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Feature story: Illinois High School Soccer Coaches Association spotlights spring luminaries

By Mike Garofola, 06/26/24, 11:45AM CDT


AURORA -- The 37th Illinois High School Soccer Coaches Association spring award ceremony took place June 4 on the campus of Aurora University and recognized teams and individuals from across the state.

It highlighted a 2024 girls season that will not soon be forgotten.

The pinnacle of the event, which took place inside the school’s Innovation Center, was easily the introduction of the 2024 IHSSCA All-State Team. It consisted of 90 field players and seven keepers.

Barrington senior Roos VanRoekel was named the Player of the Year after a brilliant season where she handled the role of central defender nearly perfectly and led three newcomers along her backline.

"Roos is one of those rare and unique players and people who you just always want to be around," said proud manager Ryan Stengren.
“She works so hard, is humble, a great teammate and leader, and wants everyone around her to be the best that they can be.”

The VanRoekel family moved to the area from the small town of Ammorzoden in the western Netherlands province of Getherland just prior to the start of the 2022-23 school year. For the Fillies soccer program, she became the gift that kept on giving.

"We saw at the start that Roos was a pretty good player," recounted Stengren. “We never imagined just how good she would become.”

As a junior, VanRoekel joined a trio of veteran backline teammates and immediately displayed the exceptional mental and physical attributes necessary for central defending. She contributed to a Fillies backline that was a key to the team’s Class 3A second place finish.

This season she took charge of the defense.

"There are few who could have taken three new players in a backline and helped make them into a top-flight unit,” said Stengren. “We conceded just five on the year, and Roos scored 18 of her own -- an incredible number for a defender."

"Everyone associated with the school and soccer program made me feel so welcome from my very first school visit," said VanRoekel, who will play in the fall at Loyola. “To be a part of Barrington soccer … I will always appreciate and remember my great teammates and coaching staff.”

The coaches’ Player of the Year trophy will not sit alone in the VanRoekel family home. It will join her recognition as a coaches’ All-American, Gatorade Illinois Player of the Year and Mid-Suburban League West Division Player of the Year.

Barrington juniors Megan Holland (Kentucky) and Piper Lucier (Marquette) joined their teammate on the squad and earned their second All-State honor. Holland also earned All-Midwest honors.

Seventeen additional second-year all-staters came from the Chicagoland Soccer network.

The recent graduates are: Catherine Cupps (Payton), Ellie Egeland (Stevenson, Maryland), Emily Fox (Deerfield, St. Louis), Gemma Gillespie (Fremd, Butler), Ajla Gradjan (Payton, UIC), Anya Gulbrandsen (Oswego East, Wisconsin), Grace Kapsch (Fenwick), Casey Kittridge (Lemont, Eastern Illinois), Kaylin Klutcharch (Lockport, Indiana State), Jocelyn Leigh (Evanston, Loyola), and Carisma Rosales (Morton, Marquette).

The junior awardees were: Ashlyn Adams (Wheaton-Warrenville South), Grace Carman (Lane), Caroline Mortonson (Lyons) and Addison Stanciak (Warren, St. Louis).

The sophomores, who have been named in both their prep seasons, were Claire DeCook (Naperville North) and Jane Rogers (Wheaton North).

York senior Michaela Quinn capped a magnificent season with her first All-State honor. 

The three-sport star was a two-time all-stater for the Dukes cross country team, which claimed Class 3A state championships in 2021 and 2023 and a second place finish in 2022.

Quinn will run at Indiana in the fall.

St. Charles North senior Laney Stark also collected her first All-State nod. The 20-goal scorer will play at Wis.-Green Bay next season after leading the North Stars to second place in Class 3A state tournament.

Herscher senior forward Katelyn Borschnack (Southern Indiana), who scored an astounding 168 goals in her career, took home her third All-State honor.

Among the heralded players, Cate McDonald, of Hinsdale Central, and Maria Nikas, of Loyola, received effusive praise from their managers.

“Cate McDonnell is going on to Clemson University to study engineering, and will undoubtedly go on to make the world a better place," began Hinsdale Central manager Anthony Madonia.

"Standing at just over five feet, Cate is a living and breathing example of the old saying ‘Big things come in small packages.’"

"The 2020 (COVID-19) season was a lost one for us. Enter Cate McConnell the following year as a freshman. I immediately was struck by her ability to communicate way beyond her years: balancing her sports with a grueling academic schedule filled with mostly AP level courses, plus she found time to volunteer for a variety of projects in and away from school.”

McDonnell was humbled by the recognition.

Among her accomplishments this season, she finished second all-time in the program at 10-consecutive games with a goal and/or assist behind all-stater Toni Kokenis, who tallied in 11-straight games as a junior in the Red Devils state championship year of 2009.

"It's a real honor and special moment for me to be named All-State,” she said. “It's a credit to my teammates and coaching staff, and one of the many memories I'll take with me from being at Hinsdale Central." 

The senior scored or helped in 17 of the Red Devils 22 contests and earned the prestigious program award that honors former player Julie Heidecke. It is given to the Red Devils player who demonstrates commitment, spirit, determination, leadership, sportsmanship, academic success and concern for others.

Loyola’s Nikas, a three-year varsity veteran at Loyola, provided manager Shannon Hartinger the perfect blend of first-class defending as well as timely goal-scoring. The Ramblers continued their string of Girls Catholic Athletic Conference Red Division titles during her varsity service.

"Maria anchored our backline and was essential in limiting our opponents opportunities to score goals," said Hartinger. “It was her ability to read the game and excellent ability to win balls with the intent to help us keep possession, that made her the standout player that she was."

