Naperville Central High School‘s soccer team turned to Chris Prince to fill a scoring role this year. And now, the goals are coming at a record rate.
Prince‘s 23 goals entering Illinois Class 3A tournament play broke a single-season record that had stood at soccer-rich Naperville Central for more than 20 years. His 34 career goals tied a school record, and was certain to break a record in postseason play.
A University of Wisconsin recruit, Prince is a big reason why the Redhawks entered the tournament with a 12-3-2 record and No. 4 seed in the Downers Grove South Sectional, which is loaded with Naperville teams. Naperville Neuqua Valley is the No. 1 seed and rival Naperville North is No. 2.
Prince showed his domination in a 4-1 upset win over Wheaton Warrenville South, the sectional's No. 3 seed, in a DuPage Valley game Oct. 13. Prince scored three goals against a team that had lost just twice. His offensive play impressed the opposing coach not only on that night, but bunches of other nights this fall.
"He was starting to be a man among the boys a little bit. Somebody had to come in and change that, and nobody did. He stood tall," WW South coach Guy Callipari told the Sun-Times News Group.
Even after a game in which North shut out Central and Prince 1-0 earlier this month, North coach Jim Konrad, brother of Central head coach Jay Conrad, walked away impressed.
"He is a special player. … He is on the ball every time. He serves the ball with either foot and is dangerous going to the ball," Jim Konrad told the Sun-Times News Group.
The Redhawks will need Prince's offensive touch to advance through a solid Class 3A field which will conclude its tournament with the title game Nov. 7 at (where else?) Naperville. Central survived a regional match against Oswego East on Tuesday night, winning in double overtime. At 2 p.m. Saturday at Plainfield North, the Redhawks will face Aurora West, the No. 5 seed in the Downers Grove South Sectional, for a regional title.
After that, what likely would await the Redhawks is a sectional semifinal against powerful Neuqua Valley and after that, a sectional title game against Naperville North or WW South. All four Naperville powers were packed into the same sectional.
Despite all this soccer prowess in Naperville, Neuqua Valley was ousted in the Class 3A semifinals last year by state champ New Trier and no team from Naperville has won a state title in boys soccer since Neuqua Valley in 2003. Central played for the title in 1988, but has never won it.
* Almost half of the approximately 2,100 students at St. Charles East High School were out with the flu this week, resulting in the postponement of the school's home football game against St. Charles North until perhaps Saturday. Two volleyball matches were canceled. The school was to be closed three days this week, through Friday. East can clinch the Upstate Eight football championship with a win over rival North. "We were joking around that swine flu is not going to slow us down," head coach Mike Fields told the Sun-Times News Group.
* Hinsdale Central's girls tennis team will go after its fourth consecutive state championship this week at Prospect High School. The Red Devils already have an IHSA-record 11 state championships. The team has several nationally ranked players, including seniors Nida Hamilton and Hanna Mar, and the No. 2-seeded doubles team of freshman Marika Cusick and sophomore Kristy Hamilton.
* Bolingbrook will go for at least its second consecutive Southwest Suburban Blue title on Friday when it plays at Lincoln-Way Central. The Raiders (7-1, 5-1) are tied with Lincoln-Way East for first place, but defeated the Griffins 46-24 two weeks ago. The league can still have a four-way tie for first place if Lincoln-Way Central (6-2, 4-2) knocks off Bolingbrook, Lincoln-Way East (7-1, 5-1) loses to Thornton and Lockport Township (6-2, 4-2) defeats Sandburg. In the last two seasons, Bolingbrook has lost just one league game.
3-peats for St. Viator, Payton
Ring up three straight for the golf team at St. Viator Arlington Catholic and the girls volleyball team at Walter Payton College Prep.
St. Viator became the third golf team in state history to win three consecutive championships, winning the Class 3A boys title with a two-day score of 611. Dan Stringfellow, a senior, was individual medalist with a score of 144.
"I think this group goes down in history with the great teams in other sports, like Peoria Manual (basketball) and East St. Louis (football)," St. Viator coach Jack Halpin told the Sun-Times News Group.
Meanwhile, in Chicago, Payton's girls volleyball squad won its third consecutive Public League championship, defeating city rival Whitney Young 25-19, 12-25, 27-25 in the title game played at the University of Chicago. Michelle Schultz, a 5-foot-8 sophomore, had 10 kills, 10 digs and 10 assists for Payton (24-5), which is a No. 2 sectional seed in the upcoming Class 3A state tournament.
Golf: H-F blasts AA girls field
This year, there was no doubting the girls golf team at Homewood-Flossmoor High School. The Vikings won the Class AA state championship at Carbondale's Hickory Ridge Golf Course by 41 strokes last weekend, the second-largest margin in Illinois history, as H-F won its sixth state golf title. One year ago, the Vikings lost the title by two shots. H-F had a 612 total.
"Everyone played their game. If there was any pressure on us to win, I think we used it to our advantage," H-F sophomore Lauren Dawson told the Chicago Tribune.
Hoffman Estates Conant's Kris Yoo repeated as individual champion with a score of 145, although she needed a one-hole playoff to defeat Hayley Guyton of Maple Park Kaneland.
Other winners: Class A girls, Metropolis Massac County; Class 3A boys, St. Viator Arlington Heights; Class 2A boys, Normal University and Wheaton Academy (co-champs); Class 1A boys, St. Anthony Effingham.
Paul Bowker, a sports journalist for 25 years who has worked at newspapers nationwide, covers the Chicago area for MaxPreps. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.