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Feature story: Wheaton Warrenville South looks forward to success

By Tomas Moran, Wheaton Warrenville South student journalist, 04/13/23, 11:00AM CDT


With about 30 percent of the season completed, Wheaton Warrenville South has a respectable record of 2-3-1 after facing difficult opposition.

The season-opening 2-2 tie at Waubonsie Valley on March 15 set the pace for a sharp start against competitive teams.

A 3-0 home win against Oswego followed and suggested the Tigers’ skill. Goalkeeper Marilyn Dixon made 12 saves, and the hosts got goals from Ashlyn Adams, Lauren Barnett and Kate Hartnett.

On March 23, Wheaton Warrenville South extended its season-opening unbeaten streak to three matches with a 1-0 upset victory over Oswego East, which was then ranked sixth in the Chicagoland Soccer Top 25. Lily Petrie’s goal made the difference in a contest that saw a combined 16 shots from both teams. 

“We’ve come together very quickly to work and win a few games early on,” remarked senior midfielder Kate Gronlund. “I think we’ve played with a lot of heart in our first few games to do our best, and I think that’s contributed to our success.”

The offense has produced eight goals, tallied six assists and generated 51 shots on target in six games.

Adams is leading the team in scoring with three goals with Hartnett right behind at two. Both have contributed one assist. 

A variation in the team’s formation from past years has resulted in a boost to the offense. 

“We’re playing with two strikers up-top, so two nines instead of what we usually did, just one striker,” noted Hartnett. “I think that’s also helped a lot. Our goal every game -- get a certain amount of shots on frame or on net.”

Metea Valley, which has been the only team ranked no. 1 team in the Top 25 this season, was the only team to maintain a clean-sheet against Wheaton Warrenville South in a 2-0 win April 11. 

As usual, weather has caused uncertainty regarding the schedule. An early game against Washington (Chicago) was postponed to May 6; a matchup with Burlington Central was canceled. 

Wheaton Warrenville South looks forward to warmer weather and more wins.

“We’re all still very excited about the season,” stated Hartnett. “I don’t think it takes too much of a turn on the team, because we’re all still excited and looking forward to the games.”

Wheaton Warrenville South’s midfield has been successful in organizing play and pushing forward. Anchored by Gronlund and her classmates Carrie Harvey and Mollie Nolan, the group’s dictation of the pace of games has been a key for the Tigers.

“I think it’s definitely combining passes with each other and playing together to try and work into the next third of the field and get opportunities,” remarked Gronlund.

Senior Madelyn Doherty has the role of team manager, which encompasses various responsibilities vital to the squad’s success.

“I handle a lot of the social media content,” said Doherty. “I’m the link between the trainer and dealing with injuries, and then the coaching staff. I help with some pregame setup and just try to keep the girls positive.”

The DuKane Conference is an elite group, notably featuring two of the current top 10 teams in the Chicagoland Soccer Top 25 -- St. Charles North and St. Charles East. Although South already lost 3-1 to the then 11th-ranked North Stars in a hard-fought away match, there are still plenty of opportunities left for quality results in conference play.

“I’m very excited about the conference games just because I feel like we came together very fast and very well,” noted Hartnett. “I think that we’ll have a lot of success this season.”

Added head coach Guy Callipari: “We need to play against teams that bring a struggle of sorts, so that we can see where we have issues, so that we can hopefully create solutions or a game plan that suits the types of teams that we’re playing.”

Senior leadership has been crucial to Wheaton Warrenville South’s play at the start of the season. Experience from the upperclassmen, who have been part of two-straight regional championships, has proven to be a difference-maker.

“We’ve got seven seniors, including our manager,” remarked assistant coach Aaron Press. “They’ve been phenomenal at getting our girls ready to go right from the start. 

“They’re performing on the field as well. We’re getting some great performances from our seniors up-top; they’re putting goals in the back of the net for us. Then our seniors throughout the backline are keeping teams at bay.”

The early stage of the season has brought tactical experimentation from the coaching staff. Different formations have been attempted, as well as the introduction of various styles of play depending on the situation. Every game further establishes the Tigers identity as a team, reaffirming their strengths and improving their chemistry.

“They’ve been extremely flexible with us,” stated Press. “We’ve obviously come up with lots of different ideas as a coaching staff in trying to make them the most successful group out there at any given moment. They’re adjusting great on the fly with us.”

Wheaton Warrenville South hopes to halt its three-match losing streak: the aforementioned match against St. Charles North; a tightly contested 2-1 home defeat to Hinsdale Central, and the loss versus Metea Valley. 

“Looking at the Hinsdale Central game, we could have responded better to the defeat to St. Charles North,” said Callipari. “That was earned by St. Charles North without a doubt. … Both teams (the Tigers and Hinsdale Central) were fairly deserving of possibly a tie, but it didn’t work out for us on that day.”

Replicating the success of the first three games of the season is essential for Wheaton Warrenville South. 

“It’s just a great opportunity to kind of see where you stand,” noted Press. “Kind of where we fit in throughout the whole year. Every day we’re going to get another opportunity to hopefully improve and get better and see where we are.”

Wheaton Warrenville South will try to turn things around but has some tough assignments coming up. The Tigers’ opener at the Body Armor event at 10:15 a.m. Saturday in Schaumburg is 2022 Class 3A third place state finisher Lincoln-Way Central. After another bracket game Sunday, DuKane Conference play resumes April 18 versus sixth-ranked St. Charles East.