Boys soccer: Palatine off to promising start in MSL
Well look who's atop the MSL West -- it's Palatine.
After Conant's early season flourish, with perennial league powers Barrington and Fremd having a rough go of it, Palatine, one year removed from a 2-12-3 record, is leading its division. The Pirates are 8-4-0 overall.
"The boys put the work in over the summer. It's where we started to learn about our strengths and weaknesses, then install our system," said Aaron Morris, who took over for Hall-of-Fame coach Willie Filian.
Filian retired after 34 marvelous years, taking with him nearly 700 combined victories (boys and girls programs), two state titles, and a list of accomplishments far too long to list.
"As I've stated before, I cannot be Willie, nobody can," said Morris, who starred under Filian, and has been a longtime assistant.
"He was a one-of-a-kind coach. I was lucky enough to play and coach under him, and the core values of our program have not changed from when he was here. And along with Charlie (Gries), who I am so fortunate to have back alongside me as my assistant, we'll continue to learn each time out."
Morris points to Andrew Kania, Jordan Mok, Karol Noga, Liam Rhattigham and Dennis Valle as his most consistent thus far, with Noga and Valle leading the way in scoring with 6 and 5 goals, respectively.
Hoffman Estates update:
The Pirates' 3-1 victory last week over Hoffman Estates gave them the three points needed to jump ahead of the pack in the MSL West. But despite the loss, Sean Armstrong still liked what he saw from a Hawks club led by four-year veterans and captains Ethan Knapp and Connor Kurzynski.
"Those two have been outstanding all year for us and have been tremendous leaders and key figures for us turning the corner as a team and program," said Armstrong.
"There's a lot more heart and desire in our team this year. We came back from being down 2-0 in our opener with Deerfield to win 3-2, and then again against Elk Grove to win that game. We likely would not have done that last year," said Knapp, who was brought up halfway through his freshman season and has since been invaluable, whether as the Hawks' central defender or midfielder, playing the nine spot.
"If we continue to work hard and stay disciplined, there's no reason why we cannot have a good run in the postseason," said Knapp.
While a young and inexperienced Antioch club goes in search of its first victory of the season, coach Mike McDermott continues to see progress and plenty of positives despite the Sequoits' overall record.
"We're a young team with zero returning starters. But using the leadership of Cade Ternes, Brett Brose and Nathan Shipman, the guys have found ways to stay positive, while finding a way to work through the struggles of a young team," said McDermott, now in his fourth season.
"This group has developed a wonderful chemistry among themselves, and do a great job of communicating with each other by using positive and constructive feedback, so I am very proud of their efforts thus far."
Vernon Hills update:
On the strength of three consecutive shutouts from keeper, Brandon Grunfeld, Vernon Hills has positioned themselves nicely for an important stretch of games in which the Cougars can make its mark in the CSL North division with games against league rivals Maine West and East.
"Grunfeld, Nikita Stepanov and Aleksa Arubutina have been our most consistent thus far, but we're receiving solid contributions from others of late," said coach Mike McCaulou, whose team is 6-4-1, 1-0-1.
McCaulou is nearing 400 career wins combined as he leads both the boys and girls programs. He points to the 2016 season as a time when his club came 'this' close to reaching the final weekend of the 2A soccer season.
"We lost to Latin (2-1) in overtime in 2016 in our supersectional, then to Crystal Lake South by the same score in a 2019 sectional final, and both teams went on to win state titles," said McCaulou.
"Those were special teams, with special players, who played for one another. We (all) stay in touch to this day because we were family, and I take pride in building meaningful relationships with our players, because at the end of the day, that is what coaching, and being an educator is all about.
"Teaching life through a game, and showing people you care about them as human beings, is the most important thing."