Chart toppers: Best fall playoff bets, courtesy Fred Kroner
The Chargers already have three players with at least 100 assists (Paulina Nottingham, Maddie Weldon and Lexi Hall) and soon will have three others with at least 100 kills (Rachel Jones, Lauren Cloyd and Kara Johnson). Johnson had 98 prior to Tuesday’s match against Champaign Central. Perhaps, however, neither setting nor hitting is the team’s strength. “I feel this is the most solid group of passers we have had,” said Centennial coach Stan Bergman, whose team is chasing a sixth successive 30-win season. Lindsay Rogan is a second-year libero. The versatile Johnson has been a model of consistency. Libby Cocagne is nearing full strength after an ankle injury and is making huge contributions. Behind them are Kelsey Olion, Jordin Hopkins, Alya Dew and Miaya Peacock, a group Bergman said “are all amazing passers.” Cloyd and Olion are the only Chargers who have played in each of the team’s first 44 sets. “I really like the depth that we have, and each player brings something unique to the table,” Bergman said. “They are a very respectful, fun group of girls that have a love of God, each other, this game and their families.”
The defensive unit continues to excel. Through six games, all wins, the first-team defense has yielded one touchdown. Overall, No. 6 B-H has allowed two TDs. The veteran unit is making it tough for opponents to even move the ball. Last week’s opponent, Oakwood/Armstrong-Potomac, ended its first eight possessions with a punt and managed 83 total yards of offense (41 against the B-H first team). The front four, with ends Morgan Supergan and Austin Reinken along with tackles Cole Acton and Zack Akins, ranks as three of the team’s top four tacklers. The linebacking corps is solid with Kevin Allen, Mo Abbed, Luke Horton and Braedon Lappin-Pratt. Quarterback Caleb Bergman is one of the area’s most efficient passers. Seven of his 20 completions have resulted in touchdowns, and none of his 37 attempts has been intercepted. His teammates, meanwhile, have picked off 10 passes. B-H is seeking its first unbeaten regular season in more than a quarter century. The 1985 team was the last 9-0 one entering the playoffs. The current senior class also has a chance to become the winningest one for four years. It has 26 wins. The Class of ‘88 had 29 wins.
Danville girls’ tennis
The defending sectional champion Vikings swept the top two positions last year in doubles. Three of the four girls who advanced to state were underclassmen. Sisters Rachael and Becca Lewis are back as the No. 1 doubles team. “With all the difficulties that being sisters brings to the tennis court, they do a good job of getting along on the court and like playing with one another,” Danville coach Mark Bacys said. Junior Amy Shah, who qualified for state last year with a senior, is adjusting well to her new partner, Neha Patel. “I did not expect them to be as good as they are right from the start,” Bacys said. The other surprise heading into this weekend’s Big 12 Conference meet, the coach said, is “Taylor Ellis in singles. Her confidence has grown by leaps and bounds from the start of the season. She was struggling going into the Mattoon Invite, then won the No. 2 singles flight, and she has gotten better every time out since then.” She placed third last weekend at Bloomington. “For the first time, we had a summer training program to get them in shape, which really has helped with conditioning this year as well as some more team bonding,” Bacys said.
Urbana boys’ soccer
Some might say the Tigers’ 12-0-1 start is due to averaging more than four goals during the first 13 matches. Coach Randy Blackman looks at the success another way. “I’m very, very pleased how stubborn our defense is and how well they play,” Blackman said. “They are the guys who never get any ink. They are the unsung heroes, and they have been very good.” Senior goalkeeper Brian Summers is playing soccer for the first time in high school. Two other seniors, Gerardo Barreda and Carlos Rodriguez, are top contenders. “The competition still goes on, week by week,” Blackman said. In front of them are players who ease the burden for the goalkeepers. Darian Gingold and Joey Lund are the center backs. They are flanked on the outside by Caine Huart and Kevin Lopez-Olvera. Huart was on the junior varsity team last year, and Lopez-Olvera missed last year with an injury, but Blackman said “they look like they’ve been playing for years. Caine is so solid. He has improved by leaps and bounds. They’ve all done a nice job.” Through 13 matches, nine opponents have gone scoreless, and the defense has yielded six goals.
Mahomet-Seymour girls’ golf
The Bulldogs ended the regular season with a 16-1 record for dual and triangular meets. “Up to this point, the team is one of the best we have had for a number of years,” coach Matt Mills said. “The girls have really built on the success from last season.” The Bulldogs placed sixth in last year’s Class 1A state tournament and three of the girls who competed at state are among this year’s leaders: Brooklyn Hildreth, Amber Tabaka and Emily Trolia. Also in the M-S lineup are Madeline Birckbichler, Keegan Gagne and Lexus Hornsby. The Bulldogs are hosting their own 13-school 1A regional today at Lake of the Woods. “I feel great about the group heading into the postseason,” Mills said. “The girls have put in a lot of work to become more consistent and get ready for the regional.” Entering the regional, Hildreth, Tabaka and Trolia have nine-hole averages that rank among the area’s top six. At stake for the Bulldogs is the chance to capture the first regional championship in girls’ golf in school history. Last year’s team was second at the regional. Last year’s state champions, Normal University High, are now in Class 2A.