Soccer's all in the family for SCE's Arvizu
By Dave Owen
Soccer grew from a family tradition into a favorite sport for St. Charles East’s Lauren Arvizu.
“When I was five I had the chance to do ODP (Olympic Development Program) competitive gymnastics, or soccer,” said Arvizu, who also played volleyball and ran track in her younger years.
“Anyone would have told me to stick with gymnastics because of my raw talent, but I knew deep down that I wanted to play soccer.”
That instinct towards soccer was natural. Arvizu’s father Mark played at the U.S. Naval Academy, and her sister Allie was a three-year varsity defender and 2013 senior co-captain for St. Charles East.
“I had grown up watching my dad and oldest sister play, and I wanted to be just like them,” said Arvizu.
“Looking back at it all, I don’t regret choosing soccer over gymnastics for one second. I have so many great memories with my teammates and coaches that made it all worth it.”
Arvizu’s great soccer experiences hit their apex at St. Charles East, where she was a reserve midfielder on the Saints’ 22-win sectional finalist last spring.
“My favorite memories (were) winning the regional championship game against Wheaton Warrenville South,” Arvizu said, “and watching one of my teammates have the most hilarious fall any of us had ever seen during that game.
“And when our keeper (Grace Griffin) made the winning save during penalty kicks against Conant (in the Saints’ sectional semifinal win), we stormed the field.”
But the big things like postseason wins were matched by the less obvious team moments that were just as special.
“Cornrowing the entire team’s hair in one night for playoffs, and then wearing the cornrows for probably two or three weeks straight at school,” Arvizu said. “And going undefeated on JV sophomore year.
“And all of the team sleepovers and bus rides were a blast, especially coming back from a win because we got to sing the school song on the bus while arriving back at East.”
Returning the majority of last year’s excellent squad had St. Charles East with a potential opportunity to sing "We Are The Champions" at the IHSA finals this June.
Then for Arvizu, a winter injury that was slow to heal foreshadowed an unimaginable spring.
“I had surgery on my foot in late November, but I was stuck in physical therapy longer than I was hoping,” Arvizu said. “I was hopefully only going to miss part of the season.”
Then the COVID-19 pandemic first suspended the season just after practices started in March, before eventually forcing the cancellation of 2020 spring sports.
“The season being canceled had an emotional toll on me,” Arvizu said. “because I knew I was already going to have half of it taken away by my injury. I didn’t want any more taken away, because it was my senior year, and we had a great chance at winning state.”
It was that team goal left in permanent limbo which probably hurt the most.
“I’ve never been around a group of girls with so much dedication to this sport,” Arvizu said. “We always had one goal in mind, to win state. And even though that was taken away from us this year, we all knew that we would have been an unstoppable team.”
From big dreams for Saints soccer in 2020, Arvizu is refocusing on her well-planned future.
“I’m majoring in nursing at the University of Kentucky, and then going on to get my masters in anesthesiology,” she said. “I’ve known for a while that this was the path I wanted to take, because it suits my love for helping others and my aptitude for science.”
But Arvizu won’t completely end her time on the pitch.
“I would not give up soccer that easily,” she said, “because I’ve played for 15 years, and it’s truly one of my passions. I’m definitely planning on playing either club soccer or intramural soccer (at Kentucky).”
Arvizu played on junior varsity her freshman and sophomore years, each season alongside fellow Class of 2020 players Christina Hull (a varsity starter last year at midfielder) and Alex Lopez (who will play this fall at Wisconsin-Oshkosh).
She reached varsity last year in time to contribute to the Saints’ highest season win total since 2000.
“The girls and the coaching staff are what make this program special,” Arvizu said.
“(Saints soccer) has meant so much to me, because I knew for a while that I was not going to play soccer in college. So, having this be my last four years of competitive soccer has meant so much, because knowing they were the last pushed me even harder to be the best player and teammate I could be.
“It was definitely very sad to end my competitive soccer career," she added, "but I’m excited for my next steps in college.”