After back-to-back regional championships, Wheaton Warrenville South (ranked 42th in Chicagoland Soccer preseason First 50 poll) is heading into what promises to be another successful chapter. Team captains and seniors Lauren Barnett, Carrie Harvey and Ella McClatchy are optimistic as the 2023 Tigers enter the new season.
“We have been working a lot together as a team,” McClatchy said. “We have a really young team, so we’re working on just forming these connections.”
“Each year the cards are reshuffled, the deck is reshuffled, and you have a lot of new faces,” noted longtime head coach Guy Callipari. “With that, there tends to be a lot of questions, perhaps more than answers, especially early on.”
The Tigers ended the 2022 season with a record of 13-5-3 and a Body Armor bracket championship. An 11-game unbeaten streak featured five DuKane Conference wins that drove Wheaton Warrenville South to a third place league finish.
The conference figures to be incredibly competitive once again. Traditional powers St. Charles East (ranked seventh in the Chicagoland Soccer Top 25) and no. 11 St. Charles North perennially stand as the teams to beat. With Geneva ranked at no. 25, half of the DuKane Conference received preseason and early season recognition.
Darkhorse Wheaton North always poses a challenge.
A 4-1 sectional semifinal defeat to St. Charles North ended Wheaton Warrenville South’s playoff run last spring.
“St. Charles East and St. Charles North are usually the two big powerhouses,” Barnett indicated. “The goal for us this year is to take them on and play as well as we can, come out strong out of those games.
“We won the regional last year, so obviously win the regional again. Try and go further, get to sectionals, the possibility of state. Just really try our best to win the conference and go into every game strong and confident no matter who our competitors are.”
“You have so many teams that are comparable in many aspects, check off a lot of the boxes,” Callipari said. “Time will tell. You only get one shot at it with each team, which makes it very interesting.”
This season presents a special prize – the opportunity to win the program’s 500th victory. The Tigers will achieve that milestone if they hit double-digit wins.
“We’re just trying to start off by reaching those 10 wins first and see what we can do from there,” McClatchy noted.
“It’s good to hear them talk about things like that (500 program wins),” Callipari said. “As long as they don’t miss the details in between that get you there, that’s what’s important.”
Many impactful players graduated from the program. They include Chicagoland Soccer All-State Team honoree Meghan Economos, along with team captains Mallory Cadigan, Elie Farrell and Olivia Vassios. This year’s team captains have that in mind and are ready to take on the mantle.
“Last season, we had some great leadership roles, like Elie (Farrell) and Mal (Cadigan) and Liv (Vassios), who really just kind of inspired us to step into a leadership role.” McClatchy indicated. “Just be there for the team, especially for the younger girls who don’t have as much experience playing at these high competition levels. So, we’re just trying to be as open as we can, as available as we can for them.”
“We have pretty big shoes to fill,” Harvey noted. “But I think us three (Barnett, Harvey, and McClatchy) are very excited to try to meet that standard, and we’re all excited just for the season.”
Wheaton Warrenville South has a balanced mix of new players and upperclassmen leadership. Last season saw eight freshmen make the varsity roster, and many players earned valuable minutes and adjusted to high school’s highest level.
Only two freshmen, Lucy Jethani and Audrey Utz, made it to the top team this season.
“Out in practice, she (Jethani) is a very strong player, so we’re definitely all very excited to see her in the high school competitive environment,” Barnett said.
“All of them (underclassmen) are very mature soccer players for their age,” McClatchy noted. “They can definitely handle playing all the older girls, and you don’t see their age kind of being a weak point for them.”
“I think the idea of coming in and wanting to get after it, to put the best foot forward on the daily, those are things that youth brings along,” Callipari indicated.
Various upperclassmen return to the roster and provide invaluable experience and guidance. Roster depth is key over the course of an arduous season, and the Tigers have plenty of players willing to step up to the challenge.
“Kate Hartnett, she’s a very powerhouse forward,” McClatchy said. “She’s very aggressive, and we’re really looking forward to seeing her out on the field and kind of adding into our attack.”
“You always look to the seniors.” Callipari noted. “They’re the oldest. They’ve been in the program; they understand the value of the jersey, playing with the badge. They understand the traditions that come along with the expectation and the history, and that’s a lot of weight.”
The defense will be anchored by goalkeepers Marilyn Dixon and Utz, with defense from McClatchy, Brooke Ittersagen, Taylor Cooper, Ella Byrnes, Berkley Dylla, Marissa Peterman and Camryn Fleming.
The middle of the pitch will be orchestrated by center midfielders Harvey and Kate Gronlund, along with Lily Petrie, Mia Harbert, Ava Walsh, and Alyse Whaley.
The Tigers will look to outscore opponents with their offensive firepower. 2022 All-DuKane Conference Team honorees Barnett and Ashlyn Adams will attempt to mirror last year’s successful scoring campaign along with Hartnett, Jethani, Molly Spayth and Mollie Nolan.
Senior Madelyn Doherty will serve as the team manager.
Overall, the Tigers’ outlook on the season is hopeful. Competitiveness will lead to the program’s continued success.
It appears the team is on the right track, taking the necessary measures to ensure growth and improvement. They will certainly be a team to watch this season.
“I think if we’re gonna be successful. We have to set short-term goals, long-term goals,” Callipari said. “We have to tend to play for something greater than ourselves.”
Wheaton Warrenville South hosts Oswego in its second match of the season at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday (March 21). The Tigers gained a draw at Waubonsie Valley in their first match of the season March 15.
The Tigers original home-opener against Washington (Chicago) was canceled March 18 due to cold weather.