The Oak Park and River Forest High School girls soccer team is thrilled about returning this spring after the 2020 season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We were ecstatic when we found out there would be a season this year,” said OPRF coach Christine Johnson. “We’re extremely excited to be back on the field. Everyone has a positive outlook and we’re ready to get to work.”
The Huskies, who went 3-1-9 in 2019, have several returning players that will provide leadership and experience — seniors Sophie Donnellan, Kate Klinger and Audrey Stutz along with juniors Julia Daun and Katherine Hoffman, who led OPRF in goals as a freshman.
“Katherine has amazing tactical skills that allow her to distribute the ball and create opportunities for her and her teammates to score,” Johnson said. “Her aggressiveness and overall athleticism makes her a standout player.”
The Huskies also look for Kiki Leman and Hailey Nowak to make an impact. Johnson says sophomore midfielder Leman is a gritty player who finds herself in the right place at the right time, while Nowak, a junior defender, is tenacious and provides a strong presence on the field.
OPRF has not played together very much as a unit, so Johnson feels developing awareness of each other on the field as well as reading everyone’s style of play will be important in how successful the Huskies will be this year.
“The team is competitive, coachable and has the desire to be successful,” said Johnson. “We have a lot of talent and are motivated to be an impactful team in our conference this season.”
As always, the West Suburban Silver is loaded up and down with top programs, and Johnson expects plenty of competition. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the Huskies’ schedule consists solely of West Suburban Silver teams, plus Downers Grove South of the conference’s Gold Division. Moreover, there will be no state tournament this spring.
Johnson believes her players have shown maturity and learned a lesson from the pandemic.
“I feel the players have handled the uncertainties of the past year well given the circumstances,” Johnson said. “I think the pandemic has taught them to be resilient and appreciate the things we often take for granted.”
OPRF opens the season April 20 at Hinsdale Central (post-press time), then hosts Proviso West April 22 at Oak Park Stadium.