Girls Soccer: Handwork sisters pace Plainfield North
By Steve Millar For Sun-Times Media March 8, 2013 11:42PM
Plainfield North soccer players Ashley Handwork (right) and her sister, Heather, warm up before practice. | John Patsch~For Sun-Times Media
Girls Soccer 2013
AREA TEAMS TO WATCH
Plainfield North: Is this the year the Tigers break through in the postseason?
Lockport: The Porters try to follow last year’s surprising run to the sectional finals. Lexi Cozzi, and her 21 goals in 2012, will be tough to replace, but senior forward Ally Brehm should pick up some of the scoring slack. Lockport will be bolstered by the return of defender Brynn Feeley, who missed last season with a torn ACL.
Lincoln-Way West: After winning their first regional crown last year, the Warriors have the pieces to make a deeper postseason run this season. Scoring leader Cori Brennan and defensive anchor Lea Gindville are both returning all-sectional performers. Kayla Lojas is a three-year starter in goal.
Lemont: The Indians are young, but have two junior stars in midfielder Kim Jerantowski and goalie Kelly Fritz to lead the way. Lemont will be out for vengeance after its 2012 season ended with an upset loss to Providence in a regional final.
Bolingbrook: The young but talented Raiders are looking to make some noise in the rugged SouthWest Suburban Blue. Nikia Smith is one of the area’s top defenders. Bolingbrook is searching for goal scorers.
Others to watch: Providence, Lincoln-Way Central, Lincoln-Way East, Joliet Catholic, Peotone
TOP PLAYERS (in alphabetical order)
Cori Brennan, senior, forward, Lincoln-Way West: A four-year varsity starter, Brennan has 56 career goals, including 25 in 2012.
Kelly Fritz, junior, goalie, Lemont: Returning all-sectional selection had 14 shutouts last season, her second as the Indians’ starter in the net.
Ashley Handwork, senior, forward, Plainfield North: As dangerous with the pass as she is with her shot, Handwork had 17 assists to go with 16 goals last year.
Kim Jerantowski, junior, midfielder, Lemont: A varsity standout since her freshman year, Jerantowski scored 23 goals last season.
Leah Plescia, senior, defender, Lockport: A returning all-sectional selection, Plescia helped the Porters record 12 shutouts last season.
Kelsey Pruett, junior, midfielder, Plainfield South: An all-sectional honorable mention last season, Pruett is a major scoring threat.
Nikia Smith, junior, defender, Bolingbrook: The Raiders’ defensive rock has committed to Northwestern.
Updated: April 11, 2013 6:40AM
The competitiveness between Plainfield North soccer mainstays and sisters Ashley and Heather Handwork is easy to see. Ashley, a senior, is quick to point out that younger sister, Heather, a junior, outscored her 19 goals to 16 last season.
“We were pretty competitive and going back and forth with our scoring last year,” Ashley said. “I know she beat me in the end. I’ll have to get her back this year.”
Heather, though, is just as quick to point out the difference in the sisters’ assist totals. Ashley had 17, Heather just nine.
“That’s definitely one of my big goals this year to get more assists,” Heather said. “I have to catch up. There’s a lot of competition between us and it definitely helps a lot. We push each other.”
The sisters are hoping their stats will add up to Tigers history this season.
Regular-season success hasn’t been a problem for North, which has won four straight Southwest Prairie titles.
In the postseason, however, the Tigers — who consistently have been put in the state’s toughest sectional, loaded with top teams from DuPage County — have come up short, never having won a regional.
Last year, a 1-0 regional final loss to Metea Valley ended North’s season.
“It’s really important to me, especially being my senior year, to get further in the playoffs,” Ashley said. “I think we’ve got a good shot this season.”
North coach Jane Crowe is looking for her program to break through.
“It kind of feels like we’re just stuck,” Crowe said. “We do so well in the regular season and we’ve been competitive with those teams in our sectional. We just haven’t been able to get over that hump. Once we win that regional, I think it won’t be such a challenge anymore. It’ll never be easy, but once you do it that first time, it’s a little easier.”
Crowe knows she has two huge assets in the Handwork sisters to help take the team further.
“They’ve been such a huge part since their freshman years and they just keep getting better,” Crowe said. “They raise the level of everything around them because they’re such good players. They find each other. They know where the other is going to be. They really push each other, too.”
The pushing often comes from the side of the elder Ashley, who said she’s “protective” of Heather, but also knows when to get on her.
“She does kind of tell me what to do a lot,” Heather said, with a laugh. “I know she’s just looking out for me, though.”
Crowe also will count on senior midfielder/forward Kaela Leskovar and sophomore center defender Brooke Polonus. As many as seven freshmen could see significant varsity playing time as well.
“I know we have the talent,” Crowe said. “It’s just finding where the pieces fit and getting chemistry together.”
Ashley and Heather Handwork both have committed to Marquette, so a reunion won’t be far off after Ashley graduates.
First, though, they’re hoping for a memorable final year together with the Tigers.
“I think in the past in the playoffs we’ve kind of broken down because we’re unsure of ourselves,” Ashley said. “If we just pull together, I think we can do great.”