DUNELAND ATHLETIC CONFERENCE
Players to watch: Jacob Garmany, Sr., G; Kody Lobsiger, Jr., MF; Ben Molnar, Sr., F; John Morris, Sr., MF.
Outlook: Seven starters return from last year's youthful squad, which picked up the program's second straight sectional crown. Molnar, the reigning team MVP, will lead the offense. Sophomore midfielder Jonathan Blake, a regional Olympic Development Program player, headlines a list of newcomers.
Quote: "We have some exciting new players that give us reason to be very optimistic about this year." !~ Coach Jamie Sensibaugh
Players to watch: Zach Sneiderwine, Jr., F; Anthony Zervos, Jr., D; Bay Kurtz, So., MF; Dan Naumoski, Sr., D; Nyle Fuerstenberg, Sr., F; Nico Garcia-Vicente, Jr., MF; Brett Bayer, Sr., D.
Outlook: Crown Point suffered just one DAC loss to defending state champion Lake Central, and the Bulldogs return a very strong core. The Bulldogs should remain one of the elite teams in Northwest Indiana. Sneiderwine is one of the top scoring threats in the DAC and Indiana.
Quote: "We've got a good group of guys who work really hard. We're looking to play our best soccer by the season's end." !~ Coach JR Rosenbaum
Players to watch: Randy Maksimik, Sr., D; Josh Crague, Jr., F; Kyle Uzubell, Sr., MF; Ethan Donovan, Sr., MF; Nick Schultz, Sr., D.
Outlook: The losses of several talented seniors will definitely hurt the defending state champions, but the Indians' dictionary of soccer doesn't list the word "rebuild." Maksimik and Schultz will be solid in the back, while Crague should get plenty of chances for scoring opportunities. Expectations are still high for the perennial powerhouse.
Quote: "They've done a really good job of moving the ball, and they're anxious to get the season started. We have a lot of new kids in different roles." !~ Coach Jereme Rainwater
Players to watch: Josh Aaron, Jr., MF/F; Michael Gazdick, D, Jr.; Zach McCoy, Sr., MF; Mark Nelson, Sr., G.
Outlook: McCoy and Aaron lead the offense for the Slicers. The Slicers could surprise some league opponents this season.
Quote: "We anticipate some good things from our experienced core of players." !~ Coach Chris Buresh
Players to watch: Austin Jamerson, Jr., SW; Manny Calvillo, Sr., F; Luis Sanchez, Jr., F; Peter Berlanga, Jr., D; Miguel Lagunas, Jr., MF.
Outlook: The Pirates lack in senior leadership but certainly aren't short on up-and-coming freshmen. Five seniors and 16 freshmen are in the program this year. While it looks to be a bit of a rebuilding year for Merrillville, the future should be bright.
Quote: "We're going to work hard and see where all the puzzle pieces fit. We're looking to get back in the middle of the conference where we've been for a number of years." !~ Coach Brian Past
Players to watch: Charlie Davis, Sr., MF; Aaron Henderson, Sr., MF; James Rubino IV, Sr., MF; Parker Stahl, Sr., F; Lane VanSickle, Sr., G.
Outlook: The Wolves return their top-two leading scorers (Henderson and Stahl), but they lost most of their starters on defense.
Quote: "The key is how the defense develops. We might have to move some of our veteran forward players back. I still think we can compete with anybody." !~ Coach Bruce Stahl
Players to watch: Alex Becker, Jr., D; Donovan Cole, Sr., MF; Logan Cole, Jr.; MF.
Outlook: The Cole brothers are part of an experienced trio which returns for the back-to-back semistate qualifiers. The key to another late-season run rests on the development of some younger players.
Quote: "We're finding a couple of leaders out on the field. Every season is different. It's a challenge to find a good mix of players." !~ Coach Todd Strom
Players to watch: Brent Howard, Sr., MF; Rob McBride, Sr., MF; Ian Ramirez, Sr., G; Berkley Ramsey, Sr., MF/F; John Virgil, Sr., F.
Outlook: The Vikings lost their entire defensive wall to graduation. Ramirez and sophomore defenders Nick Hathoot, Luke Kovar and Caleb Neal will need to gel quickly if Valpo wants to remain successful.
