Continuing the tradition: Plainfield North’s Polonus tabbed soccer POY

By Scott Taylor

@Taylor_Sports

The tradition continues.

For the third straight year and for the fourth time in five years, a Plainfield North player is the Voyager Media Soccer Player of the Year.

This player, however, did things a different way.

In the past, it was a barrage of goal scoring that brought the attention of others across the state.

In this case, it was a stingy defensive effort teamed up with a great free kick that brought her to the top.

That role fits Plainfield North senior Brooke Polonus, who is the 2015 Voyager Media Soccer Player of the Year.

“I worked a lot on my free kicks,” Polonus said. “Honestly, I think it is a mental thing. I know I am going to play college soccer, so I had to think about playing like they would. I knew I had to get better. I think my mental game got a lot stronger and that helped me get better.”

Polonus finished the year with five goals and four assists from the back row of the defense and led the Tigers to a seventh straight SPC title and undefeated conference season.

Plainfield North's Brooke Polonus is the Voyager Media Soccer Player of the Year.

Plainfield North’s Brooke Polonus is the Voyager Media Soccer Player of the Year.

“Our defense this year was the strongest it has ever been,” Polonus said. “We had to play from the back a lot, so it is good to get the recognition. We had a very strong backline this year.”

“Brooke is a four-year starter at center back,” North coach Jane Crowe said. “She has anchored our back line that has only given up 14 goals this season. Brooke has a rare combination of size, strength, skill, and speed that makes her very difficult to beat. Brooke was voted All-state and SPC MVP.”

Polonus is heading to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee to continue her career.

Here is the rest of the 2015 Voyager Media All-Area team.

KATHIA ARREDONDO

Joliet Central senior tallied seven goals and three assists this season. She will play next season at the University of St. Francis in Joliet.

“Kathia is a very dynamic player. She is our captain on the field. We have to keep her in the middle of the field to help with her defending, but also gives her the chance to score goals for us,” said Central coach Erin Fahey. “We would love to always have her at forward, but we need her in the middle of the field to take control and give us scoring opportunities. Our team relies on her to get the job done.

“She has tremendous touch and skill with the ball, and she is a big leader on the field. She is able to distribute the ball very nicely to give us more opportunities. She is by far the best skilled player on our team, and does whatever she can to make the team better. She has been our leading goal scorer every year and plays an important role. Without her, we don’t win games.”

TAYLOR BARZOWSKI

The junior was one of Maine South’s captains this season, as well as an All-CSL South and all-sectional selection. She drew the team’s toughest defensive assignments, helping to lead the Hawks to a 16-5-3 record and a regional title this season.

“Taylor is a wrecking ball for us in the back,” said Maine South coach J.J. Crawford. “She can man-mark, play the flat back, and catch a team’s fastest forwards. She does it all on the defensive end. Taylor is one of our, if not our, toughest players.”

ELLIE BUMPUS

Benet coach Bob Gros said Bumpus, a junior midfielder and three-year varsity starter, “Is the engine of our team who tends to dominate the midfield by winning and controlling the ball.” She totaled nine goals and nine assists, was named to the all-ESCC team and also named all-sectional.

“Ellie sets up our offense with her accurate distribution and ability to hold the ball long enough to allow attacking runs to develop,” Gros added.

SAM ELSTER

The Plainfield North junior midfielder had eight goals, and 12 assists on the year.

“Sam is one of the most skilled players in the area,” Crowe said. “Her precision in passing is outstanding, and she has the ability to place a ball perfecting for her teammates making a run. Sam has emerged as one of the best center mids in the state.”

ERIN GRAEFEN

A sophomore forward from Plainfield Central, Graefen tallied 15 goals on the season.

“Erin is fantastic technically, tactically and in the air which enables her to play any central position at an extremely high level,” Central coach Ken Schoen said. “I really can’t ask more from a player than what Erin provides. Erin’s combination of skill, intelligence, vision, speed, size and enthusiasm for the game make her one of the better players in the area.”

JAMIE HANSON

The Illinois High School Soccer Coaches Association All-State selection from Lockport tallied four goals and two assists as a defender for the Porters.

CASSIDY HENSON

Lockport goalie allowed only eight goals all season, for a .42 goals against average, while posting 12 shutouts. She was an All-Sectional selection.

EMMA HLAVIN

Leadership, athleticism and stinginess in goal are the characteristics that Benet coach Bob Gros said defines his senior goalkeeper, who sported a 0.63 goals-against average and 13 shutouts.

“She is a winner who has anchored her teams to a sectional title and three regional championships during her four years as our starting varsity goalkeeper,” Gros said. “Emma’s verbal direction to our defense along with her excellent shot stopping ability and distribution with her feet have been a real key to the success of our team.”

