BERWYN — Even nine years after her retirement, Mia Hamm is still the inspiration for many young girls soccer players.
Morton’s Briana Keska is another on that list, however, the 5-foot-11 Keska doesn’t share the foot speed that helped make Hamm so special so she’s looked elsewhere to find players to model her game after.
“I started around age 5 and it was just watching soccer on TV and women like Mia Hamm,” Keska said. “I see the passion and the drive and I knew I wanted to do that.
“My style is more finesse and skill rather than speed and power, but Marta on Brazil I saw her play and I was like, ‘Wow, I want to learn the skill and control that she has and control the center mid like she does.’”
Keska shows off her knowledge of women’s soccer by referencing Marta, a Brazilian star who isn’t nearly as well-known in this country as Hamm still is. Keska also spends time watching European men’s matches. Her favorite team is Real Madrid because of its star Cristiano Ronaldo.
“I love players that are flashy and bring something different to the table,” Keska said.
It’s that deep-seated love of the sport that has pushed Keska to be the best she can be.
The Mustangs’ senior star recorded 30 goals and 15 assists last year to earn all-conference and all-sectional honors. She already has two hat tricks this spring.
Keska had signed a letter of intent to play for the University of St. Francis in Joliet, but has opened up her recruiting again and has ambitions of playing at a Division I program.
Keska is essential to Morton’s success with her elite ball-striking ability. Any free kick inside midfield creates havoc for opposing defense’s and she can score goals from distance. Her breakout season last year helped the Mustangs win a regional title.
“It was great seeing our program go from kind of a rocky start and then we really picked up last year, which was great for our school,” Keska said. “It showed that our program is getting better with each year and that our girls are more enthusiastic about playing soccer.”
After scoring 30 goals in a season, Keska entered this year as the focus of every opponent’s defense. The Mustangs haven’t been able to win at the same rate. Morton entered Tuesday’s match at Leyden with a 2-7-2 record.
Coach Jim Bageanis said the Mustangs have tried different things to get Keska more involved and the improvement has been notable. Morton has just one loss in its last five matches.
“This year we got off to a tough start,” Keska said. “Our whole team was pretty much freshman, sophomores and juniors so we had a younger team than last year. As the season is going on we’re starting to play as a team and we’re developing a lot better.”