One of the most exciting parts of sports are tracking two young and emerging programs operating on the same timeline and converging at something close to their apex.
Welcome to a top, young rivalry in the White Division of the Girls Catholic Athletic Conference.
North Side against South Side. Let it ride.
From the North comes Class A upstart DePaul, coming off a breakthrough 14-5-3 campaign a year ago.
On Tuesday afternoon, the runnerup Rams travel to defending champ De La Salle for a pivotal showdown in the 2023 league race.
“We know De La Salle really well,” DePaul coach Tim O’Reilly said. “They are a very well-coached, well-organized team that plays an up-tempo and physical style.
“They’re very good at it. That is going to be the key to the game -- the team that is able to set the pace of play and who is going to have the better of it.”
The teams enter play riding a combined 10-game win streak.
DePaul (4-0-0, 1-0-0) has posted two shutouts and dominated its foes with a 27-3 goal-differential through the first three weeks of the season.
De La Salle (6-1-0, 1-0-0) began the season with 4-2 loss against Class 3A Riverside-Brookfield in the opening round of the Windy City Ram Classic.
Four of the victories of its current six-game win streak have come via shutout -- De La Salle has a goal differential of 26-2 during its current streak.
Illustrating their emergence, both programs are ranked.
DePaul is listed at no. 6 in Class A; De La Salle is ranked no. 4 in Class AA their respective Chicagoland Soccer Super 7 polls.
The teams ascendancy was predictable given the talent of their underclass, which was highlighted on the Chicagoland Soccer Watch List last year.
De La Salle was represented by midfielder/forwards Mia Ortega, Imani Coleman and Kennedi Carpenter.
DePaul was headlined by forward Ava Bucholz and midfielder Eleanor Farrel.
With the graduation of Ellie Andrews, the Rams’ leading scorer who had 25 goals and nine assists last year, Bucholz has emerged as the top player.
She has scored eight goals and posted two assists. Farrell has two goals and three assists.
The scoring has been evenly distributed through the first four games. Nine different players have scored goals.
Eight different players have registered at least one assist.
“Ava works super hard,” O’Reilly said.
“She is not afraid of doing the dirty work that you have to do to create opportunities. She gets great support from the rest of the team.”
Junior Ellie Glunz has five goals and four assists. Freshman Lucia Trautman has five goals and two assists.
“We graduated seven seniors last year, but we had a really strong group of freshmen who came in this year,” O’Reilly said.
“We’ve been doing a good job of blending well with our veteran players, and that has really helped us jell quickly, especially offensively.”
De La Salle defeated DePaul 4-1 last year as part of its perfect run through the White Division.
The Meteors’ historic 21-4-0 season ended with a tough and highly contested Class AA supersectional loss against Fenwick.
The team is showing evidence that the run was no fluke.
The Meteors are here to stay.
After the tough, opening loss, De La Salle ran the table to capture the Windy City Ram Classic consolation title.
The Meteors feature speed, skill and a highly diverse attack.
The goals have come from literally all sides and angles.
Ten different players have scored at least one goal. Four players have already scored at least four goals.
“Sissi Lopez has done a nice job for us,” coach Carlos Nunez previously told Chicagoland Soccer.
“Sophia Torres has been playing well for us with our captain down, Mia Loza, who hasn’t played a second of soccer yet because of an injury.”
As much attention has naturally focused on the prolific scoring, the Meteors have been steady and solid in the back with keeper Emily Samuels. She has received strong support from a backline of Sophia Torres, Lauren Torres, Vicky Luna and Joanna Mullen.
De La Salle’s run over the past couple seasons has been years in the making. After the lost pandemic-season of three years ago, De La Salle returned with a dominant, undefeated regular-season run and finished 14-1-1.
The Tuesday showdown is just the newest and most concrete evidence of two programs whose time has come.