Naperville Sports Weekly Awards Show 2024 Team of the Year

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The Naperville Sports Weekly Awards Show 2024 Team of the Year came down to the final votes! There are seven nominations, with every team on the list advancing to the State Series.

Let’s give you the Naperville Sports Weekly Team of the Year, sponsored by BMO.

Naperville North boys soccer

Our first nominee for Team of the Year is Naperville North boys soccer. After three seasons away from the IHSA State Series, the Huskies returned to the State Semifinals in the fall, and eventually picked up a third-place trophy after beating Glenbrook North 5-2. After the graduation of Gatorade Player of the Year Alex Barger, getting to State was not easy, the path included a 1-0 win in the Sectional Final against Rivals and reigning state champions, Naperville Central. The Huskies then trailed 1-0 in the SuperSectionals against Collinsville, but second-half goals from Jaxon Stokes and Andrew Hebron propelled them to the win on a snowy late fall evening. 

North’s record of 23-2-3 was the program’s best since 2018, with the first loss coming in the season opener, but the team did not lose again until the state semis. Leading the way for the Huskies was Stokes with 29 goals, and 11 assists, along with Noah Radeke with 22 tallies and 20 assists. Both Juniors were All-State selections and look to guide the Huskies back to state next season.

Benet Academy girls volleyball

In what has become a nearly annual tradition, Benet Academy girls volleyball is a Team of the Year nominee. After a State Runner-Up finish and an overall record of 37-5 in 2022, the Redwings responded with an even more impressive 39-3 season in the fall but, fell in the State Championship against Mother McAuley for the second straight year. In the IHSA playoffs, Benet won every match in straight sets before a thrilling three-set win against Willowbrook in the state semis. 39 wins is the most for Head Coach Brad Baker and the Wings since they went 41-1 en route to a State Title in 2019. 

This team is still young, as only two seniors played in over 50 sets, and were led by IVCA All-State selections Lynney Tarnow, a sophomore middle blocker, in addition to junior libero, Aniya Warren. Tarnow was labeled as the best sophomore in the state by Prep Dig Illinois, while teammate Ellie Stiernagle was fourth. Senior, Christine Pullen will be missed, as she’s off to play for the University of Illinois, and led the Redwings with 27 aces, and 227 receptions. Ava Novak also graduates and moves on to Play at U-Chicago, but most of the Redwing production returns in 2024. 

Warriors Hockey Club

Since 2014, the Warriors Hockey Club has been one of the best Combined Division hockey programs in the state of Illinois. This year might have officially made the Warriors the team to beat, after winning a fourth AHAI Blackhawk Cup State Championship in dramatic fashion! In March, James Naffzinger scored the game-winner in overtime at the United Center to give the Warriors its third Blackhawk Cup Combined Division title in five seasons. In the AHAI Playoffs, the Warriors squeezed past the Stampede in the quarters, before beating Naperville Hockey Club 5-2 in the semis. During the regular season, the Warriors won a sixth straight Carillon Cup and lost just once in Illinois West regular season play to go along with 14 wins. After winning the state title, the Green and Gold competed in the USA Hockey National Championship against some of the best high school teams in the country. 

Multiple Warriors earned NSW Play of The Week honors, including Captain Evan Ziegler, who shined throughout the season. He recorded 18 goals and 23 assists in 15 conference games, before dominating in the playoffs with six goals and three assists in just four knockout contests. Goalie Andrew Fichtel, and forward Michael McCain joined Ziegler as All-State members. Over the past ten or so years, the Warriors have consisted of players from Waubonsie and Metea Valley, but starting this spring, the team will include players from Wheaton North and Wheaton Warrenville South as a new era begins with black and blue colors.

