Sun staff writers take the temperature of sports in Naperville, Chicago and beyond.

September 2008 Archives

Naperville North's rotation will have at least two Division I prospects this spring.

Senior pitcher Wes Torrez has verbally committed to play baseball at High Point (N.C.).

He will join ace Jake Naumann, who recently made a similar commitment to Evansville, in what should be a strong staff for the Huskies.

Line of Fire

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Welcome to the...parity?

Just as the season's starting to take shape - after Sunday's game, Lovie Smith will undoubtedly say the Bears have just played a quarter of their season - predicting games will look easier but become harder.

That was a long way of saying, the Bears still have a chance against Philadelphia on Sunday even though it looks bleak. Am I nuts? Or just hungry?

Here's a glimpse at the accompanying column in The Sun.

Naperville's Evan Lysacek, the two-time U.S. men's figure skating champion and Olympic bronze medalist, has been back in the area preparing for An Evening of Hope, a benefit show for the Stephanie Joseph Memorial Fund and the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Lysacek grew up with Joseph, who died of soft tissue sarcoma (a rare cancer) in February. The show, which is at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Fox Valley Ice Arena in Geneva, features an array of well-known skaters.

The Redhawks dropped from No. 7 in the nation to No. 21 in this week's ESPN RISE national rankings.

Their loss to Downers Grove South knocked them down the charts. They remain No. 2 in the state behind New Trier, which is ranked sixth in the country.

Neuqua Valley fell out of the top 25 with its second loss of the year.

Griese: 'They didn't need me'

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CHICAGO - When Kyle Orton threw the ball right to Tampa Bay's Gaines Adams on Sunday at Soldier Field - right to him - you couldn't help but think that Buccaneers' quarterback Brian Griese may have been the right man for the Bears job this year.

Orton, who struggled with the deep ball in a heartbreaking loss to Carolina last week, could not have made it any easier for Adams to catch the ball from inside five yards. In return, Adams made it not so easy for Orton to catch him during a 45-yard dash to the end zone.

Instead of completing a screen up the middle to tight end Desmond Clark on that play - Clark was right behind Adams - the Bucs took an early 14-6 lead, lost it for awhile, and then forced overtime before spoiling the Bears home opener with a 27-24 win.

And they couldn't have done it without Griese, who ignored three interceptions to complete 38 of 67 passes for 407 yards and two touchdowns against his old team.

"I was traded," said Griese, when asked if he expected to return to the Bears this season. "So obviously, they didn't need me."

That's the question posed by Newsday's excellent baseball writer Ken Davidoff in this Sunday column. It's probably not a focus this morning in Wrigleyville, waking up after a champagne-soaked celebration, but it's an interesting hypothetical while you're waiting for October. Davidoff seeks out one expert opinion:

"If one is thinking of the sale of the Cubs, there are one of two ways in which this could be seen," said Andrew Zimbalist, a sports economist at Smith College. "One would involve evaluating the portfolios of the major bidders at this point. Certainly the Ricketts family, which seems to be the front-runner by a good margin at this point, their fortune is in private equity investments. One would think that they have been hit significantly by this, and that might influence their wherewithal.

"But also the baseball model, and the model of all sports since about 1990, has been to cater to the more rapidly growing income groups. The corporate executives, the top people in the financial sector, to make money off corporate suites and club suites. These are the population sectors that are getting hit hard right now. It seems to me logical that the sports model is going to be taking a little bit of a hit. I do think that team revenue growth, 11 percent a year, that's not going to continue. It's even more likely you'll see diminution of revenue in the next year or two."

Line of Fire

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Who's the most frustrating member of the Bears?

Players, coaches, management -- you name it. Two weeks into the season, somebody has to be bothering you Bears-wise as much as the stock market money-wise.

Is it Ron Turner's come-from-behind play-calling in late-game situations? Is it Greg Olsen's butter fingers? Is it Devin Hester's injury woes?

Looking ahead, who will be the most frustrating against Tampa Bay today? Will you pin the tail on Matt Forte? Lance Briggs? Or one of the other Bears stars off to a good start this year?

Also, check out Brad Engel's Sunday Bears column.

