With seven sectional titles in the past eight seasons, along with four State tournament appearances in that span, the Lyons Township girls' soccer team opens the 2005 season looking to build on its rich tradition.
Seven starters are back from the LT team that made it all the way to the Elite Eight last season before falling 3-1 to State runner-up St. Charles North.
While the Lions have some holes to patch if they want to return to the State tournament, they'll begin with a solid foundation.
"We were a solid squad last year and have quite a bit back," LT coach Alex Hernandez said. "I think there will be a lot of variables, but everything is relative. We'll see how the season plays out."
The Lions' attack is centered around a pair of midfielders that both committed to continue their careers at Big Ten schools after their juniors seasons.
Illinois-bound Emily Rucker is back after leading the team with 14 assists last season. She also chipped in four goals. Katie Rehor is also back after scoring five goals and notching a pair of assists.
"We're expecting big things out of those two," Hernandez said. "From those two we're hoping to generate a substantial amount of attack."
Laura Kucik (7 goals, 7 assists) and Jackie Hanson (11 goals, 11 assists) return to lead the rotation among forwards, Courtney Curby (5 goals, 2 assists) and Sara Orlelas will anchor the backfield in two of the defender slots, and Jill Kevorkian (2 assists, 2 goals) will also find a regular place on the field after starting last year.
Among newcomers to the starting lineup, Christine Farrel will play up top, but could also see time at defender. Jacquelin Kogut and Joanna Dreyer will also work into the rotation.
Every other spot is up for grabs, including goalkeeper. After allowing only 21 goals last season, how that position shapes up is Hernandez' biggest concern going into this year. He has five players vying for the spot.
"Those are big shoes to fill," said Hernandez, referring to departed goalie Brit Pearsall, who saved 85 shots in 2004. "We're still trying to find the right girl to take that position. We have several options and would like to whittle it down to two, but we'll have to wait and see."
LT has already cruised to one win, a 6-0 drubbing of a depleted Larkin team Saturday. In that game, Hanson notched a hat-trick with three goals, while Rehor, Farrel and Beth Talentowski each chipped in one.
Jackie Jenkins and Mary Daley split time in goal and between them faced one shot, which Jenkins saved.
The Lions continue their season Friday at the Lemont invite. That tourney will continue Monday, and the Lions begin their conference schedule April 7 against OPRF, another team that figures to be among the top contenders in the West Suburban (Silver) Conference. Hinsdale Central and Downers North will also be among the top teams.
If things go well, LT will be looking forward to its fifth Elite Eight and third Final Four appearance.
That's a goal Hernandez would like for his team every year.
"I didn't come here all the way from North Carolina to be the average guy," he said. "We want to build towards a program that's going to be competitive at the highest levels every year. It will be tough, but we're blessed to be in our position."
Monday, March 28
LT 6, Reavis 0
(Lions: Casey McMurray 3-run HR, 4 RBIs)
Wednesday, March 23
RB 12, IHM 0
Saturday, March 27
RB 6.5, fifth place
Saturday, March 26
Soccer 6, Larkin 0
Saturday, March 26
Antioch 3, RB 2