Lorden defends Jones'
place in CPL hierarchy
By Patrick Z. McGavin
Some players are born and others are made. The balance straddle the various lines of pursuit and expectation.
Catherine Lorden always had a natural, avid feeling for competition and performance. It was the natural, almost inevitable part of her experience growing up.
“My whole family is very competitive,” she said. “The main reason I joined soccer was because of my dad, Gary.
“He played hockey at Michigan.”
Lorden just completed her four-year varsity career as a standout defender at Jones. She got thrown into the fire right away and played a significant role on the Eagles team that reached the city title game against Lane.
That team remains the only city finalist in the history of the program.
“It was definitely a little intimidating when I first got there,” Lorden said. “We had all of these great players like Zoe [Wright], an all-state player. The older players seemed like they knew everything about soccer at the time.
“It was really cool to be a part of a changing program. Lane and Whitney Young were the powers, and we were the underdogs. Nobody expected us to be a part of that, and we helped turn the program around.”
Last year as a junior, Lorden was one of the architects of the Eagles’ smothering defense.
Admittedly, she had a great keeper to play in front of in Chicagoland Soccer All-State keeper Devin Barry, but Lorden was a key in making sure very few balls ever got to a dangerous or vulnerability threshold.
Jones (18-7-0) posted a school-record 14 shutouts last year. The Eagles qualified for the city Final Four and eventually defeated olorio in the third place game.
The Eagles reached a Class 3A regional title game.
“Cat is a very strong player, and I think everyone on the team fully trusts her in our backline,” midfielder/defender Natalie Loos said.
“She always gives 100 percent when she’s playing and is a very hard worker. I think her outgoing and friendly personality also helps the team dynamic and helps us work very well together.”
Lorden was thrown into the mix right away. She had the natural sense of not to force her hand and impose herself. Rather she embedded herself into the framework of the team, doing whatever was asked and adapting on the fly.
She moved at her own level and speed. It proved a natural coping mechanism with the demands of the sport.
“I think when I first started, I was there primarily to learn from the older girls,” Lorden said.
“If I had to describe my style, I would say I am a learner and an observer. That is how I like to play.”
She absorbs as she fits it and judges what the team needs and then looks to provide that. Her game is not predicated on elite athleticism or speed.
It is more plain, approachable and effective all the same.
“I am a solid defender,” Lorden said. “I know where to stand. I know how to position myself where not many people are going to get past me.
“If that does happen, I know how to recover and how to get back in there and re-establish or reposition myself.”
Her combination of savvy, intelligence and the ability to establish a consistent shape in the back underlined her value to the team.
“Catherine is a very tough and skilled player,” Jones coach Derek Bylsma said. “She is an excellent leader, extremely well-liked off the field by coaches and her teammates and is just an all-around great person.
“On the field she is very smart, skilled and everything you look for in a center back. She organizes, communicates and is a great ball winner and defender.”
She began playing soccer early in life and demonstrated a proclivity for the game. She was 5 years old when she began organized play.
She recognized immediately her strengths and knew instinctively how to mold her game appropriately.
“I knew right away I was never going to be fast enough to be a forward,” she said. “I was a stronger player on the ball. My footwork is not as pretty as other people, but I was never going to lose the ball.
“I was always very dependable.”
She started local, playing in neighborhood competition and then shifted to a higher level of club around the age of 10.
Eventually she made her way to Chicago City, one of the top city club programs.
Her manner, confidence and edge naturally manifested itself.
When Bylsma first took over the Jones program, few players had any previous high-level club experience. He had mostly brainy kids who were high academic achievers.
The South Loop magnet school is one of the hardest schools in the city to be accepted into. Those that come there tend to have a chip on their shoulders. Bylsma used that to build his soccer program.
“In the beginning not many played in travel soccer,” Lorden said. “More and more girls were going to Jones. They had that background of high soccer levels, and that is what turned the program around.”
Success begets more success. The year before Lorden arrived at Jones, the Eagles were an AA program by state classification.
The school won three-consecutive regional titles at that level. They reached a sectional final in 2016.
Her arrival coincided with Jones’ elevation to the state’s highest level in Class 3A.
That is how it should be, for her and the rest of her teammates. This was the year, Bylsma, Loos and the rest all felt, in their hearts, that Jones was ready to excel.
Being deprived of the chance to prove their validity at the highest levels was truly heartbreaking.
“I was really upset that I did not have a chance to get a senior year of playing,” Lorden said.
“During my senior travel season, I suffered a concussion, and I missed some time. I was really looking forward to my high school season, and I did not get that.”
In the process she was denied something essential about her life and consciousness, the act being open and free, running about, being outdoors and being part of a collective endeavor.
The coronavirus eviscerated all of that.
That camaraderie has fired her up.
“The game has always been a form of friendship, with friends at all different levels,” Lorden said. “That was one of the reasons that always kept me wanting to come back.
“Along with the friends you get people who are willing to put their blood, sweat and tears into winning. I went from seeing them every single day, seeing some of them in my same classes, and not being able to see them has really tough.”
Lorden now sets her sights on the next stage of her young life, attending the University of Illinois, where she is planning to study Applied Health Sciences.
Loos is also attending Illinois; neither is part of the women’s team there. They both are exploring the chance of playing recreational or club there.
“Having played with her since our freshman year, I have gotten to see how much her confidence has grown,” Loos said.
“Her role on the team has gotten increasingly more significant. She always has a positive attitude that brings everyone’s spirits up.”