paying off. Against Lyons Twp. on Monday, he won 27 of 29 faceoffs to help his team survive an 11-10 triple-overtime thriller. Plus, he scored four goals.

 

What did Piszczek learn from Frick about faceoffs?

"When I came in as a freshman, he took me under his wing, and he taught me the mental side," he said. "It's a weird thing to be able to train your reaction time. Don't predict the whistle. When you react is when the moment you start to hear."

Couple that LT win with an 11-6 victory over Oak Park-River Forest on Wednesday, and the Hilltoppers are 7-3 overall and 6-2 in the West Suburban Silver and positioning themselves well for a deep playoff run. The team finished third in state in 2018 and fourth in 2019.

Piszczek has a lot of help. Start with senior long-stick midfielder Nick Bilotti, who's been "lights out" according to Piszczek, along with senior goalie Matt Dugan.

"All of them were on varsity as sophomores, so they definitely have the mindset of going back" to state, coach Eric Nuss said. The finals will be held June 17 and 19 at Forest View Educational Center in Arlington Heights, hosted by St. Viator.

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Curtis leading Neuqua Valley:

As a sophomore, Neuqua Valley attackman Dan Curtis scored six goals in the state third-place game to help the Wildcats defeat Glenbard West. Now he's a senior, and before he heads off to play lacrosse at Florida State next year, he wants to get back to state.

That's now an aspiration thanks to the IHSA's recent decision to add a state series, which was TBD when the season started. But it won't be easy. The Wildcats could face powers York, Benet or Glenbard West in the supersectional.

"Now there is a lot more to play for, instead of ending the season abruptly," said Curtis, who is averaging 3 goals per game and 2 assists. "I'd like to finish my career in a high fashion."

Neuqua Valley coach Josh Maluta couldn't be more pleased with every aspect of Curtis's game this season.

"He's the leader of our offense," Maluta said. "He's done a great job, getting everyone on the same page. It's a combination of vocal leadership and leading by example."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

There will be challenges down the stretch, of course. Maluta has only 15 varsity-only players, including Curtis, senior defenseman Holden Charboneau and juniors Adam and Andrew Arimborgo, who were freshmen on the 2019 state team.

York graduates seeking state:

York's only seniors, Ellie Bernard and Jenna Hughes, are going to graduate this weekend, but that doesn't mean they won't have the same commitment to their team.

Like their underclass counterparts, their goal is a trip to the state semifinals June 17 at Glenbrook North, and the finals the next day at Glenbrook South.

"I think we have a great team this year, and I think if we play how well we play, we can get to state," Hughes said. "I think there is definitely a chance we can get there.

The Dukes are 7-4 (4-2 in the West Suburban Silver), with their only losses coming to state powers Hinsdale Central, Loyola and New Trier. That latter game was a thriller, with York dropping the game 10-9.

"I think that was our best performance as a team this season," Bernard said. "Our transitions to get up the field were great. Everyone together was working so well, and I think it was because there wasn't a lot of pressure."

Short-handed Naperville North excelling:

Naperville North coach Jessica Hogan has only had one game plus one half this season where she has had a full roster. Plus, a year ago, she had 23 Class of 2021 players program wide; this year, she has 10, with but 6 on varsity.

While others may lament that, Huskie players aren't. The season is a marathon, not a sprint.

"I think there is a certain amount of pressure," senior Sophie McBane said, "but not a lot of pressure. As you go down the grade levels, there is more lacrosse representation."

The biggest nit for North is the first half. Fellow senior Kate Burritt said "we are definitely a second-half team. Coach says we like to dig ourselves out of a ditch, rather than start on top."

Added junior Ella Marschitz: "I think we need to have better energy coming into the game, especially warmups."

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