Kroner's boys' soccer preview: SJ-O seniors hope to finish with flourish

Kroner's boys' soccer preview: SJ-O seniors hope to finish with flourish

They were the Original Six.

Now, they are the six survivors.

When St. Joseph-Ogden implemented a varsity soccer team in the fall of 2009, there were six freshmen on the squad. Those six still are playing and will be the first group to play soccer four years for the Spartans.

Cole Johnson, Andrew Quednau, Kyle Roedl, Dan Schuele, Cody Seward and Colin Seward were with the program in its infancy, which started with a two-win season in Year 1. They now are battle-tested veterans who are part of a team with lofty expectations in Year 4.

"As freshmen, our current seniors were asked to play a large role with a brand-new program," SJ-O coach Richard Vetter said. "These seniors have worked really hard over the past four years.

"They have endured programs that won two games and five games in a season, and the hard work is now paying off. These six seniors make up the nucleus to a team that will be very competitive this year. They are looked up to and counted on both on the soccer field and in the classrooms."

They may not be done with the sport, either. Quednau and Roedl hope to play in college, perhaps at Parkland or Eureka College. Johnson and Colin Seward also would like to play beyond high school.

Schuele and Cody Seward plan to stay active by participating in soccer rec leagues. All have already devoted most of their lives to the game.

When they were freshmen, Roedl, Schuele and the Sewards had nine years of soccer experience. Johnson had played four years. Quednau became hooked once he took it up as an eighth-grader.

As the SJ-O program gained a foothold, other classmates joined. There are nine seniors on Vetter's roster this season. They are among 19 squad members.

SJ-O is 1-1 and hopes to improve on last year's school-record win total of 10.

Preseason losing streak

For Danville's Vikings, the losses came before the first match.

Roman Tapia decided not to play as a senior; Mac Leverenz joined a Southern Illinois club team (Metro Academy) and is unavailable for the Vikings. A third starter from 2011, Eziquio Flores, suffered a season-ending anterior cruciate ligament injury on the second day of practice. He underwent surgery Friday.

"We are doing a lot of shuffling around, and it may take a little time for us to get things sorted out," Danville coach Chris Griffin said. "We certainly need some of our younger players, who were projected as subs this season, to really step it up this fall."

Carrying on the tradition

Sophomore Nathaniel Hinds and senior Cian Wingo had brothers who played soccer at Centennial before them. Hinds is following in the footsteps of Jonathan and Joshua. Wingo had brothers Stefan and Kris who were former Chargers.

Cian Wingo is projected as one of the team's top defenders this season.

An Urbana thing

Five underclassmen were on The News-Gazette All-Area first team in 2011. Each one attended high schools in Urbana.

The area's top returnees from last year are Uni High's Tarik Koric, George Voulgaris and Patrick Wong along with Urbana High School's Miguel Fierro and Jonathan Lukusa.

Lukusa and Wong were also first-team selections in 2010 as sophomores, as was Centennial goalkeeper Andy Drackley.

Veteran unit

The Hoopeston Area/Bismarck-Henning cooperative program retains seven starters, including all four on defense. The leader is sweeper Mason Jett, who is regarded as one of the top defenders in the Vermilion Valley Conference.

Senior goalkeeper Ryan Morgan suffered a broken hand during a summer scrimmage, and freshman Drake Swinford has emerged as a contender for the starting position.

Family affair

Senior twins Eduardo and Hector Reyes are two of the three returning starters at Iroquois West. Eduardo is a midfielder, and Hector is the goalkeeper. Their cousin, Luis Reyes, is a freshman who will see varsity duty on a squad with 14 members.

The twins' father, Hector, is an assistant on coach Jody Young's staff.

"We will not have many subs," Young said. "I hope we don't pick up many injuries."

Family affair, Part II

It's not unusual for schools to have siblings on the field at the same time, but the scenario at Oakwood is unique. The Comets midfielders are senior Synan Nicholson and his sophomore sister, Eilis.

The IHSA permits girls to play on boys' teams in the fall if they attend a high school that does not offer girls' soccer in the spring.

