With the St. Rita football team making a run to the state quarterfinals, senior wide receiver Frank Napleton had to put his hockey season on hold.
Although he managed to play in a couple of Chicago Catholic Hockey League (CCHL) games when his schedule permitted, Napleton’s priority was football. With the playoffs ending for St. Rita against Lake Zurich, Napleton is now all hockey—much to the delight of the Mustangs.
Scoring an early goal on Nov. 16 at Southwest Ice Arena in CCHL action, Napleton helped lead St. Rita to a 3-1 victory over Fenwick.
Physically, St. Rita's Jordan Matthews hasn't changed much from last season.
He's still supremely fit.
His exceptional basketball skills — dribbling, defending, decision-making and driving to the basket — remain at a level few other point guards in the Southland can match.
Mentally, however, the 6-foot, 170-pound combo guard is a different kid.
"Everything has changed from that standpoint," he said. "My work ethic has changed. I'm more of a leader. I'm making these guys (teammates) go hard harder and, in turn, that's pushing me to go harder.
"There's no slacking off this year. We know how good we can be."
By: Tony Baranek
The way St. Rita senior Chris Childers sees it, he needs to ramp up his running game.
"The O-line does great, I just need to make better reads on my runs," he said. "I need to be a little more patient."
As a receiver, Childers was a gamebreaker for the Mustangs in their 38-21 Catholic League Blue victory Friday over Mount Carmel.
St. Rita was clinging to a seven-point lead late in the third quarter when Childers made a one-handed catch on a pass from Jake Zylman. He took the ball 17 yards to the Caravan 1.
Three plays later, David Gleaves ran it in for a score, sending the Mustangs on their way.
Childers finished with 90 yards rushing and added a 24-yard touchdown reception for St. Rita (4-1, 1-1).
Alek Thomas rushed for 104 yards and Kyle Davis scored on an 84-yard run for Mount Carmel (3-2, 0-2).
Childers had some impressive runs late, appearing to gain confidence from his key catches.
"You've just got to keep your head up," Childers said. "Jake really did a nice job on that (TD pass), and I just did my thing. I couldn't have done it without the O-line and Jake.
Talking with the coaching staff of the sophomore team this past spring, St. Rita Coach John Nee heard glowing reports time and time again about Diego Koval.
Pitching mostly out of the bullpen this summer season, Koval showed skills that drew comparisons to Kansas-bound Steve Washilewski.
Taking the mound in the summer state title game, Koval delivered in a big way. The junior fired a complete game, striking out 3 and allowing a lone run on 5 hits as St. Rita claimed an exciting 4-1 victory over Lincoln-Way East (LWE) on July 24 at Benedictine University in Lisle.
By John Nee '93
The varsity baseball team lost 21 seniors to graduation this past spring including 25 of the team’s 29 wins on the mound. Inexperienced with potential is a way to describe the 2018 St. Rita pitching staff. They did not disappoint this week as the staff gave up three runs in four games as the Mustangs won the Richards Regional to advance to The Phil Lawler Summer Classic in Naperville next week.
Seniors Mike Rios and Payton Condon, along with juniors Matt Callahan, Diego Koval, Logan Strutz, Vic Aguilar, Mike Benson and sophomore Justin Valdez combined this week to allow only three earned runs in 22 innings pitched as St. Rita won doubleheaders over Oak Lawn and Brother Rice on Tuesday and Bremen and Mt. Carmel on Thursday. It will be St. Rita’s first appearance in the Lawler Classic since winning the tournament title in 2013. The Mustangs also took home the summer state championship in 2005 and 2009.
The Mustangs offense also provided some fireworks on the week as they scored 43 runs in their four wins. Sophomore Luke Napleton led the charge in the semis and championship game as he had a two-run single and RBI triple against Bremen in the semis, and he provided the big blow against Mt. Carmel in the championship game with a bases-clearing, three-run triple to put the game away.
The Mustangs (11-3-1) will next play at Naperville Central High School on Monday July 17th against Lake Park High School. Game time on Monday is 10:00 a.m. The full tournament schedule can be found at www.tourneymachine.com.
By: John Nee '93
The Chicago Catholic League Blue Conference is widely regarded as not only the best baseball conference in the state of Illinois, but also as one of the very best conferences in the entire country.
With that being said, when it’s time to choose an all-conference team, invariably some really good baseball players will be omitted from the final list. That was the case again this year as only three St. Rita Mustang seniors were named first team All-CCL Blue at the conference meeting last Sunday.
Senior Kansas signee Steven Washilewski led the way for the Mustangs with his sterling (4-0) record against Catholic League Blue competition. In his four starts against Blue opponents (Providence, Brother Rice, Mt. Carmel, and St. Laurence) Wash allowed only four earned runs while striking out 25 and walking only three in his 25 innings of work. His line also included complete game shutouts at Providence and at Brother Rice. Overall, Washilewski leads the Mustang pitching staff in almost every category with a 10-1 record and a minuscule 0.83 ERA while striking out 87 batters and walking only 16 in his 67 1/3 innings pitched.
