Maria Selvaggio has already had an incredible impact on Wheaton Academy girls soccer history.
Now, she gets to guide the Warriors towards the next phase of greatness.
The leader in assists on Wheaton Academy’s first-ever girls Class A state champion in 2004, Selvaggio now takes over from Jeff Brooke as the squad’s new head coach.
Although she is more familiar than truly new.
“I have been an assistant coach at Wheaton Academy since the fall of 2011,” Selvaggio said. “Prior to that I spent two years as the head varsity girls coach at Aurora Central Catholic, and spent two years coaching youth club soccer as well.”
Her background in winning carried over to her college career. Playing four years at Wheaton College, Selvaggio was part of two NCAA Division III championships and a second place finish.
All in all, the ideal candidate to continue Wheaton Academy’s tradition of excellence.
“I know this program very well; I know soccer very well; and I am extremely passionate about maintaining the high level of play and strong culture that the Wheaton Academy has,” Selvaggio said.
“I am honored to be taking over from Jeff Brooke, and Dave Underwood before him, who have both done amazing things for Wheaton Academy and for our program. This program was very influential in my life as a player, so it’s a dream to be leading as the next head coach.”
She also inherits some dream talent from a 2019 squad that won its sixth-straight regional title and went undefeated in Metro Suburban Conference Blue Division play.
Midfield will be a team strength this year. Emma Goebel leads the Warriors’ senior class.
“She was All-Conference in 2019, and is a huge asset to our midfield and attack,” Selvaggio said of Goebel, who will play this fall at Taylor University in Indiana. “She has great skill and vision on the field, and will be vital to our success this year.”
Goebel had nine goals and 12 assists last season. She brings intangibles to the field far behind the scoring column.
“She is a very strong leader for our team and program,” Selvaggio said. “She’s extremely driven and disciplined as an individual player and athlete, and she works incredibly hard to be the best she can be in the game and have an impact on the field.
“She also has a heart to serve her teammates and put the team first, and is a fantastic role model for our underclassmen.”
Junior Amy Alexander comes off her own huge season, earning all-conference and all-sectional honors last spring.
“She is also a critical player in our midfield,” Selvaggio said. “She has a presence on the soccer field that is undeniable. She understands the game on a deep level, and her skill and athleticism combined with her intelligence makes her very fun to watch.
“She defends with discipline, and she knows how to quickly transition and push the play on offense. She is the link between our defense and offense. When she plays in the midfield, she is the glue that holds our team together.”
Among other returning players, juniors Sarah Vander Klok and Kelsey Bowling started at defender spots last spring. And at goalkeeper, junior starter Julia Liposky and sophomore Sara Swoboda each saw notable time in the nets in 2019.
“Juniors Kelsey Bowling and Sarah VanderKlok on the width have speed and strength and are really tough to defend when they get forward and create for us,” Selvaggio said. “And junior goalkeeper Julia Liposky will bring confidence and skill for us in goal.”
Besides Goebel, the Warriors have just two other seniors (Anna Dehaan and Beth Bergquist) on the varsity roster. But a solid group of newcomers should more than take up any slack.
Two junior transfers in particular figure to make an impact.
“Kelly Bickhart (midfielder/defender) transferred this school year from Westminster Christian,” Selvaggio said. “Kelly is extremely smooth on the ball. Her skill is undeniable, and we are confident when the ball is at her feet. She sees the field very well and distributes with precision.
“We are so thrilled to have her at Wheaton Academy this season. She will be multifaceted for us, as she can play all over the field. She can defend, win balls, distribute, dribble and finish. We’re excited to see her have an impact immediately with us this year.”
Similar emotions mark the arrival of junior defender Olivia Crane.
“She transferred from South Elgin last school year,” Selvaggio said, “but due to IHSA transfer rules was not eligible, so this is her first season with us.
“Olivia is a very passionate and confident player. She is technically sound, has great athleticism, and will be an important leader in our back line.
“We’re looking forward to her helping win balls, distribute out of the back, hold the defense together and defend opposing forwards,” Selvaggio added.
Sophomore defender/midfielder Sydney Abbott’s return to health provides another injection of new talent.
“She tore her ACL right before tryouts last season but is back and ready to play,” Selvaggio said. “Sydney brings a high level of skill to our team. She is extremely polished technically and is very hungry to play after her injury last year. We’re so excited to have her skill on the width for us this year.”
Two other sophomores and a freshman are expected to make big contributions.
“Emily Setran is a crafty midfielder/winger for us,” Selvaggio said, “a sophomore returning to varsity after a great freshman year. Emily is extremely technical on the ball, very smooth, creative, and quick. Her fitness level is a huge asset as well. Her skill combined with her quickness make for a key player in our attack.”
Lily Lebo will be another key sophomore.
“She is one of the fastest girls at our school, having competed in the state cross country finals (in November),” Selvaggio said. “She’s also an incredibly smooth soccer player with great technical skill and understanding of the game. She is dangerous on offense and has great composure near the goal.”
Haleigh Manske is one of three freshmen on varsity.
“She brings a level of skill and intelligence on offense that are exciting for our program,” Selvaggio said. “Her technical abilities, finishing abilities, and creativity on the ball are fun to watch. We’re so excited to have her in the program and see her grow at the high school level.”
Less exciting is the prospect of replacing six key senior starters. But the new mentor is confident.
“We lost some amazing leaders and soccer players in last year’s graduating seniors,” Selvaggio said. “But many girls have stepped up to fill their shoes this year.
“We have some really talented girls on our team this season. Our defense and midfield has some extremely gifted athletes.
“Goebel and Alexander in our midfield will be an amazing duo,” Selvaggio added. “They have a very mature understanding of the game, and have the skill and drive to make this season a special one. They’re dangerous on the ball, distribute creatively and work incredibly hard.”
Offense appears to be the Warriors’ primary concern.
“We graduated our two top goal scorers from last season,” Selvaggio said, “so the question will be who is going to finish and score goals this season. We will look to add some underclassmen into the attack, and hope to create through the middle where our strengths lie.
“We are excited about some young players who are hungry and speedy up-top and on the width, and have confidence girls will step up and make this an exciting 2020 season.”
And with a strong link to Wheaton Academy’s past at the helm, the Warriors look to be in good shape for the present and future.
“My philosophy as a coach is rooted in the desire for our program to pursue excellence in all we do,” Selvaggio said. “We want to pursue excellence on the soccer field, whether in training or competition.
“We strive to be technically sound, with players who are beyond fit, creative and composed, and play a high level, intelligent game of soccer.
Selvaggio debuted as a Warriors player in 2002, and has been around for much of the program’s subsequent success.
“I have seen firsthand the work put into our program over two decades, from many players and staff who have come and go,” she said. “We want to honor their legacy and humbly strive to be reach maximum potential each season.
“We also want to pursue excellence off the soccer field. The way we interact with each other and others, the way we control our minds and emotions, and the way we strive to glorify God in all of that. We seek Biblical excellence in how we live our lives and represent our faith.”