Central, Neuqua rescheduled

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The make-up date for the highly anticipated rematch between nationally-ranked Naperville Central and Neuqua Valley is set for noon on Oct. 11 at Memorial Stadium.

Central defeated Neuqua 2-1 in regulation to claim its first Best of the West Soccer Tournament championship Sept. 6.

Currently, the unbeaten Redhawks are ranked seventh in the nation by ESPN RISE. They cracked the rankings after beating Neuqua and, in the process, knocked the Wildcats down the chart to 22nd.

On the Redhawks heels? Ninth-ranked New Trier.

UEC Realignment

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The Upstate Eight Conference will expand and realign into two six-team divisions beginning in the fall of 2010.

The conference announced the anticipated move on Thursday and it took into account several geographic considerations. Metea Valley, which in scheduled to open in the fall of 2009, will become the conference's new 12th member and join District 204 rivals Neuqua Valley and Waubonsie Valley in the UEC South. The division will also include East Aurora, St. Charles East and St. Charles North.

The UEC North will be made up of Bartlett, Elgin, Lake Park, Larkin, South Elgin and Streamwood.

What do you think of this realignment? Will it impact certain sports in particular? Which divisional rivalry are you eager to see?

Naumann commits to Evansville

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Naperville North ace Jake Naumann has recently committed to playing baseball for Evansville next year.

Naumann has won 18 games for the Huskies during the last two years and looks to add to that total in the spring.

Is there any pitcher in the city, much more the state, who's compiled 18 wins over the last two seasons? Naumann must be on that short list, no?

Line of Fire

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The Bears seem to have escaped Week 1 without any major injuries - four players were limited in practice as of Thursday -- a walk in the park compared with last year's season-opening loss at San Diego. Remember that mess?

That's when both safety Mike Brown and defensive tackle Dusty Dvoracek bit the California dust for the season. But the Bears aren't out of the woods yet. With 15 more games remaining, anything can (and perhaps will) happen.

It begs the question: Which player can the Bears least afford to lose?

Sounds opinion

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Ping!

The sound came from the field to my left as my wife, Kristin, and I were walking through our Aurora subdivision last night.

I turned my head, thrilled to hear the unmistakable sound of an aluminum bat striking a baseball. I was happy to see three young boys out playing baseball on a night that felt like fall no matter what the calendar says.

It got me thinking that maybe watching sports isn't the best thing about my job, or what drew me to become a sports writer in the first place. Maybe it was the sounds.

Before Naperville Central defends its ESPN RISE national ranking against Neuqua Valley on Saturday afternoon at Central, the Redhawks will first conduct a free youth soccer clinic.

The one-hour session begins at 3 p.m. and is free, but all proceeds will benefit the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. And for every $5 donation, you will receive a ticket into the rematch game between Central and Neuqua. Again, the details:

When: 3-4 p.m. Saturday
Where: Naperville Central's West St. Soccer Complex
Who: Boys and girls soccer players, ages 5-14
Bring: shin guards, a soccer ball and a drink

Central (8-0), ranked eighth nationally and No. 1 in Illinois, defeated previously unbeaten Neuqua 2-1 in the Best of the West Tournament championship Saturday at Memorial Stadium.

Benet shortstop Alex Staehely and pitcher John Boyle will continue their baseball careers together, committing to play at Creighton.

Staehely, an all-East Suburban Catholic Conference selection last season, hit .339 and led the Redwings with 36 RBIs and 20 stolen bases as a junior. Boyle went 7-0 with a 3.09 ERA as Benet's No. 2 pitcher, finishing his junior year with 56 strikeouts against 25 walks.

Creighton ended the 2008 season with a 37-21 record after finishing third in the Missouri Valley Conference with a 16-8 mark. The Bluejays play several games each year at nearby Rosenblatt Stadium, home of the College World Series in Omaha, Neb.

Final update: Central defeated Neuqua 2-1 for its first Best of the West Tournament championship since the format began pitting pool-play winners in a title game. See The Sun for complete coverage.

Update: Neuqua cut Central's lead in half in the 48th minute on Bryan Dosch's volley inside the goalmouth. Central's Jerry Maddi, the game's first goal scorer, just left the game injured and not under his own power. It's his right leg.

