Most high school teams have to endure rebuilding years every so often.
But the already difficult process becomes even harder when some of the foundation pieces are in pieces.
That’s the situation faced this spring by the Oak Park and River Forest girls soccer team, which already has lost three players to season-ending torn ACLs.
“This is going to be a rebuilding year but we’ve taken a couple injuries that have put a crimp in our plan,” OPRF coach Ignacio Ponce said. “Our goal is to develop this (junior) class and get them to play together, then teach the basics to the next class and hopefully next year they can come together.”
The Huskies don’t have any big future college stars and one of the few players that had been recruited, senior goalkeeper Ava Trogus, has decided to forgo a college career to focus on academics.
Trogus, a top student and aspiring engineer, impressed as a junior with her height and athleticism, but has dislocated her shoulder twice in the past year, thus ending her career between the pipes. But she’s still on the roster and could contribute.
“She can’t play in the goal,” Ponce said. “So I’m trying to convert her to a forward.”
Ponce will be happy with any production he can get from Trogus, seeing as how the offense figures to struggle with inexperience. The only returning starter up front, senior Julia Morrison, has switched to defense, where she joins returning seniors Charlotte Melcher and Samantha Gurrola.
The play of the back line will be crucial considering the Huskies’ green goalkeeping corps. Trogus’ backup is ineligible for the first five games, meaning sophomore Alexandra Hampton, who had been slated to be the JV goalie, has started the first four games.
The Huskies (2-2) split those games, with Hampton getting two shutouts. OPRF beat Niles West 2-0 in the season opener on goals from Morrison and senior midfielder Cedella Breitenstein, and edged Whitney Young 1-0, with another senior midfielder, Grace Huettel, netting the lone goal.
Huettel, who had two assists against Niles West, and Breitenstein are returning starters who provide strength in the midfield. Breitenstein is back from a torn ACL.
“(Huettel) is a strong player,” Ponce said. “With those two in the middle, it’s looking solid.”
But another potential impact player, junior forward Ella Karnowski, will have to sit out a second straight season with a knee injury. After showing promise as a freshman, Karnowski suffered a torn ACL last season, then tore it again on the first day of practice last month.
“She played on the sophomore team as a freshman and I was hoping she’d be a good person off the bench,” Ponce said. “She’s pretty solid. She wants to come back next year.”
Other newcomers who figure to play leading roles include junior defender Emma Smith, who was brought up to varsity for the playoffs last spring, and senior midfielder Quinn Berleman, who has returned from a torn ACL.
The Huskies’ only losses have been a 2-0 decision to Nazareth and a 7-0 defeat at the hands of Benet. Both of those schools are favored to be contenders in Class 2A. The Huskies were missing seven starters, who were on an overseas trip, for the Benet game.