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Feature story: Chicagoland Soccer Player of the Year

By By Patrick Z. McGavin, 07/14/23, 9:18AM CDT


Kiley McMinn, sr., F, O'Fallon

By Patrick Z. McGavin

Kiley McMinn has always had a malleable personality -- relaxed with a laid-back temperament.

She plays soccer the same way, but on the pitch an impactful quality comes into clear focus. Her style and demeanor mask an intense desire.

“I have always been a competitive person,” McMinn said. “It started when I was little. I was always being competitive with my older sisters. Now I am competitive with my friends. I think competition helps us improve. 

“I am not a very flashy player. I am calm on the ball, and I get the job done.”

In the 2021 and 2022 seasons, McMinn was comfortable being a background player. This season she made the incredible jump to the program's most prolific player.

On the evening of the first Saturday in June, McMinn concluded a double that no other player will likely match.

Late in the second overtime of the Class 3A state championship game against Barrington at North Central College, the senior forward from O’Fallon made her move.

Watching sophomore teammate Allie Tredwell win a ball and break down the left side, she moved down the center slot of the pitch toward the goal.

Her run coincided brilliantly with the subsequent cross. McMinn accepted the pass six yards off the goal line and delivered the game-winning goal that earned the Panthers’ their second state championship in the last three years.

“It showed that my emotions did not get the best of me,” she said. “When I received the crossing pass in front of the goal, I could have been nervous and made a mistake.

“I was calm with my first touch, and I just placed it in the back of the net.”

With the goal, McMinn became the primary author of both of O’Fallon’s state titles.

Her 2021 goal on a free kick in the 55th minute of the championship match beat Lyons 1-0 at Hoffman Estates High School.

“I can’t believe I scored two game-winning, state championship goals, but I could not have done it without my teammates,” she said.

“Both games were against very tough opponents that ended with a 1-0 score. While I was the one who put the ball in the back of the net, my team stayed strong and kept the other team from scoring.”

The final goal of her high school career set her school record for goals in a season at 49. She added 11 assists during the campaign for good measure.

For her ruthless efficiency and big-time play, Kiley McMinn is the overwhelming choice for the Chicagoland Soccer Player of the Year.

She beat out a high-quality list of players that included: St. Charles North senior midfielder Bella Najera; Metea Valley senior forward Tyra King; Lockport senior forward Bella Diorio; Barrington senior midfielder Brooke Brown; Glenwood sophomore forward Rylann Law; Plainfield North senior forward Tessa Fagerson and Wheaton North junior keeper Zoey Bohmer.

With the honor, O’Fallon becomes the second school to boast two Chicagoland Soccer players of the year. The Panthers’ Aubrey Mister captured the award in 2021.

Barrington took the Player of the Year honor the first two seasons it was awarded. Midfielder Sophia Spinell garnered the honor in 2017; goalkeeper Sam Schmitz kept it in-house the following spring.

O'Fallon's Avery Christopher, who scored the then seasonal record of 39 goals as an all-stater last season, was a contender for the Chicagoland Soccer Player of the Year distinction. It was awarded to Metea Valley midfielder Jordan Lange, who earned repeat all-state status this spring despite an injury that ended her high school career after 12 games.

O'Fallon's windfall of talent provided a great educational opportunity for McMinn.

“I learned so much from playing with Aubrey, Avery and the other talented players on the team,” McMinn said. “Playing with them gave me great exposure to the high level of talent they bring to the team.

“At the beginning of the year as I was transitioning from midfield to forward, I watched some of Avery’s films to help, because she was the star player. I’m close with both of them and admire their talent. I’m thankful for the opportunity to play with and learn from them.”

Players like McMinn, Christopher and Mister supercharged coach Justin Judiscak’s transformation of the program.

In his first season at the helm in 2018, the Panthers won just two games and posted a 15.7 win-percentage.

Since then, the team is 75-15-3 for an 82.2 win percentage in its last four seasons. Over the past three seasons the numbers are 61-7-1 and 89.1.

“I have been blessed as a coach to have players that are great goal-scorers these past three years,” Judiscak said. “All three were highly effective at winning the ball in the air, but they were also unique in the way they went about their game.

“Aubrey was a player that could run past anyone on the wing and loved to strike the ball from distance. Avery was amazing at finding spaces in dangerous areas to score and had a knack to score anywhere in the box.

“Kiley had such composure on the ball. You just knew when she got it in a scoring situation, she was going to find a way to finish her chances.

“She definitely benefited from playing with Aubrey and Avery.”

McMinn made an incredible leap from a background scorer to the offensive catalyst this season.

She improved from three goals as a sophomore to eight in 2022. Her 49 tallies this season were the most in Class 3A and ranked second overall in Illinois. McMinn led Class 3A and was the fifth-leading scorer in the state with 109 points.

Judiscak now directs a program that belongs among the best in the state. The Panthers have joined Illinois' top programs--Barrington, Naperville North and New Trier -- which dominated the Class 3A state champion's mantle from 2012-19.

McMinn appreciates the savvy and impact of her coach.

“I think coach Judiscak had experienced through the years what worked and what didn’t work,” she said.

“Since we won our first state title, numerous players have played for ‘Jude,’ which helped with the team dynamics, expectations and leadership. We’ve also had more girls who played competitive soccer in the offseason, which increases the talent.”

McMinn will now slingshot to Marquette University following her remarkable season.

Her spot in IHSA soccer history is carved in stone: a two-time state champion; the first, and perhaps last, multiple title-game-winning goal-scorer; and the first female player to earn the Player of the Year awards from both the Illinois High School Soccer Coaches Association and Chicagoland Soccer in the same season.
She'll carry forward many fond remembrances.

“I love when our team is having fun and playing at our best,” McMinn said. “Of course, winning a state title is a huge thrill.

“What I learned is that teams are much more than talent and skills. Camaraderie, character, coaching and competitive spirit are also critical to a team’s success.

"Scoring those game-winning goals is going to be a lifelong memory that I get to share with my friends and teammates.”


Chicagoland Soccer Players of the Year

2023: Kiley McMinn, sr., F, O’Fallon
2022: Jordan Lange, jr., MF, Metea Valley
2021: Aubrey Mister, sr., F, O'Fallon
2020: None selected; coronavirus pandemic
2019: Emma Weaver, jr., MF, New Trier
2018: Sam Schmitz, sr., GK, Barrington
2017: Sophia Spinell, sr., MF, Barrington