Girls soccer: Lange's fearless play helps Metea Valley win state title
Jordan Lange may not look tough, but the Metea Valley junior reeks of toughness.
"I'm small so they think that I'm someone that they can just push around," she said. "They see a little girl and think she looks easy to push off of to win the ball, and I'm not like that. I'm going to show them."
She's certainly shown this spring how dominant of a player she can be as she helped the Mustangs finish an undefeated conference championship in the ultra competitive DuPage Valley, then helping lead the team to the Class 3A state championship last weekend for the first time in program history.
Lange has been named the Captain of the 2022 Daily Herald DuPage All-Area Girls Soccer Team.
"I was so pleased with her play last year so when you see the stats (10 goals, 13 assists last year and 17 goals and 8 assists through the supersectional this season), you see she's put it in the back of the net so much more," Mustangs coach Chris Whaley said. "I think with her, in a weird way, she has the willingness to be that player that we lean on a little bit, and she just gained a lot of confidence from last year to this year and has scored some really big goals."
And she's been scoring against the toughest competition.
She scored both goals in a 2-1 win over Class 2A state qualifier Benet. She had the lone goal in a 1-0 win against a Glenbard West team that fell a game short of advancing to state. And in her last five games against DVC teams, which includes sectional games against Neuqua Valley and four-time state champion Naperville North, she's scored 7 goals and had 3 assists.
"I do love being on the smaller side so they see me as a little target, but I'm not," she said. "We play with a lot of grit. We don't want to stop working so I just keep putting in 100% effort all the time and some games I'm scoring the game-winning goal like in the (Naperville) North game in sectional final."
Lange is humble enough to recognize that while her contributions are massive, it's taken the efforts of the entire team to maximize their potential. The result has not only been success, but teammates that want to see one another succeed.
"I really just think it's this team," she said. "They've really impacted my play a lot, obviously assisting me and all the girls are so supportive. They always push you so we strive to be better. I have so many close friendships and we have such good chemistry and it really shows."
Lange's been blessed to be friends and teammates with senior Julia Straub and juniors Kaylee Bannack and Riley Strcic from long before high school. Those friendships have not only helped shape her into the player she's become but made the journey so much more rewarding.
"I've played with some of these girls my whole life and then last year we didn't have much time to really connect as a team because of COVID so I think this year we wanted that chemistry," she said. "We saw an opportunity to make memories together that we couldn't do last year and I think that's helped us. We always want to have fun and we want to play good and want to win, so having this kind of environment makes it 10 times better."
Paired up with junior forward Tyra King, the duo oozed offense while crushing hopes of opponents.
"Since we're both aggressive players going forward toward the goal and taking on defenders, we usually can find each other," King said. "When she plays in the midfield she can find me in the gaps and play me through, and when she does play wide, she can find me on crosses. We've worked really well in finding each other."
The toughness King sees from her teammate is crystal clear as fragments of games where opponents try to outphysical the diminutive Lange have usually resulted in positive results for the Mustangs.
"She really takes a lot of beatings but she keeps the ball," King said. "She just never gives up. Even if she does lose the ball she tackles pretty hard and makes sure to get the ball back. She's such a hard worker and a genuine good person too. It may not seem like off the field stuff would help much on the field, but we're really close off the field as friends and it reflects on the field. We all have a similar vision to the game."
It's no coincidence that it has resulted in such a tremendous high school season for the Mustangs.
"I've told the kids that they are a coach's dream," Whaley said. "We've got solid defenders, midfielders who control the game and forwards who change the game. I can change personnel and they just go with the flow, don't get overwhelmed or panic and continue playing soccer and having fun."
Hanging tough while having fun. That's the Lange way.