JACQUIE KAUFMAN

The senior forward, a three-year varsity starter for coach Gros and the Benet Redwings, is headed to the University of Texas at Dallas to continue her soccer career. Kaufman, an All-ESCC and all-sectional pick, scored 11 goals and six assists this spring.

“Jacquie is a great combination of speed, endurance, and competitive spirit,” Gros said. “She has been our most valuable offensive player this season.  Jacquie’s ability to attack the goal on a consistent basis constantly creates dangerous situations for opposing teams.”

NICHOLE LOPATIN

There is arguably not a more prolific goal-scorer in the area than Lopatin, a junior forward who set Niles West’s single-season record as a sophomore with 19, and blew by that total with a 36-goal season this spring. Coach Brett Clish said Lopatin utilized her speed to not only put herself in a position to receive a pass and score, but also to break away from defenders.

“She can use both her right and left foot,” he said. “Hopefully she’ll continue the same (scoring) output (her senior year) but step up to a leadership role, mature as a player and help out teammates both on and off the field.”

ABIGAIL LUND

Sophomore central defensive midfielder from Bolingbrook had nine goals and six assists on the season. She was named to the All-SWSC and All-Sectional teams.

“All of our offense runs through Abby, she is our most dynamic offensive player,” said Bolingbrook coach Matt Kocourek. “She had three goals on set pieces 20-plus yards outside the goal.”

EMELA MEHICEVIC

Mehicevic, a junior center-mid for Niles West, established a new school single-season record for assists this season with 18, shattering the old mark, which was 10.

“She got a lot stronger with the ball,” said Niles West coach Brett Clish. “Her handling of the ball with pressure improved a lot and her distribution got that much better. I see her next year hopefully with her production being the same but more of a leader on and off the field.”

ELLIE METROS

The senior center-mid is an all-state Section 2 pick as well as an All-West Suburban Silver selection. Though she scored 10 goals and had six assist, Metros also was a defensive catalyst, helping the Trojans reach double digits in shutout victories this season.

“Ellie has been our strongest player throughout the season,” said DGN coach Bob Calder. “She effectively combines fast-paced effort with composure. Her leadership and control through the middle of the field has played a big part in our team only letting in 12 goals this season (through 21 games).”

AVA PORLIER

The senior Downers South all-state midfielder and two-year captain, who was part of the Mustangs’ 2012 third-place state squad, finished this season with 11 goals—five of which were game-tying or game-winning goals—and seven assists. The Valparaiso University recruit also is a three-time All-West Suburban Gold team member and finished her career with 21 goals and 21 assists. 

“This year Ava really stepped into a leadership role this season,” said Downers South coach Chris Hernandez. “On the field, Ava was a combative and physical presence who combined great stamina and composure to be an inspirational figure that could be counted on during the biggest moments.”

AUTUMN RASMUSSEN

Rasmussen, a junior forward for first-year coach Chris Hernandez’s Downers South Mustangs, netted 15 goals (including four game-winners) and 11 assists in 2015 while receiving All-West Suburban Gold and all-sectional honors. She has scored 32 goals in her career so far, and Hernandez expects more of the same in 2016.

“What makes Autumn unique is her ability to take defenders on,” Hernandez said. “This allows her to be in dangerous positions where she can set up a teammate or score herself. Net year, I expect Autumn to focus on the details of her game and become even more clinical in front of the goal. Autumn is another of our girls who demands respect simply with her ability and work effort. I expect that leadership to be shown next year.”

JESSICA RIDDERHOFF

Calder calls Ridderhoff , a Washington University recruit, “Our most dangerous forward this season.” The senior scored 12 goals and had four assists, was a Section 2 all-sectional pick and was named all-conference in the West Suburban Silver.

“She has developed into a very dangerous player, willing to take any defender one-on-one as well as having an excellent shot from distance,” Calder said.

HANNAH RIEKER

Junior midfielder from Minooka tallied five goals and three assists on the season. She was named All-SWSC and honorable mention All-Sectional.

“Hannah is a dynamic player who is extremely dangerous on the wing,” said Minooka coach Christopher Brolley.

KERRY SLAGA

Led Westmont with 27 goals this year en route to a regional championship.

REYSE STIRRETT

Stirrett was another key member of the Plainfield North defense, adding one goal and three assists from the back mid position.

“Reyse is our defensive mid, and is a big reason for our defensive success this season,” Crowe said. “She plays right in front of the back four, and is outstanding at winning balls in both the air and on the ground. She has a great engine and does a lot of the work that goes unnoticed.”

– Mark Gregory and Mike Sandrolini contributed

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