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Preview story: Jones/Young match the stepping stone to league title

By By Patrick Z. McGavin, 04/19/23, 4:45PM CDT


Boundaries and space have little geographical or cultural importance in city soccer.

The magnet schools dominate the scene, meaning players can be next-door neighbors and rivals.

Young, Jones and Lane have been the standard bearers. Young and Lane are the historic powerhouses; Jones is the insurgent that grew incrementally and now takes its place as a program to watch.

The division and then expansion of the Premier Division this season into two six-team sides has consequences, but the games, as always, remain the same.

Young won the last two regular-season conference titles before the split. The Dolphins reached the city title game last year, losing a heartbreaker against Lane.

Young beat Jones 3-1 to qualify for that game.

No matter how many different ways the path is scrambled, the best play their way to the top.

Now Lane is the team to beat in the Premier North, and Young and Jones are the top contenders in the Premier South.

Lane beat Young 2-0 on March 24. Lane travels to Chinatown on Friday to play Jones.

The game of the moment in the city is the continuation of the Young and Jones budding rivalry with the game Wednesday most likely to dictate the South Division's first regular-season champion.

Young beat Jones 1-0 last year on a late goal by Daphne Murray.

The Dolphins graduated the majority of their offensive firepower, and reconstituted their look and style. After a slow start offensively, Young (3-5-1, 2-0-0) is finding its groove.

The team has scored 20 goals in its last six games.

“With each game we play, we are gaining more confidence, which has helped strengthen our offensive chemistry,” sophomore midfielder Moira Koleno said.

“We have been trying players at different positions,which has added to our recent success.”

She is a link to the past and present, a returning starter from last year’s regional finalist that featured her two sisters, twins Ella and Sydney Koleno, along with Alexis Sassower and Murray. Ella Koleno and Sassower were members of the Chicagoland Soccer All-State Team. Sydney Koleno and Murray were Special Mention picks.

Moira Koleno scored two first half goals in the 7-0 victory Saturday over a Class AA Grayslake Central side weakened after its run in the Lou Malnati’s Deep Dish Classic.

Young sophomore forwards Cassandra Schumacher and Kathryn Greenbaum are developing talents who are gaining more experience and value with each game. 

Celeste Garton and Ainsley Christensen are going to be tasked with slowing down the Jones attack.

“We are definitely gearing up, we’ve had a lot of practices and a lot of games with mixed results,” Koleno said. 

“I think as a team we are so ready for it to all come together, and I know it will. We’ve played a lot of strong teams, and I think we’ve held our own. We are ready to challenge for city and hopefully regionals.”

In the middle, Lauren Roche is the other critical offensive piece.

“I would say that we’ve definitely had an easier time scoring, but we are still struggling a little against the top teams,” she said. 

“I think figuring out positioning and increasing our chemistry has been key.”

Jones is a formidable opponent.

“I’ve played club with a lot of those girls, and they have a lot of talent,” Roche said.

Like Young, Jones (7-4-0, 2-0-0) fought off a slow start and is now playing its best soccer of the year. The Eagles have scored 46 goals in their last eight games, going 7-1-0 during that stretch.

The only setback was a tough 2-1 defeat against Hinsdale Central, which is ranked 18th in the Chicagoland Soccer Top 25.

Now with the Young and Lane home games, the Eagles have their historic measuring tools to gauge their growth. 

“We have been eager to win every game and come out right away with grit,” All-Stater Carolina Rondelli said. “We are especially fired up to play Young. 

“Scoring gets us motivated to score more. We need to be locked in the whole game for our momentum to continue. We see a pattern of fading mid-game and needing to get back into it to make sure we win. We played great against Payton and did not fade once. That is what we have to do against Young.”

Rondelli is the key piece in the middle. Mia McRoberts and Caroline Patterson are the up-top threats. 

Captain Patricia Felder is the emotional leader of the backline. 

“I think the biggest difference that has caused the recent success for our offense is the development of team chemistry and communication between the newer players and senior players, two very vital parts of the game,” Felder said. 

Morgan Scott is another two-way talent. 

The bonds of city soccer culture are strong and run deep.

Up to a point. 

“The rivalry has been strong since I was a freshman,” Felder said. “I think a lot of it comes from most of us knowing each other from club. 

“Both teams respect each other, and we always all want to put our best effort forward and leave everything on the field, which always makes for more competitive but fun games.”

The conference implications are considerable, in connection with seedings for the city tournament. 

Jones has a deeply personal quest. 

“Everyone needs to give it their all and attack the ball,” Rondelli said. “We have never beaten Whitney, which gives us more energy and motivation. We need to come out confident but not cocky and prove to them that we are not easy to play against. 

“I personally learn more during games than practice, because games show me what I need to work on. And I make it my goal to be better the next game. Therefore every game helps me be better for the next and gets me ready for a game like Whitney or Lane on Friday.”