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Circle these dates on your prep calendar

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2013 12:43 p.m. CDT

The 2013-14 prep sports season is now underway, with three local golf teams hitting the links Monday – all of five days after practice was allowed to begin.

There are a number of dates worth circling in the coming weeks, but these are a few of the contests I’ll be most looking forward to during the fall season.

Plano soccer at Newark, Monday

For the first time, Seneca students will play in a high school soccer game. Seneca is co-oping with Newark this year, and the bolstered Norsemen will make their debut at home against Plano.

Plano is about as close to a Morris Daily Herald area opponent as the Norse will play this year. Of Seneca’s Interstate Eight Conference rivals, only Lisle (Sept. 23) appears on the Newark soccer schedule.

Morris Early Bird Invitational, Aug. 28

Two days prior to the much-anticipated start of the football season, three of the four local cross country teams — Gardner-South Wilmington, Seneca and the host Redskins — will compete against one another.

In 2012, Marquette was the dominant team, winning the girls race, finishing second in the boys event and boasting individual champions in both. Morris led the locals in both races, with its boys finishing third and its girls fifth.

The three teams will get another chance to gauge themselves against one another Sept. 6 at Seneca’s Twilight in the Woods Invitational.

Minooka football at Morris, Aug. 30

This might be the most obvious “big game” on the entire local prep fall schedule. It marks the third straight season that the rivals are opening the season against one another. Morris is 2-0, but the Redskins have yet to win by more than a single score.

Going back to the days when the teams shared conferences (the Suburban Prairie Red, the Suburban Prairie White and then the Southwest Prairie), Morris has won nine straight in the series. If the Indians can break through, it would be huge in their quest to return to the playoffs after missing out in 2012.

Peotone football at Seneca, Sept. 7

The defining moment of Seneca’s 2012 season came in its Week 2 crossover game with Peotone. The Irish led by 13 points in the fourth quarter but lost 27-20. The close-but-not-quite-enough theme extended through the end of their season when they finished 5-4 but did not have enough playoff points to make the postseason.

This game could be just as pivotal in 2013 if the Irish are to excise their playoff demons. Beat the usually-competitive Blue Devils, and Seneca will be, at worst, .500 entering its Interstate Eight Conference Small Division schedule. Lose, and it will be an uphill climb again for Seneca.

Conference golf tournaments, Oct. 2

Two days after the Interstate Eight Conference has its big events, the Southwest Prairie will stage its boys and girls tournaments (hosted by Romeoville and Plainfield East, respectively) and Morris will compete in the Northern Illinois Big 12’s tournament at La Salle-Peru.

Minooka is the five-time defending girls golf champion in the SPC. On the boys side, the Indians led the conference standings entering the 2012 SPC Tournament, but their third-place finish allowed Plainfield North to take the conference title. Morris finished in fourth place in the NIB12 East in 2012.

Coal City girls volleyball at Seneca, Oct. 17

There aren’t a whole lot of volleyball matches pitting local schools against one another this season. Minooka and Morris won’t play one another, and neither will play anyone else from the area. Gardner-South Wilmington is at Newark on Sept. 17. Otherwise the two conference matches between Coal City and Seneca are about it for area battles.

But this meeting is relevant for reasons beyond the fact that two rivals will be facing off. I-8 divisional play will be winding down, and the conference championship could very well be decided by this match.

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