The Upstate Eight Conference River race is shaping up as a three-team competition, with both St. Charles schools and Geneva squarely in the mix in the final weeks of conference play.
Tuesday's 1-1 tie between St. Charles East and St. Charles North ensured both teams will control their own fate coming down the stretch.
"It sets up the rest of the conference very nicely, so it's wide open now," East coach Paul Jennison said. "We'll see what happens. Obviously it's going to be a big game us against Geneva and a big game North and Geneva, so we'll see how that rolls."
The Saints were disappointed not to finish off the win against North considering East led until Sophie Pohl tied the match with just over 3 minutes to go. East senior Amanda Hilton said winning the conference remains a focal point for the Saints.
"We're going to continue to work hard in practice and make our statement this year," Hilton said.
East fell to Geneva, 1-0, at the Rose Augsburg Drach tournament, but that match did not count in the conference race. The Saints and Vikings will meet in conference play May 9 in Geneva.
Meanwhile, Geneva's match with North has been moved from April 30 to May 10 since the Vikings' scheduled at the end of April/start of May is extremely congested.
North coach Ruth Vostal – who tends to downplay the conference race while building toward the postseason – would have preferred to play Geneva sooner.
"It's an interesting place to put it just because it's so late in the season, getting ready to go into the playoffs," Vostal said. "Seeding will already be done. Really the only thing it's for is for conference."
North's thirst quenched?
Vostal said she's not sure if North will remain in the prestigious Pepsi Invitational going forward.
The North Stars recently concluded their four-game grind through the tournament, and Vostal said the Pepsi event takes its toll.
"The reason we got out of the Pepsi tournament however many years ago is I didn't like the game, maintain, game, maintain, all the way through," Vostal said. "And that's sort of where we are now.
"We have two practices back-to-back [this week] for the first time in however many weeks, and there's a lot we need to work on. But looking at the different kind of teams, we learned a lot and I think we improved from that. It was a good opportunity for the girls, but we'll have to consider whether it's best for the girls in the long run."
Spartans on the upswing
Injuries and illness – combined with an inexperienced roster in the first place – led to a rough start to the season for St. Francis.
Spartans coach Jim Winslow said the team finished with 11 healthy players during a match against West Chicago.
"It was one of those comedic sequences where about every five minutes, a kid was going down," Winslow said.
St. Francis, though, is a punch line no more, having won three matches and tied one in its next four matches after an 0-4 start.
Getting healthier has certainly helped, especially the return of standout senior Andrea Ravlin, who was dealing with mono.
"As soon as she walked onto the field when we played Glenbard South, it was like all the sudden, it was a different team," said Winslow, adding that Ravlin's presence seemed to ignite several of her teammates.
Winslow is looking forward to upcoming conference challenges against Marian Central today and Wheaton Academy next week to provide a better indication of how much progress the Spartans are making.
IN THE GROOVE
St. Charles East midfielders
What they did: East's active midfield allowed the Saints to control play for much of Tuesday's match at St. Charles North, which ended in a 1-1 tie. Saints coach Pail Jennison said veteran midfielders Amanda Hilton and Anna Corirosi both played "their best games in a Saints uniform, no doubt about it."
Madi Jurcenko, Kaneland, Sr., M
What she did: Jurcenko scored a goal and had two assists April 16 against East Aurora, scored three goals Thursday against Rochelle and had a goal and two assists Monday against Yorkville, all in Knights wins.
WHAT WE LEARNED FROM LAST WEEK
Despite leaning on a new-look defense this spring, St. Charles East is becoming a tough team to score on.
The Saints clamped down on Batavia on Saturday for a 2-1 win, then kept St. Charles North off the board for 77 minutes Tuesday before a late North score yielded a 1-1 tie.
WHAT WE'LL LEARN IN THE WEEK AHEAD
Whether Rosary can knock off rival Aurora Central Catholic and the Royals' old coach, Kristy Kane.
Kane is in her first year coaching the Chargers. The teams are scheduled to meet today at ACC.
COACH SLY SAYS
Kaneland is on fire.
The Knights have been an impressive bunch so far, not just winning matches, but laying the lumber on teams in recent weeks.
The Knights still have some challenges to deal with in the conference and they may well cool off a little before the postseason, but for now, the Knights definitely look like a team that will be a tough out in the 3A playoffs next month.