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updated: 6/6/2013 3:02 PM

Lepoudre one tough customer for St. Edward

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  • St. Edward's Corey Lepoudre, right, relaxes with teammate Allison Kruk while teammates take photos after their Class 1A sectional title game win over Willows Academy. Lepoudre is the honorary captain of the 2013 Fox Valley all-area team for girls soccer.

       St. Edward's Corey Lepoudre, right, relaxes with teammate Allison Kruk while teammates take photos after their Class 1A sectional title game win over Willows Academy. Lepoudre is the honorary captain of the 2013 Fox Valley all-area team for girls soccer.
    Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer

 
By Steve Nichols
snichols@dailyherald.com

At halftime of St Edward's 3-1 Class 1A supersectional loss to Francis Parker on May 21, Green Wave girls soccer coach Tim Brieger had the unenviable task of telling junior midfielder Corey Lepoudre she was out for the second half because calf cramps throughout the first 40 minutes essentially left her on one leg.

"I told her after the first half, 'you're done,' " said Brieger, which Lepoudre countered, "'Nah, nah, give me a minute, give me a minute,'" she said. "I can go, I can go."

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Brieger eventually caved and Lepoudre returned when a key opportunity arrived in the 73rd minute on a left-side free kick the Green Wave so desperately needed, facing a 2-1 deficit.

Although her shot from about 19 yards out never developed in front of the net and St. Edward lost in the Elite Eight for the second-straight year, it wasn't what ultimately removed Lepoudre from the field.

With a little under 5 minutes remaining in the game, the junior's infamous cramps flared up once more and Lepoudre fell to the Concordia University turf in agony.

"I was a little sad for her because I know how badly she wanted to finish up as hard as she could," said teammate Allison Kruk. "She's such a tough player, she gets hurt quite a bit but she finds a way to just push through and finish whatever she needs to."

Who knows what could have happened if Lepoudre finished those final minutes, but Brieger knew she was officially done and was a bit emotional himself when he tended to her.

"You saw a kid who could barely walk on the calf and she went out and did it again and she was almost in tears when we got there," Brieger said. "She didn't want anybody to touch her, she was trying to literally crawl off the field."

Lepoudre admits her cramps are a little embarrassing, unexpected and painful. But there was nothing embarrassing about the will and strength she had on display in the supersectional and all season.

"My body kind of told me 'yeah, you have to sit out now, it's time to stop,' " Lepoudre said. "It wasn't a comfortable situation. I wasn't the only one who was hurt or struggling, but mine just kept me from walking."

It wasn't the only time the three-year varsity starter and now 2013 Daily Herald girls soccer honorary all-area captain gave it her all in a game where ailment looked to decimate her.

She battled asthma on a hot, steamy afternoon during a Class 1A sectional final win against Willows Academy, a game where Lepoudre and Kruk were visibly out of breath and relieved late in the game when a ball they both couldn't get to went out of bounds.

But whether it's playing through injury or changing to her natural position as a left-midfielder as she did this season, Lepoudre goes the distance and does anything for her team, even if that's being the team goofball dancing on the bus during rides to away games or in pregame ceremonies.

And in the process, those are the things helped her score 10 goals and 11 assists that not only led a 16-7-2 St. Edward team deep in the playoffs, it made her the second-straight Green Wave and third overall since 2000 to garner the all-area captain honor, which went to goalkeeper Paige Gannon last year.

"I would read about all the different teams and I wanted to read about my friends in the paper and when the issue came out with the captains and all-area and I thought it was so cool and I wanted to be on it," said Lepoudre. "To be part of it this year is amazing. I remember Paige getting it last year. And I just was like 'yeah (Paige), you deserve it.' And it's kind of awesome to feel that maybe I deserved it this year."

Which is why Brieger's decision to move her from center-mid to left-mid proved to be vital after the Green Wave needed to fill a hole left open from the 2012 graduating class.

"We let Corey slide out to her more natural position, plus we had (Megan) Kearney slide in as a defensive-mid so I really let Corey do what Corey does best," said Brieger. "We asked her to do so much as a center-mid, we didn't get to use her crossing ability and we swung her to the outside-mid. "

Kruk, the beneficiary of a lot of those crosses, would know.

"She's got a big leg and she can hit the ball really hard," Kruk said. "So she was mainly good at crosses and stuff and she could get the ball anywhere in the box whenever she needed to. (Chelsea and I) were there to put it in."

With exception to the supersectional Lepoudre assisted, scored or had combined to do both in every postseason tilt, doing so during the Green Wave's last 5 games of the regular season as well.

Against Westminster Christian in the regional final, she came away with an assist and a goal in a 7-0 win, dominating the left side of the field.

"I felt more comfortable and more confident out there," Lepoudre said of the position switch. "It helped a lot. I was way more helpful and productive than I was in the middle. I think our main thing was to just try to get it out to the outside so we could get into the crosses and finish on them, those headers and volleys in the middle. I don't think it was just me moving that helped the team."

Lepoudre began playing soccer in the first grade. That parlayed into a stint on the Elgin Kickers in third grade, the same time she met midfielder Monica Ramirez.

Both girls ran the lines as ball girls at St. Edward in the fourth and fifth grades, which Brieger remembers vividly.

"I watched Corey and Monica come out to games in the fifth grade; when we went downstate in 2008," he said. "I've known this girl for eight years, it's going to be tough (when she graduates), but it's been such a pleasure to watch her grow."

Friendships have also grown along the way. Believe it or not, the left side lethal combo of Kruk and Lepoudre wasn't always solid.

"In seventh and eighth grade, Corey and I hated each other because we were always on different teams for school sports," Kruk chuckled. "We would always beat the (crud) out of each other during games. Freshman year rolled around, we were like best friends."

Next season it will all culminate as Ramirez, Lepoudre and Kruk will look to avoid the specters of postseasons past. The Wave will in fact return 9 of 11 starters, which now includes an all-area captain.

"I am so excited for next year, it's my senior year. We got to (the Elite Eight) the last three years," said Lepoudre, who will play for the Heat United Club team out of Huntley this summer. "We're just ready to go out there and go all the way next year."

And with the right preparation and things in place, Brieger believes this team cannot only do so, but that Lepoudre can come back even better.

"She wants to be better next year," said Brieger. "She came into the season a little nicked up. She wants to be healthier; she wants to be stronger, even more fit. She wants to be better on the ball, so I mean she's the type of girl that could do it."

And just maybe, next to all-area captain, she can put the title "state champ" next to her accolades.

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