The Redhawks lead Neuqua Valley 2-0 at halftime of the Best of the West Tournament championship Saturday at Memorial Stadium.

Senior Jerry Maddi scored in the 37th minute, and junior Art Garza scored in the 39th minute. The Redhawks have six shots on goal, forcing Neuqua goalkeeper Jack Turanchik into making four diving saves already.

Neuqua has no shots on goal. This is also the third time the unbeaten Wildcats have trailed by two goals this year. Plainfield Central and Naperville North led by two and both lost.

Will the Wildcats respond again or will Central win its first BOW tournament title under coach Jay Konrad?

Tournament favorites Neuqua Valley and Naperville Central both won their second games of pool play Thursday, setting themselves up for a title-game rematch on Saturday night at Central.

See The Sun for the full story on Central's 3-0 win over Sandburg at Central. As for Neuqua, it stayed unbeaten like Central by defeating Benet 5-0 at North.

Also on Thursday, Naperville North rebounded from its loss to Neuqua by beating Lincoln-Way Central 2-1 at North.

A reader passed along a note to The Heat Index letting us know that a Naperville resident sang the national anthem before the Chicago Cubs beat the St. Louis Cardinals 3-2 on Aug. 8. Here is the clip of 16-year-old Lindsey Heckes belting out the star spangled banner. Although, this article says her name is Lindsay Heckes and her parents live in Lakeville. Either way, she can sing.

UPDATE: I'm told that Lindsey is the correct spelling and that she is a junior at Naperville North.

Hang onto those tickets. The Best of the West Soccer Tournament final everyone's been pining for (OK, just me) is still in order.

On Wednesday, Neuqua Valley defeated Naperville North 4-2 in stellar comeback fashion and Naperville Central defeated Fremd 4-1.

See The Sun for the full story on Neuqua's comeback. As for Central, just know that Jerry Maddi scored two goals and that Chris Prince and Andy Miltonberger each scored once.

But before everyone (OK, me) gets too excited for the final, Central has a tough opponent in Sandburg on Thursday and Waubonsie on Saturday while Neuqua still has Benet on Thursday and Lincoln-Way Central on Saturday.

The championship starts at 6 p.m. Saturday at Central. Neuqua defeated Central last year for the title, and Benet defeated Central two years ago in the championship.

Is this Central's year?

Lightning delays soccer

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UPDATE: Benet ties Lincoln-Way Central 0-0, wins shootout 3-1.

Harshbarger-Welzel Field in Naperville is empty as we speak, but there's still hope that Benet will play Lincoln-Way Central in the nightcap of this Best of the West doubleheader.

Lightning postponed Neuqua Valley vs. host Naperville North until 4:30 p.m. Wednesday. The game will resume where it left off Tuesday before the weather and the second game forced postponement.

North led nationally-ranked Neuqua 1-0 when referees stopped the game with 31:01 left to play in the first half. Senior forward Emerson Beck scored in the ninth minute.

Waubonsie Valley athletic director Mike Rogowski confirmed to The Heat Index on Tuesday that Luke Payette has been hired as boys swimming coach.

Payette, the former girls water polo coach at Neuqua Valley, spent the past three years as the head women's water polo coach at Carthage College.

He replaces Chad Ganden as the Warriors boys swimming coach. Ganden resigned in May to take a teaching job in Joliet.

ESPN ranks Neuqua, Central

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It should come as no surprise that Neuqua Valley and Naperville Central cracked the ESPN RISE state-to-state rankings for Illinois boys soccer this week.

Neuqua (2-0) grabbed the top spot followed by New Trier (3-0), Lyons (2-0), Central (3-0) and down-state Edwardsville (1-0). Neuqua finished second in large-school state competition last year and defeated Naperville Central along the way.

Both teams will compete in the Best of the West Soccer Tournament, starting tonight in Naperville. It's not an unpopular thought to think that both teams will meet in the final again this year. Whoever wins should maintain their ranking, if not see a boost state-wide and nationally.

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Sun staff writers take the temperature of sports in Naperville, Chicago and beyond.