Allie Arvizu, St. Charles East
Two years ago, when a conversation about current and past St. Charles East soccer players turned to the question of "which of these players has the mentality, toughness and talent of the championship years?" -- the first name that came from a longtime Saints girls soccer watcher was Allie Arvizu. And it's easy to see why. Arvizu takes the term "shut down defender" seriously, and very little got past the senior through her final season as a competitive soccer player. "She's been a great player for us," St. Charles East coach Paul Jennison said. "She is very good in the air. We've been strong at the back this year, and she was been fantastic there for us. She could play at the highest level if she wanted to." Arvizu earned all-conference and all-sectional honors this spring and will attend South Carolina this fall, but not play soccer. "She's very physical and she reads the game very well," Jennison said. "You'd love to have 10-11 players who play the game like she does."
Alex Gage, St. Charles North
The captain of the All-Area team, Gage capped a stellar career by being the only player in this area to earn All-State honors. Despite playing a defensive midfield role, Gage scored 16 goals and added 9 assists. A four-year starter, Gage advanced to the state finals twice with the North Stars. As a sophomore in 2011, she was part of a North Stars team that finished third in Class 3A. In 2012, the team went one step further, placing second after falling 1-0 to Naperville North. Gage's sister Sammy was the captain of the 2011 All-Area team -- and the Gage sisters will be reunited this fall when Alex heads to Loyola to play women's soccer.
Jordan Ginther, Kaneland
There is sometimes a bias against players who don't play for the largest schools in terms of postseason honors because those Class 3A schools play against each other and tend to not see the smaller-school players. Ginther, however, made first-team all-sectional this year despite playing for Kaneland and out of the relative limelight -- and the reason is easy -- she was the best goalkeeper in the area. Ginther combined athletic ability, technical knowledge and the ability to communicate with her teammates that is rare in high school. Certainly Purdue noticed, and Ginther became the first Kaneland player to be offered and then to accept a Division I women's soccer scholarship. "She's got a great work ethic," Kaneland coach Scott Parillo said. "She's just athletic. She makes saves I've seen guys not make. My son, who plays for our boys team, saw one of our games, and said 'how'd she make that save?' I said 'that's what she does.'" Kaneland only surrendered 10 goals this season and only St. Charles East scored two goals in a regulation 80-minute match. "She had a good defense in front of her, but in goal, she's an animal," Parillo said. "She sets herself in the right spots, can throw the ball and can handle the ball with her feet. She can do it all."
Quincy Kellett, Rosary
When the phrase "prolific goal scorer" was invented, it was created for players like Rosary's Kellett, who notched 27 goals this season and has 55 in her Royals' career. "She's someone who has athletic ability and has that instinct for the net," Rosary coach Kristy Kane said. "We are lucky to have her at Rosary." As a freshman, Kellett relied on blazing speed to run onto passes sent by teammates. This year, after recovering from an offseason injury, Kellett showed she had matured and had skill to go with her speed. "She kind of came out of her shell this year, though I don't know if she was ever in it," Kane said. "She has a great sense of humor and she loves competing. She was the one kid who was pushing every second of every game because she doesn't want to lose." More than just a goal scorer, Kellett added 11 assists.
Amanda Hilton, St. Charles East
St. Charles East coach Paul Jennison asks a lot of his midfielders, and he's fortunate to have players like Hilton who are up to the demands of the position. "I get amazed when I talk to players who say they're attacking midfielders or defending midfielders," Jennison said. "As far as I'm concerned, if you're a midfielder, you're playing from penalty area to penalty area and you have to be able to attack and to defend." In central midfield, Hilton is partnered with another standout junior -- Anna Corrirosi, and the two have formed one of the best central midfield partnerships in the area. "This year, (Hilton) got the ball more and played it more three-dimensionally," Jennison said. "She didn't just play it forward or back, she did both, and she played it to the wings and she played it on the ground and also in the air. If you ask me, I think she's one of the best players in the state."
Kelly Manski, St. Charles North
In the 1970s, the term "total footballer" was coined in Europe to reflect the growing ability of players to attack, defend, play on the left and on the right -- to provide a total package of skills rather than a specialized talent base. Manski is the player in the area that best-embodied that definition. Nominally a right outside midfield player, Manski could be seen attacking centrally and she also drifted to the left side frequently. And while she was a midfield player whose natural inclination was to attack, she could be pushed completely forward to play as a front-line attacker -- and also dropped back to provide depth defensively. In short, she was a total footballer. "She's a player who made herself the best player she could be," St. Charles North coach Ruth Vostal said. "She was always one of the last kids off the practice field. She was always practicing penalty kicks or free kicks or something that eventually ended up helping us win games." Manski scored 6 goals and added 12 assists.
