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Small colleges: North Central football raking in victories, honors

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Updated: November 27, 2013 6:44PM

Throughout the NCAA Division III football season, North Central has been the top team in the Chicago area. The Cardinals (10-0, 7-0) left no room for doubt Saturday after a 53-14 rout of visiting Augustana (5-5, 3-4) to wrap up a perfect CCIW season.

Ranked fourth in the nation in the poll, North Central is one of two CCIW teams to reach the Division III playoffs. The Cardinals host Albion (8-2) on Saturday, while No. 14 Illinois Wesleyan (9-1, 6-1) hosts Wartburg (8-2).

In the romp over Augustana, senior linebacker Nick Slezak earned his second straight CCIW defensive player of the week award, and kicker Nick Dace was named special-teams player of the week. Dace, who had been tied for the school record with three field goals in a game, kicked four against the Vikings. Slezak had eight tackles, including a career-high four for loss, and returned a fumble 22 yards for a touchdown. It was North Central’s first defensive touchdown of the season.

“He’s had a good full season,” Cardinals coach John Thorne said. “This is his first year ever to have played linebacker, and he just has picked it up beautifully. Really, he and Shane Dierking are the whole key to our defensive success.”

Dierking, a senior defensive back, was named the conference defensive player of the year, while senior quarterback Spencer Stanek was named offensive player of the year by CCIW coaches.

Albion, the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association champion, is led by quarterback Dominic Bona, who has completed 193 of 319 passes for 2,177 yards and 16 touchdowns.

“Their receivers look very quick,” Thorne said. “Their quarterback does a nice job of reading coverages, and they have a couple of real quick running backs [Darrin Williams and Michael Czarnecki]. They aren’t quite as big as some of the teams that we’re used to playing, so that probably means they’re going to be a lot quicker than some of the teams we’ve played.”

Ranked — but done

When St. Francis of Joliet (7-4, 4-2 MSFA Mideast) fell 30-20 to Taylor (5-5, 3-3) on Saturday, it left the Chicago area without a team in the NAIA playoffs. Taylor scored the first 30 points, taking advantage of four turnovers. St. Francis is ranked No. 22 in NAIA, while St. Xavier (7-4, 4-2 MSFA Midwest) is
No. 18. Neither was selected for the 16-team playoffs.

In NCAA Division III, Wheaton (8-2, 5-2) is ranked 19th — with losses only to North Central and Illinois Wesleyan — but wasn’t selected for the playoffs.

Volleyball accolades

Elmhurst’s Megan Reynolds was named to the second team, Marci Novak to the third team and Kaitlyn Wilks and Sam Szarmach received honorable mention as the American Volleyball Coaches Association named its All-America team. The Bluejays (37-5) fell a match short of the Division III quarterfinals, losing to Hope on Saturday.

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