Chicago Sun-Times
By Patrick Z. McGavin

July 2012 Archives

The Young girls' team last spring had a distinct before and after phase. The two parts were unquestionably connected to Mia Espino, a midfielder and the team's most talented offensive player.

Without Espino, the Dolphins struggled in their attack and found themselves often on the outside looking in. Then Espino returned, and it was a wholly different team. Young went from a defensive-oriented unit dominated by star keeper Rachel Hobert to an aggressive and formidable unit.

She scored a goal and assisted another as the Dolphins ended Lane's 31-game Public League winning streak in a 2-2 draw. That was just the start. She also scored the go-ahead goal against Payton and its star Corinne Harris in the city semifinals.

Young rode that hot streak to a city title, once again breaking Lane's two-year hold on the city crown as they edged the Indians 2-1 in overtime. Naturally, it was not just because of Espino. She was the catalyst.

Her story takes on added resonance with the start of the London Summer Olympics later this week. The reason the star missed the early portion of the Dolphins' season was she involved in Guatemala's bid to qualify for the 12-team field.

She trained with the national team in Guatemala before playing in an Olympic qualifying tournament in Panama City, Panama in March. Her parents are both from Guatemala. "When I was in seventh grade, my sister [Jasmine, who currently plays at Wisconsin-Parkside] and I both tried out for the national team," Espino explained. "We both made it, but they wanted us to live there for six months and my parents strongly believed that education always comes first."

With her sister looking at colleges and Mia deciding on high schools, the timing was off. She maintained interest.

"After a few years, Guatemala kept trying to look for Guatemalan Americans to build their team, and so they did," she said. "They played in Canada to go to Panama and they won that tournament." The victory produced the invitation to play in the Panama qualifying round.

When representatives contacted Espino's father about Mia playing with the team, it was an opportunity she could not turn down, she said. "It was always my father's dream for me to play at a professional level," she said. The only downside was her sister missed the team's age cutoff, having just turned 21.

After her introduction to the Guatemalan team, Espino went to Panama City for the ten days. It was an eye-opening experience. "At first I was anxious and nervous," she said. She really looked forward to playing against the American squad. She tried out for the national team. "I only made it as far as the regional team, and I felt at that time I was faster and way better," she said. "We lost 6-0 [to the USA team] but I believe I played very well and I was satisfied because I gave it my all."
Guatemala failed to make it out of the qualifying round. Espino returned home, and her confidence soared.

"This experience helped my game a lot by making me a better defender because I'm more of a offensive center [midfielder] and on the Guatemalan team they placed me as an offensive and defensive [midfielder]," she said. "I also learned to take care of my body [better] because I spent a lot of my [sophomore] season the year before hurt and sitting out. Playing without any kind of injury is great because I was able to pass a perfect ball, go hard into a tackle sprint and I never got tired."

Because of her involvement, Espino said she is paying special attention to the Olympics. Panama City was only the beginning. "I miss my team, and I wish we had won in Panama, but it's okay because I'll be returning in two years."

The girls' soccer season ended with the coronation of three state champions: Quincy Notre Dame (Class 1A), St. Francis (Class 2A) and Naperville North (Class 3A).

The Sun-Times also published its all-area team (restricted, by the way, to players in the paper's coverage area). Conant's Kentucky-bound Courtney Raetzman, the player of the year, keyed the list. For the first time in memory, it featured two players from the Public League.

Needless to say, as comprehensive and painstakingly put together as those teams were, a lot of good, even arguably great players, were left off. Here's a quick recap of the original list.

All-area first team, alphabetical:

Corey Burns, Loyola defender; Jasmin Carrera, Lane midfielder; Megan Geldernick, Metea Valley keeper; Zoey Goralski, Neuqua Valley forward; Corinne Harris, Payton midfielder; Jen Korn, Naperville North defender; Callie O'Donnell, Plainfield North forward; Courtney Raetzman, Conant forward; Katherine Short, Naperville Central midfielder; Zoe Swift, Naperville North forward.

