WESTERN SPRINGS — Earlier this season, Lyons Township girls soccer coach Bill Lanspeary described Ari Kowalski’s role on the team as “Everything.”
The Lions’ star senior is signed to play for Indiana in the fall, but before she patrols the back line for the Hoosiers, Kowalski is playing a different position for LT this spring.
Kowalski has been a defender for as long as she’s played soccer, but the Lions had a lot of returners on defense, and Lanspeary tries to play a possession style of soccer that demands high-quality players in the midfield. As one of the leaders and most talented players on the team, Kowalski has moved into the midfield this year and hasn’t missed a beat in the new spot.
“It’s fun to play a new position,” Kowalski said. “I’ve always played defense my whole life, but I think it’s good for the team so I can get in the attack and then we can put other players back there. We've got a strong defense without me.”
The Lions had only surrendered two goals through their first five games following Saturday’s 2-0 win over Jacobs in the opener of the Pepsi Showdown. Defenders Catherine King, Liza Gabrek, C.C. Holbert and Grace Nasenbenny and goalkeeper Lidia Breen have solidified the defense without Kowalski playing alongside them.
Kowalski still contributes to the defense as a defensive midfielder for LT, but the new position gives her the freedom to enter the attack. She already has a goal to her name, scoring a key goal at York on April 2 on a skillful first-touch chip shot.
She has always had the ability to be an effective player in the attack, but moving up the field has shifted how Kowalski sees the action.
“I feel like it’s making me into more of a creative player because I’ve always been a player that’s facing the field,” she said. “As a midfielder half the time now my back is to half the field so I have to be a lot more aware of what’s going on.”
Playing as a midfielder may have made her more well rounded, but she expects to head back to defense when she suits up for IU. She committed to Indiana in January of her junior year, and the coaching staff has since changed, but she is still looking forward to the experience of a Big Ten program.
“I really like Big Ten and when I went on my visit I watched them play in practice and it just seemed like the right fit for me,” Kowalski said.