Quote: "I'm really pleased with how the back line has stepped up, learning their keys and working together." !~ Coach Danny Jeftich
GREAT LAKES ATHLETIC CONFERENCE
Players to watch: Arturo Avila, Sr., D; Geovanny Joya, Sr., D.
Outlook: Clark lost a lot of key players to graduation last season, so newcomers will need to step in and fill the gaps. The Pioneers field a very young team but still hope to compete at a high level this season.
Quote: "If we stay healthy, we could possibly surprise some teams when playoff time comes around." !~ Coach Jorge Torres
Outlook: The Gladiators enter a tough sectional this season against Griffith, Highland and Lake Central and will face an uphill battle.
Outlook: The Wildcats will look to improve upon last season and compete well in the GLAC all year.
Players to watch: Jawayne Spence, Sr., F; Roberto Martinez, Jr., D; Jorge Velazquez, Sr., MF.
Outlook: The Governors should have no problem scoring goals this year. Morton aims to be the best team in Hammond and finish the season with a winning record.
Quote: "Our offense can score goals, but the defense needs to keep them out." !~ Coach Chris Jagadich
NORTHWEST CROSSROADS CONFERENCE
Players to watch: Hayden Fogle, Sr., F; Dean Ricciardi, Sr., MF; Connor Gorny, Sr., MF; Michael Gore, So., F; Chris Stazinski, Sr., D.
Outlook: Last season, the 59ers were a very young team with some growing pains. Andrean graduated just one starter from the 2010 team, and team chemistry has been very strong in practice.
Quote: "This is a very close-knit group. We're pretty strong -- about 13-14 in." !~ Coach Pete Reist
Players to watch: Nick Kudyba, Sr., GK; Ryan Avalos, Sr., F; Joe Vaclavik, Sr., D.
Outlook: The Panthers return a much more experienced squad than what they fielded last season. The defense remains intact, and the midfield has another year of experience. The Panthers just need to capitalize on scoring opportunities and limit turnovers.
Quote: "We have some solid seniors on defense and forwards and some talented underclassmen filling the holes. This could be a good year for us." !~ Coach Ron Knestrict
Players to watch: Mike Anderson, Sr., GK; Pablo Baldetti, Sr., D; Joe Mastej, Sr., D; Connor Moynihan, Sr., MF; Milos Galic, Sr., MF; Matt Dyer, Sr., MF; Alex Young, Sr., MF; Mike Bert, Sr., F.; Richard Syvertson, Sr., D.
Outlook: Nine seniors return to the starting lineup for the Trojans, who have steadily improved over the last two seasons. There is experience at every position, so expectations are very high. Anderson has continued to refine his skills at the goalkeeper position. If Highland can stay injury-free, coach Mirko Maric believes his team can have a great season.
Quote: "I think they're hungry. They want to at least win a sectional (championship)." !~ Maric
Outlook: The Brickies will have their work cut out for them, as the sectional realignments put them against Chesterton, Portage and Valparaiso this season.
Outlook: Sectional realignments have put the Kougars in the Merrillville Sectional this season against heavy favorite Crown Point. K.V. won the Lowell Sectional championship last season.
Players to watch: Mike Scott, Sr., MF/F; Matt Edwards, Sr., MF; Aaron Burgans, Sr., D; Erick Tiemens, Sr., D.
Outlook: Lowell hopes to continue to play the way it did last season, when its ball possession made great strides. The NCC will always provide tough competition for the Red Devils, who lost in their own sectional championship to conference foe Kankakee Valley.
Quote: "It seems like we're taking better shots and doing a better job of finishing. It's going to be an interesting season." !~ Coach Chris Werling
Players to watch: Zarko Coric, Sr., F; Sam Smith, Sr., F; Ethan Flahaven, Sr., D; Bart Grabowski, Sr., D.
Outlook: The Mustangs will be one of the most experienced teams in Northwest Indiana this season, fielding a squad that includes 10 seniors. Flahaven moves from goalkeeper out to defense, where coach Jim Prasopoulos said he plays an excellent game. Coric and Smith should form one of the best forward duos in the area.
Quote: "I'm optimistic we can do pretty well. Every team's goal should be to make a deep postseason run. I'm really liking our team chemistry." !~ Prasopoulos
NORTHWEST INDIANA SOCCER CONFERENCE
Players to watch: Angel Zamudio, Sr., F; Gonzalo Romo, Jr., MF; Jerrin Moore, F; Chandler Cardenas, So., D.