Synan Nicholson, who also is kicking for the football team this year, needs 10 assists to break the school record for career assists. If he gets 11 assists, he would tie the single-season mark, held by Mitchell Cronk.

Gains, losses

With Decatur Lutheran reviving its soccer program, the East Central Illinois Conference has enough schools offering the sport to sanction it leaguewide.

However, the opposite occurred in the Okaw Valley. The Sullivan/Okaw Valley program disbanded, leaving five league schools with soccer. At least half of the schools in the league need to offer a sport for it to be recognized by the conference, so the athletes in the Okaw will not have a chance to earn all-conference laurels this fall.

Lofty expectations

St. Thomas More is the team to beat in the Sangamon Valley Conference, and head coach James Johnson believes his Sabers also could be the team to beat the school record for wins (17), set in 2010. St. Thomas More retains 10 starters from a 14-win squad that won the SVC tournament last year.

"We have a great mix with our upperclassmen's athleticism and the soccer ability possessed by our young players, who will challenge for varsity playing time," Johnson said.

Last year's Most Valuable Player, Wiley Jones, returns, and his younger brother, Matt, figures to contribute. Last year's top scorer, Dan Shin (17 goals), is also back.

The Sabers gained the services of junior Josh Koerner, a first-year player. "He is one of the most athletic players I have ever coached," Johnson said. "With his size and athleticism, his potential is enormous."

His sister, Jordyn, is a former All-Area standout at Champaign Central.

"The success of last year's team inspired many of our players to improve their skills in the offseason through the Flatland Soccer Academy and Illinois Football Club," Johnson said. "Their dedication to improving bodes for a successful season and a bright future."

Helping to offset the loss of nine current seniors is sophomore transfer Dennis Freeman, from Centennial. In accordance with IHSA rules, he has to sit out this season, but Johnson said, "I expect he will be one of the best players to ever come through St. Thomas More once he becomes eligible for his last two seasons."

Two-for-one special

Uni High will play its version of a soccer doubleheader Sept. 20 at the UI turf fields (near Stadium Drive and First Street), where it will host a regional in October.

The Illineks will take on Decatur Lutheran and Judah Christian. The start time for both ECIC matches is 4 p.m.

Coach Phil Anders, who has 32 squad members, will divide his team into two units for the twin bill. The Illineks will have one other regular season match at the turf fields (a Sept. 7 match against Teutopolis).

Notebook items

Blue Ridge's J.J. Malone, the 2011 Area Player of the Year, graduated, but the Knights aren't starting from scratch this season. Sixteen lettermen are back, including senior mainstays Jon Jones (forward) and Travys Nichols (defender). The team allowed 15 goals in 21 matches last fall and opened this season with a shutout. ... Central lost 19 players from last year's team and has two returnees. As for predictions, Maroons coach Mick Galeski said, "We are a very new and young team, so we have a lot to work on. Our team is full of workers and will be the fittest team we have had in recent years." ... Striker Mikee Maniquis transferred from Schlarman to Danville High School. ... The turnout at Judah Christian is so good (27 squad members) that — unlike last year — the Tribe will field a junior varsity team. Coach Bo Wilson had special praise for his team leaders. "The captains this year really know how to lead and what it takes to win," he said. ... Monticello faces a rebuilding season after 13 seniors graduated, including nine who were major contributors. Three lettermen return for the Sages. ... Billy Son replaces Ed Barney, who retired, as the Schlarman soccer coach. The Hilltoppers' numbers (14) are their lowest in recent years. ... Watseka junior Caleb Parker is not only kicking for the soccer team but also for the football team.