Since Nikas stepped into Hartinger’s first 11 three seasons ago as a central defender, Loyola has allowed only four Red Division goals. Three of them came in the undefeated, untied campaign this season.

Nikas and her backline mates allowed three goals in league play this season and nine in the regular-season. Since Nikas stepped into Hartinger’s first 11 three seasons ago as a central defender, the Ramblers have allowed only four Red Division goals.

"Maria's growth as a student-athlete in our program has been remarkable," added Hartinger. “She has demonstrated outstanding leadership both on and off the field and has excelled in the classroom.

"Maria also scored arguably the biggest goal in conference against Fenwick (May 2) when she scored an Olympico to help us win the GCAC," said Hartinger.

The league title was the 14th-consecutive for the program and sixth-straight for Hartinger.

Tinley Park was well represented at the awards ceremony. Manager Kelsey Neylon was thrilled to celebrate her dynamic duo of Kit Gormley and Addie Weed.

The Gormley-Weed combo delivered 48 goals and 31 assists during what easily was the Titans best season (17-4-1) in recent memory. The team’s playoff run ended with a 2-0 loss in its sectional final to Providence.

"Addie transferred here as a sophomore and proved to be the best addition to our team that we could ask for," said Neylon.

"Her connection play, accuracy, control and ability to work successfully in tight spaces is second to none. But what sets her apart were her contributions off the field that made a huge impact in helping our program grow to where it did this season."

Weed, who ended her prep career with 60 goals and 32 helpers, is headed to Lakeland University in Wisconsin, where she will continue to play.

Gormley, a four-year starter for the Titans, will play in the fall at the Milwaukee School of Engineering.

"Kit is like no player that I've ever coached before," Neylon boldly stated.

"She has set the tone for all of our Titans soccer athletes. She pushes herself physically and mentally to be at her best, does the same with her teammates. She is intense, competitive, driven and is an absolute workhorse, who will leave an everlasting legacy on our program."

Gormley finished her prep career with 67 goals and 51 assists.

Members of the IHSSCA Executive Board of Directors -- president Jim Konrad, boys’ vice president Brian Allen, treasurer Steve Goletz, outreach director Hartinger and Public Relations Director Seong Ha emceed the two-hour program.

Ryan Lakin, manager of the Aurora University men's team, spoke about student-athletes finding the best fit for college.

Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Matt Crisman took a role in the program.

Hartinger spoke about the outreach program which focuses on athletes with intellectual, emotional or physical disabilities and the TopScorer program, which schedules events in the area through the auspices of US Youth Soccer.

The ceremony recognized coaches who claimed milestone victories. At the top of the list was New Trier’s Jim Burnside, who broke the rare 600-career victory plateau and increased his total to become the all-time girls leader in victories. That number now sits at 611 after the Trevians lifted the 3A state championship trophy on June 1.

New Trier won its seventh state title and now sits one behind St. Charles High School (1990, 1992-94, 1996-2000) which split into East and North high schools in the 2000-01 school year.

Coach Jay Lipe (Glenwood) surpassed the 500-victory mark. Greg Bryan (Pleasant Plains) and Todd Elkei (Lockport) hit the 400-win level.

Sarah Fack enjoyed a memorable 2024 campaign. She earned her 100th-career victory and first Class AA state title at Crystal Lake Central. Those accomplishments were topped off by the Coach of the Year honor.

Dan Rogan, who retired after 28 years as a New Trier High School counselor and assistant to Burnside, was named the Assistant Coach of the Year.

James McCabe was named Referee of the Year. The Pekin native began his career in 2016 and was lauded for his character and mild-mannered style.

The Sportsmanship Cup was shared by Central Suburban League and district rivals Deerfield and Highland Park, whose programs stressed peace and acceptance within their collective communities and campuses.

Players on hand from the state’s 14 sections, who earned honors for achievements in academics, sportsmanship and skill, were recognized at the event.

To see the full list of honorees, click here

Twenty-six additional players from the Chicagoland Soccer network earned first-time all-state honors from the coaches.

The seniors are: Bailey Abbott (Benet); Emma Amberg (Lemont, Carthage); Lucy Burk (Metea Valley/Northern Michigan); Lindsey Ciss (Glenbrook South/Fairfield); Emma Czech (Lockport/Southern Illinois-Edwardsville); Jaime Elias (New Trier/Texas Tech); Mackenzie Loomis (St. Charles East/Eastern Michigan); Cate McDonnell (Hinsdale Central); Josie Noble (New Trier/Wake Forest); Lauren Roche (Young); Kristiyana Sevova (Lane); Abigail Snowden (Lane); and Natalie Zodrow (Lockport/Wisconsin-Milwaukee).

The juniors are: Claire Brady (Loyola); Bella Brozek (Naperville Central/Wisconsin-Green Bay); Monica Correa (Saint Viator); 
Moira Koleno (Young); Sidney Lazenby (St. Charles East); 
Dahlia Rodriguez (Grayslake Central); and Cynthia Waller (Lane).

The sophomores are: Hana Allen (Glenbard West); Avianna Hernandez (South Elgin); Gracie Lisota (Hersey); Lucia Trautman (DePaul); and Gwen Zimmerman (Fremd).

Jones’ Alyssa Ramos was one of only two freshmen named to the team.

The venue for the coaches event, Aurora University, was recognized in a May 1 U.S. News and World Report story “20 Beautiful College Campuses.”

"Aurora University was the perfect venue to allow us to have a first-class ceremony that showcased the very best student-athletes in our sport," said Ha, who was named Soccer Person of the Year.

"The IHSSCA is recognized by our national organization, the United Soccer Coaches, as the leading high school organization (which) recognizes its student-athletes and coaches -- building upon years of tradition with a fantastic evening."