Josie Noble was the paradoxical emerging star at New Trier a year ago.
As a sophomore midfielder, she developed from her early promise and blossomed into a force.
She earned all-tournament honors at the prestigious Naperville Invitational, and developed into one of the best players in her class.
Exhibiting toughness, flair, tenacity and athletic power, Noble fit the contours of her name. Terrific in space, she showed great touch, midfield accuracy and the ability to create off movement.
She scored seven goals and five assists and earned a spot on the Chicagoland Soccer All-State Team.
Here’s the rub: the Trevians’ 2022 season was by every statistical measure a down and outlier, and decidedly not the kind of statistical abnormality they were ready for.
“Soccer is a humbling game,” Trevians’ coach Jim Burnside said after one particularly hard loss last year.
In what amounted to a transition year, New Trier finished 12-8-5, the number of losses by far the highest single-season total in the celebrated 25-year career of a coach who has won six state championships.
You have to go back to the dawn of the new millennium when New Trier lost six games during the 1999 and 2001 seasons to even approach last year’s figure.
The run from 2014 to 2021 produced three-consecutive state titles and five-straight championship appearances. During those seven seasons, New Trier lost just 10 games.
Lest we all forget, the 2020 season was wiped out by the pandemic.
With Noble as one of the spearheads, New Trier is ready for its comeback season.
“We have a lot of experience back from last year, and now we learned from that season and now we want to prove to ourselves that we are back,” Noble said.
“We prepared all winter and spent a lot of time together as a team. I think we’re ready.”
Context is also vital. Fourteen games last season came against teams ranked in Chicagoland Soccer’s Top 25 or Illinois 10 polls.
“We did a lot of learning against some of the best teams in the state, and we are ready” Burnside said.
New Trier returns 13 players who started at least one game last year. Ten of those players started multiple games. Experience at the highest level is impossible to make up.
The youth of a year ago repeatedly showed out.
By most measures, the season was a success. New Trier won more games than it lost, and the Trevians captured a regional.
The 2-1 loss against rival and eventual state fourth place finisher Evanston in a sectional semifinal ended a run of seven-consecutive supersectional appearances.
Now a year older, stronger, faster and acclimated to the speed and physical style of the game, New Trier is ready to push back to its accustomed level.
The past is prologue, according to Noble.
“Last year was hard to face the reality,” she said. “We realize the teams before us didn’t just get there by reputation.
“They got there by hard work, and they put in the time. They practiced like they played the games. We are here to put in the work, and do whatever it takes to get back up there and prove ourselves again.”
One week into the new season, New Trier is off to a very promising start.
After the Trevians’ 2-0 victory over Niles West Monday in the start of South Division play in the Central Suburban League, New Trier (2-0-1, 1-0-0) has conceded just one goal through its first three games.
A strong defense has proven itself early. The offense, always slower to get started, is a work in progress.
Noble was a freshman on the team that played in the supersectional against Libertyville. She is ready to take her game to the next level.
“I am definitely a different player with those seasons under my belt,” she said.
“After you have that experience, it is definitely easier playing the games, giving advice to the younger players, and you are just way more confident and comfortable in what you are doing out there.”
A Chicagoland Soccer Watch List player from last season, junior midfielder Annie Paden is another skilled talent with a flair for the big play.
She proved exceptionally gifted on set pieces as a free kick specialist. She is already off to a solid start, scoring the game-winner in the Trevians’ season opener against Warren.
“Last year was a rebuilding year for sure,” Paden said. “I think winning was something we lacked last year. We still had a great community, great people and a great team.
“I think we want to get that confidence back in our playbook. Everybody’s lit about the new season. You can feel it. We definitely have more of an edge, or a drive, to go out there and win.”
Offensively, New Trier combines playmakers at the top of the formation. One is senior Lauren Caldwell, a Carlton recruit and another Watch List talent.
Another List member, junior Charlotte Dellin, revealed a sharp dimension to her game -- quickness that delivers separation. Her 80th-minute goal salvaged the tie at ranked Prospect in the Trevians’ second game.
The junior class is one of the deepest and more versatile around. In addition to Noble, Paden and Dellin, the offensive players to watch are midfielders Clara Deliduka and Sybil Evans.
Sophia Palmer brings grace, solidity and savvy as one a senior midfielder.
“Now that we have had this time together, I think we’re all very comfortable with each other,” Palmer said.
Keeper Caroline Hague is the wall of the back. Sophomore Honor Dold is the breakout star.
Deliduka or Palmer each have the ability to drop back and play there as well.
“I think a big part of that is just knowing how each other likes to play, and knowing the personnel,” Palmer said.
“A lot of us are very versatile, we can play a bunch of different positions. We have that chip on our shoulder after last season.”
Noble, Evans and Dellin are moveable pieces all over the field, toggling between the middle or top of the attack, depending on the team and situation.
“I think we constantly remind ourselves of where we were last year and that keeps fueling us every day,” Palmer said.
“For instance, we keep track of everything, fouls, shots, mistakes, turnovers, and I think that just pushes us so that if we make a mistake or we’re messing up, or any time we’re down, we have to work through that, figure out how to get back on top.”
Of the returning starters, senior midfielder and Lida Dodge is the key to optimizing the surrounding talent into a cohesive and fluid whole.
The Chicagoland Soccer All-Stater made her high school debut last year after a couple of years playing exclusively on the club circuit.
The Purdue recruit is the team’s highest-rated talent. She scored six goals and created four assists last year.
“I am really excited to build on what we had last year and get another chance to play a lot of the same teams this year,” Dodge said.
She has great vision, balance, and the ability to see the game.
As one of the relatively few seniors, her time is measured differently.
“I don’t want to take any day for granted, because there are literally just three months of high school soccer left for me or any team other than college,” she said.
“I just want to enjoy every day, and make the most out of it.”
New Trier has been the gold standard of girls soccer, the program by which all others are largely judged.
Perspective colors a great deal, and now the team is looking to stage its return to glory.
“We had a lot of young kids playing varsity for the first time,” Burnside said. “No matter how good you are, you’re nervous when you come out. You’re part of this, and things are just flying around.
“Everything is faster, and more physical, and it’s just a different understanding of the game. You just want to say to these kids, ‘Take a breath. You’re good.’ With the schedule we play, last year there was no room to breathe.”
Today, the team is free, loose, connected and ready to explode.
“During the offseason, they had the chance to breathe again, and you can see they are comfortable in their discomfort,” Burnside said.
“Last year we were uncomfortable in our discomfort. Now it’s good, it’s fun, they’re laughing and having a good time. They’re working hard. I’m hoping their hard work pays off. I think it will.”