Senior first baseman and Benedictine University signee Tyler Woynerowski joined Washilewski on the first team. Woynerowski in 21 Catholic League games hit .375 with four homeruns and 23 RBIs to lead the Mustang offense. Overall, on the season he is hitting .353 with four homers and 32 RBIs.
The third member from St. Rita to be named to the first team All-CCL Blue team was senior second baseman/pitcher Lewis signee Matt Verdun. In his 21 league games, Verdun led the Mustangs with a .441 average and a .552 on base percentage. He also hit one homerun and drove in 14 to go along with his team-leading 10 doubles. Overall, Verdun leads St. Rita with a .481 average with one homer and 28 RBIs including a robust .552 on base percentage.
Retiring Head Coach Mike Zunica was voted the Lawless Award Winner as the top coach in the league by his fellow coaches, an award to an out-going legend in the league who has left an imprint on all things baseball in the Catholic League for many years to come. Zunica is a member of the Catholic League Hall of Fame after starring at St. Francis De Sales in the early 1980s and leading the St. Rita baseball program to unprecedented heights in his 21 years at the helm.
St. Rita Baseball competes next in a sectional playoff game vs. Br. Rice at St. Rita on Thursday, June 1, 2017 at 4:00 p.m.
By: John Nee '93
The Mustangs (28-8) advanced to Saturday's (May 27) regional championship game at 2:00 p.m. Lyons Township with a 9-2 win over Whitney Young.
Jake Zylman (3-3, 2B 2RBIs) and Blake Soria (2-run HR) led the offense. While Connor Kelly threw 3 shutout innings for St. Rita.
The Mustangs will next play the winner of Saturday's other regional semifinal between Lyons Township/Jones on Saturday at 11:00 a.m. at Lyons Township.
By: John Nee '93
St. Rita Head Basketball Coach Gary DeCesare is back in his native New York City this weekend to be inducted in New York’s Catholic High School Athletic Association’s Hall of Fame.
In his 16 years at the helm of his alma mater St. Raymond’s in the Bronx, DeCesare compiled a career record of 288-139 overall. He has coached over 30 D1 basketball players and countless D2 and D3 players. Four of his former players have gone on to play in the NBA (Ernest Brown, Terrence Rencher, Julius Hodge, and Allen Ray) and many more have gone on to play overseas.
Throughout his illustrious career at St. Raymond’s, Coach DeCesare won four CHSAA City Championships (1991, 1993, 2000, and 2001) and two New York State Federation Titles (1993, 2001). In addition, DeCesare was a three-time New York Coach of the Year recipient.
At St. Rita, DeCesare has continued his run of success leading the Mustang Basketball Program to unprecedented heights never before achieved in the school’s 112-year history. He has led the Running Mustangs to three regional championships (2014, 2015, and 2017) and four Catholic League championships (2012-2015).
St. Rita Head Basketball Coach Gary DeCesare, who led the Mustangs to a (19-11) record and a berth in the Class 3A sectional championship game, has been named Boys Basketball District 3 Coach of the Year for the 2016-2017 season.
DeCesare has been recognized as District 3 Coach of the Year three times in the last four years for leading his Running Mustangs to three sectional championship game appearances (the first three in St. Rita Basketball history).
In his tenure at St. Rita after a successful run as Head Coach at St. Raymond’s in the Bronx, DeCesare has led St. Rita to four Catholic League Championships (2012, 2013, 2014, 2015) and Regional Championships (2014, 2015, 2017). The Mustangs return several key players for the 2017-2018 season as they expect to be one of the top teams in the Chicago Catholic League.
By: John Nee '93
The 2017 season went full circle for retiring head coach Mike Zunica on Sunday as his Mustangs continued their dominance of the most prestigious tournament in the state of Illinois claiming their third Steven M. Bajenski Memorial Tournament championship in the six years of the tournament’s existence.
As for going full circle, the Mustangs (27-8) travelled to Standard Bank Stadium on March 18 for Zunica’s final opening day as skipper of St. Rita. They came away with a 1-0 victory over Glenbrook North. On Sunday in their regular season finale, with the stakes a little higher, the Mustangs once again used pitching and defense at Standard Bank Stadium in a 1-0 win over Catholic League Blue rival St. Laurence to claim the illustrious title.
Senior Matt Verdun (3-3) was the star on the mound and at the plate for St. Rita against the Vikings. He pitched his first complete game of the season shutting out the potent St. Laurence lineup on only three singles while striking out five and walking five. Verdun also provided all the offense the Mustangs would need with a first-inning, run-scoring single following back-to-back walks to seniors Charlie Rodriguez and Justin Ruthrauff to lead off the game.
The Mustangs had to beat Catholic League rivals Providence 10-2 on Thursday at Wheaton College, and Mt. Carmel on Friday 11-1 at Standard Bank Stadium to advance to Sunday’s championship game against St. Laurence.
Verdun pitched out of two jams against the Vikings on Sunday. After loading the bases in the 6th, he induced the St. Laurence hitter to hit a sinking liner to center when Rodriguez dove to make the catch and ultimately save the game for St. Rita.