After three weeks of Girls soccer on the Illinois side and now two plus in Missouri, I thought I’d look back at a few underclassmen that impressed. My intent is to give them a shout out with a brief look at why they are worth your consideration going forward. My criteria is their ability to have an impact on their high school team and potentially on the larger stage as well. I’ve limited my evaluation to players and teams I’ve already seen. I’ve got another half dozen I’m looking forward to getting out to see soon. Who’s on your list?
Julia O’Neill, Althoff Crusaders (2021)
Julia stood out for me as the best player for Althoff last season in their mid-season draw with eventual champions Quincy Notre Dame. Her technical and attacking skills allowed her to break down the defense and open things up for the Crusaders. This season she was on the wing for the opening game win over a strong Waterloo team, scoring the second goal. She currently leads the team in goals (6) and tied for assists lead (3). She’s also a member of the two time State Champion Lou Fusz Lagow 2003 squad.
Natalie Gum, Waterloo Bulldogs (2021)
The sophomore midfielder plays behind captain Paige Kinzinger and her ball-winning skills are key to allowing Kinzinger to lead the attack. What stood out for me however in the Bulldogs opening game at Althoff were her 1v1 skills. She was regularly able to carry the ball into the offensive end and create a man advantage for Waterloo. She is now the second leading scorer (3 goals) that combined with 3 assists puts her second on the team in overall points behind Payton Richter. BTW Natalie, get your money back on that recruiting video that offers zero contact or team information.
Jacey Cotton, Waterloo Bulldogs (2021)
Jacey joins the team this season as a sophomore and steps right into a central defensive role along side Jr captain Karleigh Daniels. She’s the best athlete on the pitch with leaping ability and speed that helped her shut down several potential breakaways by the Crusaders when I saw her opening week. She’s added a goal and an assist as well with good technical skills.
Note: Waterloo has no seniors this season and as noted in this game report on their opening game loss at Althoff, started five freshman. Althoff also had several significant contributors that are underclassmen.
Grace Bindbeutel, St. Dominic (2022)
I wrote about Grace being named the ECNL Midwest Conference Player of the Year in the 2003 age group this past Fall. She was joined in this honor by Anna Lawler (2000 age group), rare company indeed. Bindbeutel’s technical skills and pace were on display as she led the Crusader’s attack against IWA. She’s gone on to score 3 and assist on 3 which puts her second in overall scoring for the team.
Ashley Martinez, St. Dominic (2021)
Martinez chose to play club soccer as a freshman but she’s slotted into the attacking midfield role for the Crusaders as a sophomore. She’s a box-to-box player that excels on both sides of the ball and has the ability to go forward and score, adding three goals thus far this season.
Riley Combs, St. Dominic (2021)
Combs moves into the central defense for St. Dominic this year after significant minutes as a substitute last year. Part of the Missouri 2002 ECNL squad, she was named to the Watch List the last season in the team previews provided to college coaches.
Izzy Patterson, IWA (2021)
Patterson got to play with her older sister last year as a freshman, getting important substitute minutes, and they celebrated that opportunity and the teams success. She made a move in the Fall to the SLSG Illinois ECNL 2003 squad and used the opportunity to hone her skills in the middle. She’ll be critical to the Red Knights success going forward.
The Crusaders opened their season against IWA, which was also the last opponent they played in 2018, and it was quite a display. The three players I point out are unique talents and form the core of the team right down the middle effectively but Avery Malloy (2022) at defensive midfield, Logan Racine (2021) and Jess Grayek (2021) they’ve got the talent to keep winning the next few years.
Allison Murray (2022)
Lutheran is off to a very strong start and games against AAA Conference foes DuBourg and Trinity this week will show how prepared they are to compete for the Conference title. 13 underclassman on a roster of 21 has offered an influx of talent and a winning attitude. Leading that effort is freshman Allison Murray who leads the team in assists (3) and is second in goals (5) to Brady Edelen’s 8 (also a freshman). Murray was the MVP of the season opening tournament, her teammates love her and her technical skills set her apart as she works from a defensive midfield position to help the team earn shutouts in their first four games and lead the attack at the same time. She helped her SLSG Elite team reach the 2003 State Cup Final as well. I’d be remiss to not mention that as a freshman, she also acted as a ball girl at the Lutheran tournament. She’s good with adults as well. Hi Allison!
Mackenzie Duff (2021)
The Nerinx Hall Markers had three freshman rostered last year and Duff was a starter in the central defense, partnering with a pair of seniors to help lead the Markers to a Top 5 finish per Missouri Soccer Coaches. This year she partners with junior Amy Kaufmann and they were critical to the scoreless draw against New Trier Friday. Sophomore Sydney Smith in the defensive midfield will also be key, a teammate of Duff’s on the 2003 Missouri ECNL squad that reached the National Finals last Summer.
Sophia Cross (2021)
A sophomore wearing the captain’s armband for the Bulldogs, Cross has moved into the center of the midfield after playing on the wing last Fall as the team reached Sectionals. She’s slowly moved forward in her career, from a wing defender at U14 when she first flashed across my camera to a winger for her 2002 ECNL team and now a move into the midfield with the additional responsibilities of the captains armband.