Updated: November 23, 2012 6:10AM
Coming off a disappointing third-place finish in the 2011 South Suburban Red meet, Evergreen Park came into the 2012 season with some key holes to fill.
Having lost a strong senior contingent from ’11, the Mustangs were skeptical, but a strong senior class has stepped up. Evergreen Park finished undefeated in regular-season conference meets.
Seniors Britney Andersen, Kasey Nolan, Erin Nielsen, Kate Easterhouse and Rachel Koronkiewicz all have embraced bigger roles. Andersen and Nolan are co-captains. Underclassmen Stephanie Townsend and Victoria Lambton also have been key swimmers.
“The girls definitely stepped up. We haven’t felt the loss of last year’s seniors as much,” first-year coach Sarah Marshall said. “Undefeated in conference is great, but the conference meet is definitely our goal.”
Last season’s Red finish snapped a five-year conference winning streak for the Mustangs. The team has all the motivation it could need as it prepares to host Saturday’s conference meet.
“The girls are really excited and very motivated,” Marshall said. “They want to take (the conference title) back. We want to change history. They want to go out with a win.”
GIRLS CROSS COUNTRY
Regional champions Marist and Lincoln-Way East weren’t the only Class 3A teams celebrating Saturday after the first step in the state series.
Marist won the Sandburg Regional, but the Eagles, Mother McAuley, Shepard, Stagg, Reavis and Oak Lawn also advanced to Saturday’s Marist Sectional.
Marist was led by individual champion Maggie O’Loughlin while runner-up Sandburg had fourth-place Maggie Sobolewski leading the way. Margaret Hurley (8th) and Bridget McQuinn (9th) were out in front for third-place Mother McAuley.
Individual runner-up Lauren Loomis led Shepard to fourth place and could be among the Southland’s top runners downstate. Stagg’s Hannah Lustig (17th), Reavis’ Michele Lewellen (19th) and Oak Lawn’s Bushra Hamad (27th) were the No. 1 finishers for their qualifying teams. Lincoln-Way East won the Andrew Regional and Lincoln-Way North, Andrew, Thornton, Homewood-Flossmoor, Bloom and Marian Catholic also advanced to Saturday’s Normal Sectional. Lincoln-Way East’s Sami Ostmann and Kaley McLawhorn finished 1-2 ahead of Bloom’s Gina Narcisi (3rd) and Lincoln-Way North’s Abby Casey (4th) and Carly Marchal (5th).
Andrew’s Maggie Schultz (13th), Thornton’s Autumn Jeffers (14th), H-F’s Idara Eno (12th) and Marian Catholic’s Emily Wegrzyn (26th) were the top runners for their qualifying teams. Thornwood qualified three individuals led by sophomore Misty Rogers (24th).
Sisters Lexi and Lisa Chionis accomplished plenty during a memorable season at Chicago Christian. They each went 2-2 at the state meet after posting 24-0 marks during the regular season.
“I was very proud that both girls finished so well, but not surprised,” Chicago Christian coach Linda Hamstra said. “The rest of the team looks up to these two players, being aware of how much time, work and commitment is involved to get to this level.”
Lexi ends her career as a four-time state qualifier and sectional finalist, winning a pair of sectional championships in the process.
At the Private School League meet, Lisa, a sophomore, won the No. 1 singles title and Lexi, a senior, took first at No. 2 singles. Lisa also was voted the league’s Player of the Year.
“I’m so glad that Lisa won this year.” said Lexi, who was the conference’s Most Outstanding Player the previous two seasons. “She is a great player and deserves the recognition.”
Homewood-Flossmoor’s Faith Huckabee ended a stellar senior season by going 5-2, just missing out on an individual medal at the state meet. Huckabee, who went 34-3 on the season, helped the Vikings take seventh in the state. It was the second top 10 finish in a row for H-F, which placed fifth last year.
Reavis went on a bit of a slide late in the regular season, but a win over Lemont in a regular-season finale gave the Rams momentum heading into the playoffs.
Reavis beat Oak Lawn 3-0 and Marist 1-0 to win its own regional and will meet Sandburg in Tuesday’s Class 3A Lincoln-Way Central Sectional semifinal.
“(The win over Lemont) was definitely big,” Reavis midfielder Kamil Szczesniak said. “It gave us confidence. It was the first time we beat them and it put our spirits up.”
Szczesniak scored twice in the win over Oak Lawn. Rafal Slomba was in goal for both shutouts.
Tuesday’s Class 2A Lincoln-Way West Sectional semifinal between Tinley Park and St. Laurence will feature two teams having historic seasons. The Titans (13-12-1), who beat host Marian Catholic 1-0 in Saturday’s regional final, have set a school record for wins while St. Laurence’s 2-1 win over St. Rita on Saturday gave the Vikings their first regional title since 1998. St. Laurence also went through the Catholic League White unbeaten for the second straight season, going 5-0. “It’s really big to win conference two years in a row,” St. Laurence’s Luis Avila said. “It shows that we’re making progress.”