Starting out young in soccer really can lead to lofty achievement in the sport.
And by 'young,' we mean very young.
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"I started playing soccer out of diapers," said Carmel Catholic standout Meegan Johnston. "I still have the fake ball with beads in it. I even have a picture of it with my dad (Neil) -- and I had his shin guards on."
Many years after that very early start, Johnston assembled the kind of season that seems like the fulfillment of destiny.
The Corsairs senior finished with 27 goals and 6 assists, helping Carmel to a 19-2 record and an appearance in the Class 3A sectional semifinals.
The postseason accolades reflect how others gauged her skills. The forward/midfielder earned all-state honors, and she's the Daily Herald's choice to captain the Lake County all-area team.
In addition to her prolific scoring, Johnston may have led her team in humility.
"We really had 10 other seniors on the field," said Johnston, who finished with 47 goals and 18 assists in her varsity career. "We just had a united front of a senior class that came together. Something just clicked. We had a lot of confidence, and that carried into the postseason."
Soccer has always been a kind of family affair for Johnston, whose mom (Peggy) and dad fostered their daughter's inclination with plenty of varied experiences in the sport. Johnston started playing organized soccer early and has competed at about every levle, from recreational leagues to GLSA, Eclipse and Team Chicago.
"Soccer has been a huge part of my life," Johnston said. "I've played soccer and practiced with my dad, who also played soccer over the years. My mom has always been there to support me."
In the next phase of her development, Johnston will take her game to another level in the fall as she rejoins former teammate Kassidy Brown at Illinois.
One thing in particular struck home with Johnston about Illinois soccer.
"Just their coaches -- they make it a soccer family," Johnston said. "It's unparalleled. I looked at other schools and kept coming back to Illinois. They just play a beautiful game and they want to win championships."
Without question, Johnston was a big part of the Corsairs' own conference championship goal this spring. They achieved that ambition, turning back strong challenges from Benet Academy and St. Viator to complete an unbeaten run in the league.
"Meegan had a fantastic season for us by leading our front line the entire year," Carmel coach John Halloran said. "She was pivotal in both our conference and regional championship runs and was a constant threat to score in the run of play and on set pieces."
Don't be surprised if you hear more from Johnston in the coming years. From those first baby steps in the sport, she's hoping to take some very adult strides at Illinois, and perhaps beyond.
When you start out little, it's OK to dream big.
"I've got a goal of making the women's National Team," Johnston said. "I feel that I'm a lot closer to a call-up.
"I'm hoping that could happen."