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News story: City-Suburban Connect Invitational team capsules

By Patrick Z. McGavin , 03/12/24, 3:30PM CDT


One of the early highlights of the new season is the third edition of the City-Suburb Connect Invitational that began with a flourish with five games on opening day Monday.

The field has grown every season and now features 10 teams. 

Four of the five suburban programs come out of the West Suburban Conference Silver Division, which ranks this season as one of the best as the best in the Chicago-coverage area with the DuPage Valley Conference, Central Suburban League South Division, North Suburban Conference and DuKane Conference  Emerging powerhouse Oswego East, of the Southwest Prairie Conference,  is the fifth and final program outside the city limits.

The other half of the field features many of the best public and private programs in Chicago.

The three Public League programs — Young, Jones and Payton — hail from the top-level Premier divisions. The other pair of teams are top programs from the Girls Catholic Athletic Conference Red Division – DeLaSalle and St. Ignatius.

The suburban schools made a clean sweep on the opening night of the three-day event. The only game that featured two teams ranked in the Chicagoland Soccer First 50 preseason poll was the most competitive.

Oswego East star Anya Gulbrandsen scored two goals three minutes apart as the Wolves held off a late Young rally for the 2-1 victory.

Every other game featured a suburban shutout of their city counterpart. Downers Grove North defeated Jones and Lyons took down St. Ignatius by the same 4-0 score. 

Invitational host Hinsdale Central defeated DeLaSalle 2-0. York beat short-handed Payton 7-0.

The second round of invitational play is Thursday. The event winds up Saturday.

With a few days off until the start of the second stage on Thursday, here is an opportunity to take a deeper dive into teams.


Coach: Carlos Nunez
2023 record and state advancement: 17-5-5, fourth in Class AA
First 50 ranking: 32
Key players to watch: Midfielders Sissi Loza, Imani Coleman, Kennedi Carpenter, Dixie Zamago, Sarah Murray, forward Mia Ortega, 
Quotation: “We’re looking forward to developing team chemistry and starting the season off strong. We want to see where our weak points lie within the team so we know where we need to improve further down the season.” Mia Ortega, senior forward
Outlook: The Meteors return virtually their entire team from their first-ever state finals run, including four double-digit goal scorers in Loza (27), Ortega (14), Coleman (14) and Zamago (12).

Downers Grove North

Coach: Martin Manzke
2023 record and state advancement:10-11-2, lost 4-2 to Downers Grove South in the Addison Trail Regional championship game
First 50 ranking: NR
Key players to watch: Keeper Gianna Hunsche, defender Addison Liszka, defender/midfielder Ava Locker, midfielder Ellie Watts, forward Sophia Patrey.
Outlook: A strong collection of returning players should maintain the program’s continuity for its new coach.

Hinsdale Central

Coach: Tony Madonia
2023 record and state advancement: 16-8-2, 3A supersectional qualifier
First 50 ranking: 19
Key players to watch: Defenders Ryann Knapp, Julia Marinaccio and Addisyn Krogstie,, midfielders Cate McDonnell, Avery Edgewater and Peyton Rohn, forwards Grace Sakolosky and Claire Snodgrass.
Quotation: “This is a very competitive group that seems hyper-focused thus far. Our newcomers are confident and fitting right into the returning group. There is a palpable excitement in the air.” Tony Madonia, coach
Outlook: With eight starters back from a supersectional qualifier, this version of the Red Devils looms as their most talented, versatile and balanced roster since the state runner-up team in 2013. Edgewater, who had 13 goals and three assists last season, is the leading returning scorer.


Coach: Derek Bylsma
2023 record and state advancement: 14-8-0, lost to Young in regional semifinal
First 50 ranking: 46
Key players to watch: Keeper Ruby Miller, defenders Ellie Ceraso, Karina Telez and Leann Guidi, midfielder Lali Leal, forward Aiyana Wright. 
Quotation: “We are very young, but we have several star players, solid defense and goalkeeping. We have some key role players back, and two of our new players are exceptional. I expect us to be very competitive, and I think we are capable of winning the Premier, and playing in the city championship game.” Derek Bylsma, coach
Outlook: The Eagles return eight key rotation players from just the second team ever to reach a city championship game. Sophomore forward Wright was electrifying in scoring 20 goals and contributing 13 assists in her breakout freshman season.


Coach: Bill Lanspeary
2023 record and state advancement: 21-2-1, lost to Hinsdale Central in sectional championship game
First 50 ranking: 5
Key players to watch: Defender/midfielder Izzi Wirtz, defenders Caroline McKenna and Jillian Herchenroether, midfielders Carolina Capizzi, forwards Caroline Mortonson and Josie Pochocki.
Quotation: “Like everyone, we have some big shoes to fill with the graduation of our seniors. We return a lot of players, and we are excited about them stepping up their leadership and style of play. We are also looking forward to what our newcomers bring to the team.” Bill Lanspeary, coach
Outlook: Mortonson is a top-five junior in the state, and the Lions’ leading returning scorer with eight goals and 15 assists. Five other players reached double figures in points last year and demonstrated sharp scoring instincts. Capizzi had 11 goals, and is a sophomore on the rise. Lyons has lost a combined five games the last three seasons. Expect the team to rack up a lot more victories.

