Bunch back for goal-oriented Huskies

? Team returns most of front line, including leading scorer Sarah Bunch.

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It's obvious the Oak Park and River Forest soccer team's scoring production this season won't be in question, but it may be the defense that's questionable.

OPRF hasn't changed much from last season. An offense that averaged around three goals per game remains relatively intact after the graduation of five seniors, but something's still amiss. Keeping opponents from scoring is the team's priority this season.

The Huskies scored 80 goals in 26 games last year on their way to a 15-9-2 record. They allowed 37 goals, yet racked up 10 shutouts. Toss in some untimely injuries to key players near the tail-end of the season, and a lousy 2-4 record in the West Suburban (Silver) Conference isn't all that unjustifiable.

"This is one of the most offensive teams I've seen in a long time," said OPRF head coach Doug Hunt. "They don't seem to have trouble scoring goals. It's defense that can at times be a little shaky. But we're working on that."

The Huskies return last season's leading scorer in Sarah Bunch. The junior found net 17 times last season and dished out nine assists. Midfielder Bridget Gallogly, who scored 12 goals last season, returns as a midfielder. Gallogly, now a senior, is a versatile player, said Hunt. "She's not afraid to pass the ball."

Along with the rest of the front line?#34;Jenny Donley, Virginia Young, and Emily Steffen?#34;another of OPRF's main scoring threats, Anna Poppageorge, also returns. Poppageorge scored eight goals last season before suffering a broken nose in an intense game against Fenwick, an opponent the Huskies will not be facing this season.

"It's a great rivalry, but we just weren't able to get it scheduled," said Hunt of the cross-town match-up usually played during OPRF's four-team tournament in midseason. The Huskies aren't hosting a tournament this season. "We were certainly willing, but there can be scheduling conflicts and such."

With the WSC still strong the Huskies will have their share of steep competition. Lyons Township, who knocked OPRF out of the playoffs with a 6-2 defeat in the sectional title game last season, Hinsdale Central and Glenbard West look to be the front runners right now. All return several experienced players.

"We're going to have our work cut out for us again, that's for sure," said Hunt. "But with each game we'll get a little better."

M.G. Huth returns in goal for the Huskies. Huth, who also suffered a broken nose midseason last year, tallied 78 saves in just 14 games played. Other defenders include Amanda Corcos and Amanda Velazquez.

Hunt said he's going to rely on the play of a group of young but experienced strikers in Tori Karsten, Camille Gebert, Clare Sapko and Hali Schwartz, all of which saw time as sophomores on varsity last season.

Newcomers to the team this season include Debi Marter, Molly McGinnis, and Alissa Pullos.

"I'd like to believe we can get back to the sectional, and with a little luck we might have a chance at advancing beyond that," said Hunt. "We have to come together as a team, and play well on both sides of the ball."

Luck has already come in the form of OPRF getting to host not only the regional playoffs this season but the sectional as well.

"It's quite an advantage to be on your own field," said Hunt. "We'll be looking forward to that all season."

The Huskies continue with the Lake Park tournament today (Wednesday) and Saturday, before their home opener against Downers Grove South on Monday (5 p.m.).

Unpredictable season for Friars

A return trip to the Class A State tournament may be a long shot for Fenwick, who lost 10 seniors to graduation after a 19-7-1 season last year, including leading scorer Kelly Hannon who is now playing at Michigan State University.

Hannon led the Friars to the State quarterfinals where they lost 2-1 in overtime to Rockford (Boylan), and eventually finished fourth at the tournament. It was Fenwick's second consecutive year making it to the State Finals. In 2003, the Friars lost to Troy (Triad) 3-1 in the quarterfinals.

Fenwick head coach Tony Hepburn was unavailable for comment.

Attainable goals for Trinity

With eight starters back, Trinity has more than a chance at fulfilling all three of its goals this season. The Blazers, according to head coach Courtney Breen, are aiming to finish above .500 this season, finish near the top of the GCAC Red Division and win a regional title.

The goals are attainable with the return of such offensive threats as Laura Jasiak, Victoria Mora and Sophie Klisz.

The Blazers also boast a solid defense with the return of seniors Christine Montes, Carrie Schwebl, Larissa Gasinksi, Elyse Schmidt and goalkeeper Marisa Garbacz.

Three newcomers to the team expected to contribute right away are Eleni Nikols, Katie Jarger, and Carolyn Rutili.

Trinity travels to Hillside today (Wednesday, 4:30 p.m.) to take on Proviso West.

CONTACT: bspencer@wjinc.com

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