Most Improved Team is a unique award this year, with some of our teams getting two years to restock the cupboard with talent. This award is presented by Molly Maid of Aurora Naperville Area.
This is the second year we’ve handed out the Most Improved Team award and it’s certainly a unique category this season. Some of these teams we last saw a year ago, but for others it has been two years since they were last seen on NSW. Regardless of how long these programs waited to return to the field, we saw big time progress upon their arrival in Season 14.
Waubonsie Valley Girls Golf
Waubonsie Valley girls golf has a proud history, having qualified for state as recently as 2014 and winning a regional title in 2016. However in 2018 and 2019, there were not many bright spots outside of sectional qualifier Emily Skowronski. The Warriors finished 7th at regionals last season and with Skowronski graduating, there were certainly question marks as to what the fall of 2020 would bring. But an infusion of young talent combined with significant improvement from returning golfers brought the green and gold back to the top tier of the DVC standings. Waubonsie finished in third place at the DVC championship and was the runner up at the Oswego regional, advancing to sectionals as a team for the first time in four years. Freshman Kelly Cong finished in the top ten at sectionals, while sophomores Lily Reily and Ayana Patel improved their regional scores by nearly 30 strokes from 2019. While seniors Grace Angelides and Priyali Bandla have graduated, the young core, including fellow freshman Aubreye Hyatt, should help Waubonsie Valley stay in the conference title hunt for several years.
Naperville North Boys Bowling
Since the program began in the fall of 2017, Naperville North boys bowling have had plenty of bright spots, fielding at least one sectional qualifier every season. But despite always being a decent team, the Bowl Dawgs had not achieved the team success that even crosstown rival Naperville Central had reached. All that changed this winter where the 2021 Huskies were far and away the best team in program history. A balanced lineup made up of Nate Kordzinski, Tomas Gilvydis
Josh Gunther, Tanner Child, Leo Oberman, and Josh deBolt led their team to a perfect 11-0 record. While there was no post season for boys bowling this year, there is little doubt that the 2021 Bowl Dawgs were ready to make their first team sectional appearance and possibly qualify for state.
Neuqua Valley Girls Basketball
Neuqua Valley girls basketball has always been a very strong program under longtime head coach Mike Williams. The Wildcats were even one of the first teams school history to bring home a state trophy in 2001. But the past few seasons, the Wildcats struggled to stay out of the cellar in the conference standings. Since the 2016-17 season, NV was never seeded higher than 13th in the sectional. While girls basketball never released sectional seeding in 2021 due to a condensed COVID schedule, the Wildcats looked much more like the blue and gold of old this winter. After an 0-2 start with losses to Naperville North and Naperville Central, the Cats went 13-1 the rest of the year. The only blemish was another loss to undefeated conference champion Naperville North. A nice balance of senior leaders like Ellie Wisner, Claudia Gallegos, Jada Devine and Jessica Sun meshed well with up and coming players like Caitlin Washington, Zoe Navarro, Tia Poulakidas and Kylee Norkus. With young returning talent and a successful 2nd place DVC season under their belts, Neuqua girls hoops is ready to continue the climb back to the top of the standings.
Naperville North Girls Volleyball
When girls volleyball was last played in the fall of 2019, the Naperville area produced three regional champions. For the first time since 2016, Naperville North girls volleyball was not one of the teams bringing home a regional plaque. When the volleyball season announced that it would be returning to play in the spring this season, the Huskies took out that disappointment on the rest of the DVC.
Led by the likes of Anna Jaworski, Kara Oxenknecht, Eva Hartung, Ellie Hall and Ashely and Sydney Kushner, the girls in blue and orange dominated the conference with a perfect 10-0 record. It wasn’t just going undefeated, it was the domination that made this a special season for the Huskies. North did not lose a set all season long. While we were unable to see how far this team would be able to go in the state tournament, it’s clear that these Huskies would be more than ready to take on any opponent across the net.
Naperville Central Baseball
One of the common themes we’ve seen in the Most Improved nominees are teams with strong traditions returning to prominence. There may be no better example of that concept than the 2021 Naperville Central baseball team. State champions in 2006 and 2010, the Redhawks scuffled through most of the 2019 season. Although they upset Waubonsie Valley and Metea Valley in the first two playoff games, Central entered the postseason that year as the 18 seed out of 20 possible teams. Coach Stock and his Redhawks turned things back in the right direction this spring. Central went 22-4 in the regular season, winning the DVC regular season and conference tournament championships. In doing so, the red and white went from an 18 seed to the number one seed in the sectional. Veterans like Nathan Brinker, Jack Busch, Will Endrud and DVC pitcher of the year Kyle Steele teamed up with first year standouts like Charlambos Nicoloudes and Colin Barczi to lead the turnaround. Although the season ended in the regional championship with a loss to Neuqua Valley, Naperville Central baseball could not be more proud to be the team to beat in the DVC once again.
Benet Girls Lacrosse
Our final nominee is a team that has had some great players and solid seasons in the past, but had never made their mark as one of the areas top teams. That all changed this year for Benet Academy girls lacrosse. Not only did the Redwings improve from previous seasons, they improved from the first game of this season. After an 18-1 loss to eventual state champion Loyola, Benet went 19-3 the rest of the way. Thanks to All State selection Karly Keating along with the standouts like Shannon Earley, Margaret Snyder, Dagny Tombaugh and Maddie McAndrew, the Wings shared the conference championship with St. Viator and won the sectional title. The historic season continued as Benet won the Super-sectional matchup over Conant, advancing to state for the first time in program history. After bringing home the 4th place ISHA trophy, the 2021 Redwing girls lacrosse team will always be remembered as the team that broke the mold for Benet lacrosse.
And the winner of the Most Improved Team Award is… Benet Academy girls lacrosse!
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