Oswego East

Coach: Juan Leal
2023 record and state advancement: 12-7-2, lost to Naperville North in regional championship game
First 50 ranking: 18
Key players to watch: Defenders Alex Hoger, Morgan Dick, midfielders Lana Bomstad, Ashley Gumm, Riley Gumm, Natalie Hamilton, forward Anya Gulbrandsen.
Quotation: “We are looking to make a big splash with a fast-tempo offense, and a lot of veteran experience. We are trying to give up fewer goals. We understand that everyone will have to take part in the offense as teams look to keep an eye on Anya and Riley. We have a deep bench that will allow us to take a rest and not miss a beat.” Juan Leal, coach.
Outlook: The Wolves have seven returning starters, keyed by one of the best players in the country, Gulbrandsen. The Wisconsin recruit had 30 goals and eight assists last season. The team features two fantastic threats in midfielder Gumm and two-way talent Dick, an elite athlete who will attend Kentucky on a track scholarship.


Coach: Paul Escobar
2023 record and state advancement: 11-9-1, lost to Fenwick in AA sectional championship game.
First 50 ranking: NR
Key players to watch: Defender Catherine Cupps, midfielders Ajla Gradjan, Norah Cervenka, Chloe Guzik, Isabelle Katz, Violetta Nevarez, forward Felicity Cole. 
Quotation: “Samantha Pilgrim and Magnolia Tryggestad are newcomers who are going to make an impact.” Paul Escobar, coach.
Outlook: The Grizzlies will be without two of their best players with Cole out with an injury and Cupps missing the first two games due to a school trip. The team has firepower and offensive skill.

St. Ignatius

Coach: Pam Whitehead
2023 record and state advancement: 9-8-3, lost to Lane in a regional championship.
First 50 ranking: NR
Key players to watch: Keeper M.C. Galante, defender Emma Penner, midfielder Maeve O’Meara.
Quotation: “I only have two returning seniors in the starting lineup. It’s a young but exciting squad with a lot of soccer talent. I wouldn’t call it a rebuilding year. I will just call it a building year.  We have a very talented new keeper named M.C. Galante. She looks to be a key to our success in this season.” Pam Whitehead, coach
Outlook: Whitehead, the former Oak Forest coach, takes over the Wolfpack program. The team is young though athletic and skilled.


Coach: Stevan Dobric
2023 record and state advancement: 15-4-2, lost to Hinsdale Central in sectional semifinal
First 50 ranking: 27
Key players to watch: Keeper Ava Lewandowski, defender Mia Pretzie, Ava Hansmann, Mia Barton, Midfielders Michaela Quinn, Stella Kohl, forwards Sophia Musial, Hannah Meyers.
Quotation: “We are looking to build upon our progress last year and raise the bar as high as we can. With 11 returning players and some new senior additions our outlook looks very strong. The girls are focused right now on working hard and getting better every day.” Stevan Dobric, coach.
Outlook: The Dukes were one of the surprise teams last season and look poised to build off that momentum. With two elite Division I recruits in Kohl and Musial, their time is clearly now. 


Coach: Zoe Saphir
2023 record and state advancement: 9-10-2, lost to Hinsdale Central in regional championship game
First 50 ranking: 45
Key players to watch: Defenders Ainsley Christensen, Kate Sweitzer, midfielders Sonia Liew, Lauren Roche, forward Moira Koleno, 
Quotation: “At this point, we just can’t wait to play. We are very excited to be a part of this invitational. We have a great group of seniors leading our team, and some very talented new players. I am confident we are going to have a fun and successful season.” Moira Koleno, junior forward
Outlook: Saphir takes over a program loaded with intriguing and promising young talent. The Dolphins have three foundational talents in forward Koleno, who had a team-best 15 goals and eight assists last year. Roche, one of the best set piece specialists around, had seven goals and six assists. Christensen is a disruptive stopper.


City-Suburban Connect Invitational results/schedule


Monday, March 11

Hinsdale Central 2, DeLaSalle 0
Downers Grove North 4, Jones 0
Lyons 4, St. Ignatius 0
York 7, Payton 0
Oswego East 2, Young 1


Thursday, March 14

Downers Grove North at Young, 7
Hinsdale Central at St. Ignatius, 5
Lyons at DeLaSalle, 7
Payton at Oswego East, 4:30
York at Jones, 7

Saturday, March 16 

Jones at Hinsdale Central, 10 a.m. at stadium
Lyons at Young, 2
Oswego East at St. Ignatius, noon
Payton at Downers Grove North, noon
York at DeLaSalle, noon