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Found: The overlooked and underappreciated

Gurnee  Saturday  1/12/13   

Warren High School senior Daniel Szczepanek (Holding trophy) his soccer teammates received their

Gurnee Saturday, 1/12/13 Warren High School senior, Daniel Szczepanek (Holding trophy) and his soccer teammates received their state championship rings during halftime of Saturday's boys basketball game at the school. | Brian O'Mahoney~for Sun-Times Media

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Grayslake North’s girls basketball team has lost just one game all season, but through a set of circumstances that aren’t its fault, has flown under the radar. Basically, what happened was that the Knights were moved from Class 3A to Class 4A (big schools) this year in girls hoops, but the schedule — made in advance — is a Class 3A-heavy schedule. Thus, it’s been impossible to measure Grayslake’s relative strength against any quality 4A team because the Knights don’t play any.

Carmel’s girls gymnastics program has won three straight state team titles — a string that’s going to end in the next month. But because of the ridiculous scores posted by previous Corsair teams, this year’s group’s numbers seem to fall short in comparison. The reality is that this team probably has come as close to maxing out in its team score as Carmel teams did in state-championship years. In other words, this team has done better than expected, not worse.

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Updated: February 16, 2013 6:10AM

Thought about this at 7:30 on Saturday night, which was about the time that members of Warren High School’s boys soccer team were receiving rings commemorating their the state championship they won last fall.

The team was honored during a ceremony at halftime of Warren’s basketball game — a 66-30 thumping of Deerfield in which the Devils led 22-0 after one quarter — but it wasn’t basketball that was bouncing around in the empty space between these ears.

Rather it was how some teams in some sports in some areas of the state — specifically Lake County — just seem to fly under the radar in terms of recognition.

Boys soccer being the prime example.

In the last four years, five teams in the seven-team Lake Division of the North Suburban Conference have reached the Final Four state tournament.

No other league in the state can say that.

Yet, it feels like each year when our team finishes first or second or third or fourth, it’s a “surprisingly strong finish” by a team that caught fire at the right time.

Truth is, the NSC Lake Division may be the top soccer-playing league in the state.

Consider: Warren finished first in 2012, Warren fourth in 2011, Libertyville second in 2010 and Lake Zurich in 2009.

What did those four teams have in common besides earning big trophies for their school?

None of them — NONE — won the division title the year they finished in the top four at state.

That’s how good soccer is played in this corner of the state.

On Saturday, it was great that Warren’s soccer team was honored on the big stage that is boys basketball at that school.

Across the state, people who follow the sport know that soccer is played at an elite level in the Rockford area, and down by Edwardsville and, of course, in the Naperville area.

Lake County deserves to be mentioned right there with them. Yes, the word that applies is ...


The NSC Lake is so good that Zion-Benton’s program — which is 250 percent more competitive now than it was a half-dozen years ago — still can’t scratch out any division victories.

The Zee-Bee kids can’t win not because of how they play. They can’t win because of who they play.

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