Second team:

April Cronin, Glenbrook South forward; Gianna Dal Pozzo, Neuqua Valley midfielder; Jill D'Amico, Naperville Central keeper; Sarrah Ludwig, Downers South forward; Courtney McHugh, York midfielder; Katie Naughton, Elk Grove defender; Molly Pfeiffer, Barrington forward; Jessica Pikul, Downers South defender; Crystal Thomas, Wheaton Academy forward; Kristina Tomaras, Metea Valley midfielder; Jess Weaver, New Trier midfielder.

Third team:

Catherine Allon, Geneva midfielder; Rachele Armand, Waubonsie Valley defender; Lexi Cozzi, Lockport forward; Rita Craven, Lincoln-Way North forward; Lucy Edwards, Lake Forest midfielder/defender; Katelyn Hammarlund, St. Viator midfielder; Ashley Handword, Plainfield North forward; Lauren Koehl, St. Charles North forward; Aly Marzonie, New Trier defender; Rachele Armand, Waubonsie Valley defender; Maggie Orlowski, Lyons keeper; Jenna Romano, Waubonsie Valley midfielder.

There were more great players than available slots. With that in mind, here's a list of players who excelled this year and deserve special mention, for their personal accomplishments, often done in the context of a team. Unlike the all-area teams, the final groupings are not naturally uniform, and have an uneven number of names.

Forwards: Ellie Ackermann, Barrington; Abbie Boswell, Naperville North; Mia Espino, Young; Ali Farkos, Homewood-Flossmoor; Eleni Haramaras, Glenbrook South; Amanda Kellow, Deerfield; Amanda Lulek, Geneva; Unique Manns, Lincoln-Way North; Lexi Peterson, WW South; Rachel Post, Lincoln-Way Central; Lauren Shroyer, Hinsdale Central; Meeghan Smith, Loyola; Savanah Uveges, South Elgin; Margaret Walker, Loyola; Kelli Zickert, Buffalo Grove.

Midfielders: Bryce Banuelos, York; Jessica Bean, Lincoln-Way North; Flo Beshiri, Downers South; Jamei Borges, Benet; Jessica Bronke, Downers South; Cora Climo, Naperville North; Sara Condon, Barrington; Ali Cottrell, Maine South; Hope D'Addario, Neuqua Valley; Veronica Ellis, Naperville Central; Amanda Gaggioli, St. Francis; Heather Handwork, Plainfield North; Tori Iatarola, Loyola; Kelli Iovino, Prospect; Briana Keska, Morton; Kelly Manski, St. Charles North; Morgan Manzke, Sandburg; Sarah Mazur, Lyons; Meredith McEniff, Naperville Central; Carolyn Nash, Glenbrook South; Sofia Pavon, Lane; Rachel Shellenback, New Trier; Cassidy Sherman, Jacobs; Abby Shipp, Lake Forest; Christina Szalach, Naperville North; Kelly Trojak, Lemont; Jenna Weiner, Stevenson; Natalie Winkates, St. Charles North.

Defenders: Amanda Alberts, Naperville Central; Emily Basten, Fremd; Kelsey Foss, Conant; Marina Katz, Lake Forest; Ari Kowalski, Lyons; Samantha Frank, Barrington; Audrey Galvin, Fenwick; Sarah McHugh, Carmel; Keeley Nolan, Glenbrook South; Emma Peele, Andrew; Kayla Sharples, Naperville North; Olivia Stasiuk, Hersey

Keepers: Michelle Balcerzak, Lincoln-Way North; Carly Dietrich, St. Charles North; Jenna Ditusa, St. Francis; Veronica Fairbairn, Glenbard East; Cassidy Hermann, Downers South; Allison Hitchcock, Naperville North; Rachel Hobert, Young; Paige Lincicum, Cary-Grove; Hannah Luedtke, Barrington; Eileen McTigue, Prospect; Brittany San Roman, Loyola;

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