The Nifty Fifty: Area players to watch
Josh Beck    Judah Christian    Sr.    Stopper
Alex Burke    Salt Fork/Westville    Sr.    Forward
Austin Calhoun    Schlarman    Sr.    Midfielder
Jared Clark    Fisher/GCMS    Sr.    Midfielder
Noah Darr    Salt Fork/Westville    So.    Midfielder
Andy Drackley    Centennial    Sr.    Goalkeeper
Miguel Fierro    Urbana    Sr.    Midfielder
Tommy Fitzgerald    St. Thomas More    Sr.    Defender
Pedro Garcia    Watseka    Sr.    Midfielder
Darrian Gingold    Urbana    Jr.    Fullback
Cameron Griffin    Danville    So.    Goalkeeper
Tristan Gurtler    Urbana Uni High    Jr.    Goalkeeper
Luke Hanselman    Monticello    So.    Forward
DeMarion Hatfield    Danville    Sr.    Defender
Cameron Harpst    St. Joseph-Ogden    Jr.    Forward
Alec Henderson    Judah Christian    Sr.    Forward
Mason Jett    Hoopeston/Bismarck-Henning    Jr.    Sweeper
Jon Jones    Blue Ridge    Sr.    Forward
Riley Jones    Schlarman    Sr.    Forward
Wiley Jones    St. Thomas More    Sr.    Midfielder
Emmanuel Komba    Champaign Central    So.    Midfielder
Tarik Koric    Urbana Uni High    Sr.    Midfielder
Brennan Kraft    Mahomet-Seymour    Sr.    Midfielder
Michael Linsner    Judah Christian    Jr.    Sweeper
Jonathan Lukusa    Urbana    Sr.    Forward
Zach Moore    Mahomet-Seymour    Sr.    Forward
Kyle Morgan    Unity    Sr.    Defender
Daniel Mukendi    Champaign Central    Sr.    Midfielder
Travys Nichols    Blue Ridge    Sr.    Defender
Synan Nicholson    Oakwood    Sr.    Midfielder
Caleb Parker    Watseka    Jr.    Defender
Andrew Quednau    St. Joseph-Ogden    Sr.    Defender
Eduardo Reyes    Iroquois West    Sr.    Midfielder
Hector Reyes    Iroquois West    Sr.    Goalkeeper
Kyle Roedl    St. Joseph-Ogden    Sr.    Goalkeeper
Eddie Romero    Danville    Jr.    Defender
Jordan Romo    Salt Fork/Westville    Jr.    Forward
Josh Schumacher    Monticello    Sr.    Midfielder
Colin Seward    St. Joseph-Ogden    Sr.    Forward
Dan Shin    St. Thomas More    Jr.    Forward
Andrew Shroyer    Mahomet-Seymour    Sr.    Midfielder
Hugo Solorzano    Watseka    Jr.    Midfielder
Gracson Torres    Danville    Jr.    Striker
Landon Turner    Oakwood    So.    Goalkeeper
Danny Vetter    St. Thomas More    Sr.    Goalkeeper
George Voulgaris    Urbana Uni High    Sr.    Midfielder
Noah Winn    Unity    Sr.    Goalkeeper
Patrick Wong    Urbana Uni High    Sr.    Forward
Elijah Yates    Hoopeston/Bismarck-Henning    Jr.    Forward
Jia-yu Yao    Centennial    Sr.    Midfielder

Coaches corner
Prep sports coordinator Fred Kroner contacted every boys’ soccer coach from conferences in our area for their thoughts about the season, which started Monday. Here they are, league by league:

Big 12 Conference
Preseason Coaches Poll
(81 points maximum; first-place votes in parentheses)
Urbana (4)    72
Normal Community (3)    71
Normal West (1)    61
Bloomington (1)    56
Danville    43
Champaign Central    40
Centennial    35
Decatur MacArthur    16
Decatur Eisenhower    11
Top Returning Offensive Players
Jonathan Lukusa, Urbana, Sr., F    5
Miguel Fierro, Urbana, Sr., Mid.    3
Austin Bange, Normal Community, Sr., F    2
Daniel Mukendi, Champaign Central, Sr., Mid.    1
Top Returning Defensive Players
Darrian Gingold, Urbana, Jr., Sweeper    3
DeMarion Hatfield, Danville, Sr., Defender    2
Cody Speer, Bloomington, Sr., Defender    2
Top Returning Goalkeepers
Andy Drackley, Centennial, Sr., G    7
Stephen Walther, Bloomington, Sr., G    1
Urbana is seeking a threepeat, which would make it the second school in league history to win at least three consecutive conference championships. Centennial won five in a row between 2000 and 2004.

