By Brad Spencer
Ruby Gonzalez heads up a long list of returning starters for the OPRF girls soccer team this season, and the forward is only a junior.
Gonzalez scored 11 goals and dished out 10 assists for the Huskies who finished 11-9-2 last season. She'll be joined again this year by senior starters Alica Gerin (midfielder), Margaret Blaha (midfielder) and Naomi Johnson (defense).
Along with Gonzalez, filling out the rest of the returning starters are juniors Wren Osler (defense), Erin Schrobilgen (midfielder), Teresa Trinka (midfielder), Lauren Wilkes (forward) and Meredith Blatner (midfielder). Trinka found the net seven times last season, while Blatner had five goals. Schrobilgen finished with four goals and four assists.
For second-year head coach Ignacio Ponce, having a group of experienced players should play a key role in the team's success this season.
"Our girls have been playing year round with their club teams and look prepared coming into the season," he said before his team was scheduled to open the season at home against Naperville Central on March 12. "We introduced a new system that they seem to understand this year so I think we can compete for the conference title and make an impact in the state tournament. I am very pleased with the level of play that the girls are at."
Ponce also hopes to get major contributions from seniors Elise Delligrazie and Olivia O'Sullivan as well as juniors Isabela Ecalona and Erin McCormack. Delligrazie is charged with filling the shoes of last year's goalkeeper Katie Oldach, now playing at Grinnell College. O'Sullivan, a physical presence in the midfield, is coming off an injury suffered last year, but Ponce said "she is strong and ready to contribute."
Escalona and McCormack will help anchor the defense as both arrive on varsity with good speed and ball control.
The Huskies will look to improve on last season's 4-2 finish in the West Suburban (Silver) Conference and erase the memory of last year's regional championship loss to Morton on the Huskies' home field. Lyons and Hinsdale Central, a young team last season that defied the odds and made it as far as the sectional finals, are likely to give OPRF a run for the top spot in the conference.
"The Silver Division is as solid as ever," said Ponce.
The Huskies will kick-off a five-game homestand on March 21 against Whitney Young. The home field run will include opening conference play against Glenbard West on April 2 (5:30 p.m.) and hosting cross-town rival Fenwick on April 4 (5:30 p.m.).