Outlook: The splitting of IHSAA boys soccer into two classes should benefit the Warriors greatly. They tied Munster in an early-season game in 2010, proving they can hang with bigger schools. Sectional championships are no stranger to the Warriors, but being grouped with the smaller schools could mean even greater expectations for this season. Zamudio may be the best returning scorer in Northwest Indiana.
Quote: "I expect a lot of offense out of these guys. I've been preaching possession in every practice." !~ Coach Armando Garza
Players to watch: Patrick Cannon, Jr., MF; Patrick Roeder, Jr., G; Nate Wojosinski, Sr., D.
Outlook: 2004 Marquette grad Matthew Fletcher returns to coach the Blazers. With young players like sophomore defender Tommy Anderson, Fletcher believes his squad could fare well in the new two-class postseason format.
Quote: "If we commit to things, I think we really can win (the Class A) sectional and regional. That's what we should aspire to do." !~ Fletcher
Player to watch: Kevin Stone, Sr., G.
Outlook: The Blackhawks look to continue to grow as a program and try to become competitive in the league.
Players to watch: Justin Sloboda, Sr., MF; Gavin Voss, Sr., F; Dave Wozniak, Sr., G.
Outlook: Ben Elvira takes over the program, and he's looking to build a foundation this season.
Quote: "We have so many young players, and they're at different skill levels. This might be a rebuilding year." !~ Elvira
PORTER COUNTY CONFERENCE
Player to watch: Chris Vasquez, Sr., D.
Outlook: Vasquez, the reigning PCC MVP, will be called upon to lead the defense. New keeper Nathan Miller will need Vasquez's help. J.J. Garcia and Clifford Goodfellow will be asked to pick up the offense. Coach Brian Sherwin hopes to make a statement in the newly-formed Class A tournament.
Quote: "We will need to improve our scoring opportunities. We look forward to the new class system and cannot wait to get the season started." !~ Sherwin
Outlook: The Wildcats will enter the Rensselaer Sectional this season as a possible favorite to win it. Another year of experience will help the young talent on the team.
Players to watch: Joe Moser, Sr., G.
Outlook: Zeljko Mijatovic returns for his second season as coach of the Hawks, and the squad hopes to be competitive in both the PCC and NWISC.
Players to watch: Jordan Greavu, Jr., F; Stuart Price, Jr., F/MF.
Outlook: Greavu and Price will need to maintain or even improve their offensive contributions this season for the Mustangs to have success.
Players to watch: Braden Hirstein, Jr., F; Jacob Kemp, Sr., MF; Tim Kemp, Sr., ST; Matt Polito, Sr., SW; Adam Rettinger, Jr., MF; Kyle Winquist, Sr., G.
Outlook: The Cherokees lost just three starters to graduation, plus sophomore forward Ryan Reynolds scored seven goals over his final few games of his first prep campaign.
Quote: "We will come back strong and look to capitalize on the experience of our players. With the right mix, I think we could have one of our best seasons." !~ Coach Stefen Hutchins
Players to watch: Josh Chilel, So., F; Nick Moskwa, Jr., MF; Brian Smrekar, Jr., MF.
Outlook: Joe Nugent takes over as coach. He was previously the coach of Washington Township's recreational league team. His son, Joe Nugent III, and fellow sophomore Ryan Simpson should give the team an added boost.
Quote: "I hope for the best, expect the worst, and I'm sure we'll land someplace in the middle. I think we are capable of building off what we did last season." !~ Nugent.
Players to watch: Itzael Gonzalez, Sr., MF; Oscar Rios, Jr., MF; Esrain Santos, Jr., D; Tony Garcia, Sr., F.
Outlook: The Cardinals will field a young team this season, but coach Costulo Perez said his young players have a great deal of talent. It could be a good season for the Cardinals, who last won a sectional title in 2008.
Quote: "These are the hardest working guys I have ever had. I'm excited about our talent." !~ Coach Costulo Perez
Outlook: Rensselaer was defeated 2-0 by Lowell in last season's Lowell Sectional. The Bombers will look to improve upon that this season, hosting their own sectional.