WINNETKA – North Shore Country Day senior forward Suraiyya Omar is a whirlwind of energy on the pitch.
The four-year varsity player has been a foundational player for the Raiders. As she nears the final weeks of her esteemed career, She has been focusing on enjoying her time with her teammates.
“It’s sad to think that this is my last (season),” Omar said. “I remember starting off on varsity, and it was super intense in my freshman year. It’s wonderful to play, because the last couple of years we’ve had COVID and just some messy seasons. Now we can play a good game of soccer and not worry about things.
“I’ve just really realized that with high school soccer the improvement is so exponential. I’ve definitely noticed that with this team. Our morale stays high, and we communicate and work well together. As a senior, it makes me proud to look at these girls and play with them. I’ve had a wonderful time on the field playing with these girls.”
In a 6-0 defeat to visiting league-leader University (Chicago) on Tuesday, Omar encouraged her younger teammates and gave 100 percent in a game that was decided by halftime. The Maroons (8-2-1, 6-0-0) scored five goals in the first half.
Freshman goalie Izzy Greenstein did a stellar job in the net stopping shot after shot and absorbing a few tough hits before she left the game for the final nine minutes with a minor injury. A first-time goalie, Greenstein tallied 14 saves. As a group, the Raiders (3-4-0, 2-3-0) applauded Greenstein’s strong play against the Maroons, who entered the game with 30 goals scored and an average of 2.4 assists per game.
“They were really good, and we weren’t expecting an easy match,” Omar said. “It was definitely tough, but I saw us work as a team and improve on our defense in the second half, connecting and staying in our positions. I can’t say enough about our goalie.
“Her ability to move with the ball but still keep an eye on the goal and still communicate with the rest of the team is unmatched. She just started playing goalie this year. The score was not the most beautiful, but we only allowed one goal in the second half versus five in the first half. It was clear we started working more as a team and being more intentional with every pass, shot and move we made. Our communication, especially starting in the back with our goalie, to our center backs, to our midfielders definitely improved.”
With just four seniors and one junior mixed in with eight freshmen and three sophomores, North Shore County Day coach Rebekah Kauffman knew there would be growing pains this spring.
She pointed to Omar’s positivity and work ethic as great examples for the younger players.
“Suraiyya has grown each year in different ways and been really impressive,” Kauffman said. “This year she has really embraced her leadership role as being one of the few returners who has to pull everyone together and rally the troops but also be mature and give everyone some grounding and tell them how we play. Her spirit and energy are everything you could ever want in any player really, but especially for a senior captain.
“From where we started as a ninth grader to how she’s trending now is just remarkable, as a player but most importantly as a person.”
Greenstein, the Chicagoland Soccer MVP of the Match, made numerous eye-catching saves to get the attention of the crowd. She tallied seven saves in just over 30 minutes of work in the second half.
“I’ve never played soccer before, let alone goalie, before this season,” Greenstein said. “I’ve learned I have support at this school and can get through hard times. I was very nervous coming into the season to do this, but every day I look forward to soccer. I can get really nervous in games. There’s a lot of pressure, but my teammates are really supportive. I’ve pushed myself really hard, and my self-confidence has improved.”
Greenstein said it was a nonstop, physical game.
“It was definitely a lot of action. I might be sore tomorrow, but I have a smile on my face,” Greenstein said. “It was like bumper cars out there, a lot of action.”
A change in the location of the game didn’t give North Shore Country Day an edge.
With the game moved from the turf fields at the Skokie Playfields to North Shore Country Day’s thick grass field, University (Chicago) was slowed down only a bit.
“It was a good win for us,” Maroons coach Josh Potter said. “We came in here knowing our game plan. We wanted to control the midfield and tempo of the game. We had a lot of girls playing in different positions today due to injuries and sickness. We had a lot of players step up today.”
After the Maroons made a splash in the playoffs last season by reaching a Class A sectional final, Potter thinks his team can exceed last year’s run. The Maroons face a big test on Thursday when they step up in class to host Deerfield, which placed third in AA last season, at 6 p.m.
“I definitely think we can have a favorable run,” he said. “We’re definitely going to see teams that are comparable to who we are. I think we have a strong run in us and am excited about that.”
University (Chicago) assistant coach Elan Weiner agreed with Potter’s assessment: “Anytime we take the field, I think we have a chance to win. We have a good set of players. They play their tails off. Our goal is to eclipse the sectional final we made last year.”
Sophomore midfielder Lucy Aronsohn scored two goals to lead the Raiders attack Tuesday.
“It was a good game,” Aronsohn said. “We all were able to get involved, and our play was really nice. We weren’t used to the grass but were able to keep the momentum. We have to keep working on our good habits to get ready for the playoffs.”
North Shore Country Day freshman defender Dixie Oelerich said the Raiders are young, but hungry.
“I think we’ve improved a tremendous amount since our first game,” Oelerich said. “We have to keep improving more and more. We have to make sure we defend as a team, attack as a team and do everything in between. We let in five goals in the first half and only one early in the second half. We improved and did better communicating and held our backline. Our midfielders helped us, and made space when we were looking to pass to them, which helped spread the field.”
Sophomore defender Isabel Roberts said holding down the Maroons in the second half is a positive to take from the loss. She used her speed, particularly in the second half, to beat an attacker to the ball or slide her foot in to knock the ball away from danger. Roberts made three great defensive plays in the final minutes of the first half.
“I really enjoy playing on the grass and had a lot of fun running around on it,” Roberts said. “I didn’t want them to score anymore, just did my best to get my body in front of it so it wouldn’t go into the goal. I’m hoping to get better at soccer and get better at communicating and my position. This was a good learning experience. We have a very supportive team.”
GK: Juana Di Sabato
D: Charlotte Sims
D: Zoe Stephens
D: Haley Sturgill
D: Orly Eggener
MF: Devyn Moubayed
MF: Alex Giles
MF: Lucy Aronsohn
MF: Norie Kaufman-Sites
F: Jackie Slimmon
F: Stella Sturgill
North Shore Country Day
GK: Izzy Greenstein
D: Isabel Roberts
D: Lauren Gallagher
D: Margaret Fitzgerald
D: Dixie Oelerich
MF: Reese Meyers
MF: Carly Lissner
MF: Marina Bullock-Puzon
MF: Thomasina Kalotis
F: Daisy Stone
F: Suraiyya Omar
Chicagoland Soccer MVP of the Match: Izzy Greenstein, fr., GK North Shore Country Day
Univ: Eggener (S. Sturgill), 7’
Univ: Eggener (unassisted), 19’
Univ: Aronsohn (unassisted), 25
Univ: Aronsohn (unassisted), 29’
Univ: Kaufman (Moubayed), 37’
Univ: Nielsen (Giles), 47’