skip navigation

Paraskos shares spotlight with classmates in Warren win over Zion-Benton

By Bobby Narang, 05/10/23, 9:30AM CDT


Injured 4-year varsity player honored with ceremonial start in 7-0 Senior Night win

GURNEE – Warren senior Emma Paraskos waited a long time for the final home game of her career.

As a freshman, she showed the promise to be promoted to the varsity, but the coronavirus pandemic wiped out the entire season.

A little over a year later in 2021, Paraskos gained valuable experience playing on the varsity in a shortened season without playoffs because of the pandemic.

Last season, Paraskos was a key starter on a loaded team that went 12-4-4 and saw its season end in a 2-1 loss to Fremd in a Class 3A regional championship game.

This season, after she committed to play Division I soccer at Valparaiso University, Paraskos was looking forward to making a big impact on the pitch for the Blue Devils. But in the season opener at New Trier, she suffered a season-ending knee injury.

On Monday night, Paraskos got an opportunity to take to the field as a surprise honorary starter on Senior Night against Zion-Benton. She began the game with an emotional opening kickoff.

Paraskos said she cherished the opportunity and thanked her coaches for allowing her to take the home field for the first and last time in her senior season.

“I knew I wasn’t going to be able to play on Senior Night, and that’s definitely one thing you look forward to, especially when I was a freshman on varsity,” she said. “I was looking forward to it, this (night). My injury made it where I couldn’t have it, but my coach reached out to me and said we can do this for you, but you just need to get a doctor’s note. I wanted to try. It was special. This is the first time I got to play on our home field.

“I’ve gone through a lot in my career. My junior year really was my only real year. This year I expected so much and was so excited. Then to have this (injury) was hard, but I’ve tried to overcome it.”

Her teammates, especially the three other seniors, made sure Paraskos would not be disappointed with their effort on the pitch. The Blue Devils scored six goals in the first half to cruise to a 7-0 triumph over the Zee-Bees in North Suburban Conference action.

Paraskos said she has used the time off the field to help her teammates.

“You are still learning and active in the game,” Paraskos said. “They look to me, as like a little assistant coach so I get to help out everyone and pull them aside if I see somebody struggling, and I just try and help them.”

The Blue Devils (9-4-3, 4-2-1) didn’t require much coaching from Paraskos nor Warren head coach Ryan McCabe on Monday. It was a special night that turned out to be perfect. 

Not only did Paraskos take the field, the other three seniors – Paige Hogberg, Alina May and Kassy Rodriguez – all scored a goal in the victory. Sophomore Addison Stanciak scored twice, and Sofia Ogren and Grace Rios also tallied a goal. Reese Mertens passed out two assists.  Kate Mondejar and Maya Martinek added helpers. Goalie Audrey Groth had three saves to notch the clean-sheet.

McCabe said the entire team came together to show their love and support for Paraskos.

“It was pretty emotional for Emma and the team,” McCabe said. “I talked about it during the pregame, and it got pretty emotional. Emma is a pretty big part of this team. She’s the heartbeat of the team. To see her be recognized was pretty special. I think all the girls wanted to make sure she had that proper recognition.”

McCabe said the senior group has endured a unique journey, and also waited their turn behind the star-studded Class of 2022.

“Emma was on varsity in her freshman year and lost it because of COVID,” he said. “All four of the (current) seniors were on the varsity as sophomores. We had very talented girls that were older than them, so they had to wait and pay their dues. They learned valuable lessons playing under those girls and waiting. They are now making the most of their opportunity in their senior year, and also doing a nice job meshing with the younger players and making sure they pass on what they’ve learned to the younger group.

“We’re on a run now. This is what you want leading into the postseason, to play the brand of soccer that we’re teaching. Everyone knows their roles; to get that sorted out before postseason is important.”

Hogberg, the Chicagoland MVP of the Match, cherished achieving her goal of scoring a Senior Night goal. She entered the match with one goal for the season. She curved a shot off a free kick into the far post, immediately jumping up and down and hugging several teammates. Her 49th-minute goal capped a scoring flurry by the Blue Devils, plus shortened the game due to the mercy rule.

“That felt amazing,” Hogberg said of her goal. “I lined up and wanted it. I saw the keeper was near post. I took my shot to the far post, and it went right through her hands. I wanted one for Senior Night. I was the last one. It was a good end to the night.”

The senior defender, who committed to attend Kentucky for academics only, noted how memorable the victory was for the Blue Devils, who have been on a 5-0-1 run since dropping a 2-0 decision at Stevenson on April 21.

“It’s been so fun,” Hogberg said. “We have really turned into a close family. They did a great job organizing stuff tonight and honoring us. We’ve played with some great people in the last few years, so it’s kind of surreal to realize this is our time and our legacy that we’re leaving behind.”

Rodriguez, a defender, scored her first goal of the season to extend the Blue Devils; lead to 4-0 lead.

“Today was super special just because everything the girls did for us was super nice,” Rodriguez said. “I’m so thankful to be on a supportive team that’s a family. It was super special getting that goal. I saw it, lined up and saw the keeper was near post, and it went in. I’m so grateful to have such a great team.”

May, a forward, scored the second goal of the game and her season off an assist from Mertens. 

“It’s so bittersweet, just because I’ve been here for so long and seen all the girls come up and look at us like leaders,” May said. “We’ve picked each other up all year, like a family. It’s really cool to come together and celebrate our departure.

“Last year I was on a roll, too. I got super injured last year against Zion-Benton, so to come here and play against them and not get injured is awesome.”

Zion-Benton coach Cliff Pontillo admitted it has been a long season, partly because he had higher expectations for his team. The Zee-Bees did have a few positives in the shutout. Freshman Annabel Ayala drilled a shot that clanged off the crossbar midway through the first half. The Zee-Bees (6-13-1, 0-7-0) also had a goal in the second half waved off.

“My girls battled hard against a team that’s well-coached and has a lot of talented players,” he said. “I thought we had a goal at the end, which would’ve been a nice thing. In games like this, we have to define what winning is for us in the game. We did some good things that we saw that can build for next year.”

The Zee-Bees host Wheeling in a state tournament regional quarterfinal at 3:30 p.m. Friday.

“We take it day at a time and enjoy each other’s company,” Pontillo said. “We only have one senior in Allison Castellanos, and she leads by example. She’s been with me for four years. She’s the one player who sets the tone with her physical play and skill level. She’s been fun to coach and we appreciate her.” 

Starting lineups
GK: Mia Carias
D: Katherine Banda
D: Abby Bahena
D: Natalie Lopez
D: Areli Juarez
M: Allison Castellanos
M: America Zavala
M: Aracely Mascorro
M: Yatziri Martinez
F: Abbi McLaughlin
F: Lina Diaz
GK: Audrey Groth
D: Kassy Rodriguez
D: Ava Denapoli
D: Paige Hogberg
D: Anjelica Amezquita
M: Reese Mertens
M: Sophia Ogren
M: Alina May
M: Emma Paraskos
F: Maya Martinek
F: Addison Stanciak
Chicagoland Soccer MVP of the Match: Paige Hogberg, sr., D, Warren

Scoring summary

First half
Warren: Stanciak (unassisted), 10’
Warren: May (Mertens), 17’
Warren: Stanciak (Mondejar), 20’
Warren: Rodriguez (unassisted), 26’
Warren: Ogren (Martinek), 30’
Warren: Rios (Mertens), 35’
Second half
Warren: Hogberg (unassisted), 49’