Megan McEachern, Batavia
It has been some time since a freshman had the kind of impact that McEachern did for Batavia this spring. Playing in the front line, she managed 16 goals, added 7 assists and was an all-conference player and the Bulldogs' team MVP. She also fit very well into the team setup Batavia has been putting together the last two seasons. "She's a very humble person," Batavia coach Mark Gianfrancesco said. "She didn't come in with an 'I'm better than you' attitude. And as a forward, you have to have a little of that selfishness. But she wants to do what she can for the team and doesn't necessarily look for the accolades." As an example, when Batavia's bench shortened during the Tournament of Champions in Iowa, Gianfrancesco asked McEachern to play right back. "When she came off, my assistant coach asked how she liked it back there," Gianfrancesco said. "She said 'it's different, but I loved it.'" McEachern proved she could score both the necessary goals that are put into the net any way they can as well as the spectacular goals. She belted a 30-yarder into the net in the Bulldogs' season-ending playoff loss to Geneva. "She also showed she can be unselfish," Gianfrancesco said. "She has the willingness to take a shot when it's needed and to set up her teammates when that's needed too."
Molly Stanfa, Geneva
Every one of Geneva's star back line has a different set of strengths -- though all are outstanding at marking opposition goal scorers. Stanfa, in particular, is a strong passer who frequently kick-started Geneva attacks when the other team lost possession of the ball. "She's a very smart player," Geneva coach Megan Owens said. "She doesn't just blast it up the field. She sees the field really well and she's very composed back there." Stanfa is also a diversified defender. In her career, she has played as a right back, a left back and has moved into the midfield -- sometimes even pushing into the forward line. "She plays those passes that, as a coach, you like to see," Owens said. "She'll find that midfielder or wide player to start the attack rather than just send it over the top. She has gotten better every year and you can move her to different positions, and that is awesome."
Shelby Stone, Batavia
Like most good midfielders, the things that Stone did on the soccer field rarely showed in a box score. While it is possible at the highest levels of the game to track the number of tackles won, the number of headers won and a percentage of passes made to passes completed -- in high school, such calculations are near-impossible. Rest assured that if such a measuring stick existed, Stone would score incredibly well. "She really kind of kept that middle together," Batavia coach Mark Gianfrancesco said. "Her and Grace Andrews in the middle and all of the six returning seniors were great leaders this year." Gianfrancesco said the team needed one or two people to be "the tip of the spear" -- and those players ended as Stone and Andrews. "If things weren't going well, they kept people on the right track." Stone, for example, was one of the players who helped the Bulldogs avoid getting overrun in the regular season match with Geneva, and helped spark a come-from-behind victory over West Chicago as well. "Leadership is one of those intangible pieces," Gianfrancesco said. "These people can play." Stone did well in the measured yardsticks as well. She was an all-conference and all-sectional player who added 8 goals and 3 assists.
Annie Waldoch, Geneva
When Geneva embarked on what ended as a nine-match winning streak late this season, the first critical factor was the airtight nature of the team's defense. In the first seven of those matches, the Vikings did not allow a goal. Even in the 1-0 loss to St. Charles North that ended the streak -- and the team's season -- Geneva's back line was sound. And in the middle of this was three-year starter Annie Waldoch. "She's a tremendous player for us," Geneva coach Megan Owens said. This experienced back line, which included another pair of juniors who have started since freshmen -- Molly Stanfa and Tory Herbst -- was as flexible as it was stellar. Waldoch moved into a stopper's role, meaning she frequently was able to push into the midfield. "She is so aggressive tackling and also in the air," Owens said. "She is our most aggressive player at winning 50-50 balls. A lot of players don't want to tackle. It's a skill that gets lost in the girls game sometimes. Annie is just a very special player." Blessed with one of the strongest shots in the area, Waldoch also has a reputation for one of the strongest mental makeups on the field as well. "She is one of our fiercest competitors," Owens said. "She is just a tough kid. She doesn't ever want to come off the field."
Natalie Winkates, St. Charles North
There are players whose reputations precede them into soccer seasons -- and some live up to those reputations and some life off those reputations. Then there are players -- often seniors -- who exist outside that limelight and create tremendous seasons for themselves. In match after match, Winkates provided the glue that helped keep St. Charles North's defense together -- and she proved she could score some critical goals too. She ended with 4 goals on the season, but 2 won matches. "She's a player I could always count on to step up," St. Charles North coach Ruth Vostal said. "She's a player who totally got it that you had to work to get a reward." St. Charles North's defense was near-perfect for the first half of the season. Through 13 matches, the North Stars only allowed a penalty kick goal to Neuqua Valley. Junior Kenzie Rose and Winkates were particularly instrumental in keeping that string of zeros moving in the "goals against" column. "(Winkates) is a kid who improved every year," Vostal said. "That mentality that she always brought to games for us is going to be tough to replace."