Waubonsie Valley girls basketball

Waubonsie Valley girls basketball is our next nominee, and this season was the best in school history with a program-high 32 wins against just five losses. The Warriors won the DVC for the first time with a perfect 10-0 record and followed that up with some thrilling postseason success. The Warriors trailed by four in the fourth quarter of the Sectional Semifinals but pulled away late to defeat Downers Grove North. In the Sectional final, Lily Newton scored off a last-second layup to lift Waubonsie past Benet Academy, who had beaten the Warriors in three straight postseasons. Then, in the super-sectionals against Alton, Waubonsie trailed by three in the final seconds before Danyella Mporokoso nailed a three to send it to overtime. Waubonsie went on to win 55-53 in OT, advancing to the program’s first state series.

Although they lost both games down at state, the Warriors finished as the fourth-best team in Class 4A. Mporokoso, the conference player of the year led the way in scoring with 19.4 points per game, to go along with 6.4 rebounds and 3 assists. Hannah Laub is the lone starter lost to graduation, after averaging 13 points per game as a senior.

Naperville North boys water polo

Naperville North boys water polo enjoyed a third straight sectional championship this spring and made its first state semifinal appearance since 2014. The Huskies held an impressive 30-5 record, but only two of the losses came from teams in Illinois. One of the losses came in the State semis against Stevenson by a single goal, who the Huskies had already beaten three times prior in the regular season! North won the third-place game 17-9, and even beat the eventual State Champions, Lyons Township, once during the regular season. 

Senior Bretty Grady was a second-team All-State pick. First-team All-State selections Jack Reif and Mason Hofmann enjoyed spectacular junior seasons for the blue and orange. Reif scored 103 goals and 53 assists; while Hoffmann led the Huskies with 131 scores and 55 assists. 

Benet Academy girls lacrosse

Moving on to our sixth nominee, Benet Academy girls lacrosse. The Redwings enjoyed one of the best seasons in program history, recording a 23-3 record and finishing as state runner-up. Two losses, including the state championship game, came against Loyola Academy, one of the top programs in the country. The Redwings finished as a top-seven team in the mid-west according to USA Lacrosse, after being led by four first-team All-State selections. Dagny Tombaugh, goalie Madeline Jensen, Shannon Earley, and Gigi Kurelko took home the top honors, while Madeline Trapp was named to the second team, and Madison Timmons secured a third-team spot. Earley and Kurelko were one of the best duos in the state, as the two combined for over 200 goals, and 60 assists on the season.

Once the playoffs began, Benet cruised its way to the state final, winning every game by eight or more goals, including an 18-6 thrashing against Lake Forest in the state semis, to advance to the state championship for the first time ever. Tombaugh, Jensen, Earley, and Peyton O’Neill recently competed in the USA Lacrosse Illinois All-Star game.

Neuqua badminton

We close with the Neuqua Valley badminton team, another program that is no stranger to the NSW Award Show. The Wildcats went undefeated in the regular season, before going on another terrific postseason run. The Wildcats won every conference matchup comfortably and the lineup was strong from top to bottom. Neuqua won a ninth straight sectional title, as they dominated the event, qualifying all team participants for state. Both the singles and doubles championships were played between Neuqua Valley teams. Freshman Luna Han and junior Kanyanat Vajworarat took down Saniya Joseph and Yilin Liu in the sectional final, while Wildcat Hannah George defeated teammate Amber Shi.

At the state meet in DeKalb, Neuqua Valley finished in third as a team, thanks to Han and Vajworarat dominating the courts in doubles. The duo took home the state title, winning the final in straight sets against Stevenson, 21-16, 21-14. George took home third place in singles for her third straight top-three finish. Had it not been for an injury to Yilin Liu in the consolation quarterfinals, the Blue and Gold may have had a shot at the team state championship. Regardless, the Wildcats have now won a state trophy three of the past four years and will return almost all the same talent next season.

Warriors Hockey Club wins 2024 Naperville Sports Weekly Team of the Year

The Naperville Sports Weekly Team of the Year goes to the Warriors Hockey Club! They were our lone team state champion and impressed throughout the year with multiple trophies.

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