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SOCCER COLUMNIST

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CHUCK RACE

Silver lining department: Yes, it was disappointing to see the injury-depleted Oak Park and River Forest girls' soccer team lose to arch-rival Lyons Township in the sectional championship, but let's look at the bright side! The Huskies:

? Tied for first place at 5-1 in the West Suburban (Silver) Conference with perennial powerhouses Hinsdale Central and Lyons Township (whom OPRF defeated during the conference season 1-0);

? Enjoyed their third consecutive winning season, finishing this year at 17-5-1;

? Had six players named to the All-conference team (most of any team): Bridget Gallogly, Virginia Young, Amanda Velasquez, M.G. Huth, Sarah Bunch, and Amanda Corcos;

? Hosted the first girls' soccer sectional, thanks to the revamped athletic facilities and new parking garage (missing only lights at the stadium to complete the picture!);

? Look forward to a solid future, thanks to a strong and growing club soccer program. The OPRF Strikers and River Forest Rapids are each fielding three high school-club girls' teams in the fall.

Fenwick advanced to sectional championship: Like their cross-town counterparts, the Friars also advanced to their sectional championship, but fell to a strong St. Ignatius team 3-2. The going may get tougher for Fenwick starting next season. Thanks to the IHSA's new demarcation for school size, the Friars will move from Class A competition to Class AA.

Strikers enjoy record tryouts: Close to 400 boys' and girls' tried out for OPRF Striker teams recently, creating a total of 25 travel teams for the fall. The challenge now for Daniel Corcos and the Striker board is to find enough field space to accommodate this record level of teams. The Strikers have worked hard to forge relationships with both park districts and other field owners such as Dominican and Concordia, but more sharing needs to occur.

Club Spring results: Congratulations to coach Gavin Richards and his River Forest Rapids U9 and U11 teams for their strong finish this Spring. The U9s, promoted to the B Division this spring were neck and neck as of this writing in a battle for first. The U11 girls also have had a strong season, currently third in a balanced C Division. The Rapids U12 girls, coached by Cat Chicos and Dennis Dunaway have struggled at the top in the A Division, facing the best teams in the state week in and week out. The team will be challenged to continue their high standard as several top girls are reportedly switching to other clubs in the fall.

But win-loss records don't always measure the success of a youth soccer team. Take the two U14 Strikers girls' teams. Created out of a mini-merger of last years' Rapids U13 and Strikers U13 teams, the Strikers fielded Orange and Navy teams last fall. Coached by David Parker, the Orange team captured first place in the C Division last fall, earning the girls a promotion to B this spring. Against better competition, the Orange team distinguished themselves with a 4-4-1 record and a positive goal differential. The Navy team, led by Mark Bicocchi, is unbeaten in their division as of this writing. Girls on both teams played at a level that challenged their abilities, providing a formula for better soccer development to both clubs.

CONTACT: crace822@

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