East Central Illinois Conference
Preseason Coaches Poll
(36 points maximum)
Urbana Uni High (6)    36
Judah Christian    28
Cornerstone    19
Decatur Christian    19
Normal Calvary    14
Decatur Lutheran    10
Top Returning Offensive Players
George Voulgaris, Urbana Uni, Sr., Mid.    2
Patrick Wong, Urbana Uni, Sr., F    2
Top Returning Defensive Players
Josh Beck, Judah Christian, Sr., Stopper    1
Michael Linsner, Judah Christian, Jr., Sweeper    1
George Voulgaris, Urbana Uni, Sr., Mid.    1
Top Returning Goalkeeper
Tristan Gurtler, Urbana Uni, Jr., G    2
There weren’t enough ECIC teams with soccer to make it a conference sport the past three seasons, but Decatur Lutheran’s decision to revive its program enables the six schools to aim for a conference crown.

Okaw Valley Conference
Preseason Coaches Poll
(25 points maximum)
Monticello (2)    20
Decatur St. Teresa (2)    19
Unity     16
Warrensburg-Latham (1)    14
Meridian    6
Top Returning Offensive Players
Luke Hanselman, Monticello, So., F    1
Tucker Mathieson, Warrensburg-L., Sr., Mid.    1
Top Returning Defensive Players
Kyle Morgan, Unity, Sr., Defense    1
Daniel Peters, St. Teresa, Sr., G    1
Top Returning Goalkeepers
Daniel Peters, St. Teresa, Sr., G    1
Noah Winn, Unity, Sr., G    1
There will not be an Okaw Conference champion crowned this year. Sullivan’s program disbanded, leaving the league one team shy of the minimum needed for soccer to be a league sport in good standing.

Sangamon Valley Conference
Preseason Coaches Poll
(25 points maximum)
St. Thomas More (4)    24
St. Joseph-Ogden (1)    21
Clifton Central    12
Iroquois West    11
Watseka    7
Top Returning Offensive Players
Wiley Jones, St. Thomas More, Sr., Mid.    3
Colin Seward, St. Joseph-Ogden, Sr., F    2
Cameron Harpst, St. Joseph-Ogden, Jr., F    1
Eduardo Reyes, Iroquois West, Sr., Mid.    1
Dan Shin, St. Thomas More, Jr., F    1
Hugo Solorzano, Watseka, Jr., Mid.    1
Top Returning Defensive Players
Tommy Fitzgerald, St. Thomas More, Sr., Defense    2
Caleb Parker, Watseka, Jr., Defense    1
Andrew Quednau, St. Joseph-Ogden, Sr., Defense    1
Christian Zavala, Iroquois West, Sr., Mid.    1
Top Returning Goalkeepers
Kyle Roedl, St. Joseph-Ogden, Sr., G    3
Hector Reyes, Iroquois West, Sr., G    2
Danny Vetter, St. Thomas More, Sr., G    1
St. Joseph-Ogden won two matches the first year it fielded a team and has raised its win total each year thereafter. The 2010 squad won five matches, and the 2011 team set the current school record with 10 wins.

Vermilion Valley Conference
Preseason Coaches Poll
(25 points maximum)
Hoopeston Area/Bismarck-Henning (5)    25
Salt Fork/Westville    19
Oakwood/Armstrong-Potomac    12
Schlarman    12
Georgetown-Ridge Farm    7
Top Returning Offensive Players
Alex Burke, Salt Fork/Westville, Sr., F    1
Austin Calhoun, Schlarman, Sr., Mid.    1
Noah Darr, Salt Fork/Westville, So., Mid.    1
Jordan Romo, Salt Fork/Westville, Jr., F    1
Elijah Yates, Hoopeston/B-H, Jr., F    1
Top Returning Defensive Players
Mason Jett, Hoopeston/B-H, Jr., Sweeper    4
Top Returning Goalkeeper
Landon Turner, Oakwood/A-P, So., G    1
In the 13 years since Schlarman added soccer, the school has enjoyed 13 winning seasons. The Hilltoppers’ cumulative record entering this year is 197-70. The 100th win came in the seventh year of the program. The 200th win could come in the 14th year.