LOMBARD – Three years ago, Jess DeJong was a freshman on the Glenbard East varsity girls soccer team trying to fight her way into the starting lineup.
DeJong has made the improvement expected of a four-year varsity player. The surprise is that the Rams’ program has progressed with her.
East already has clinched a winning record and is hoping to make noise in the DuPage Valley Conference and playoffs before the season ends.
“The intensity has gone up a ton from my freshman year,” DeJong said. “The skill level, taking people on, it’s improved a lot.”
DeJong is East’s leading goal scorer this season with 10 goals entering Thursday’s match against West Aurora and is approaching 60 goals for her career. Her maturation has been a key stabilizing force for the Rams.
“She’s always been a great player,” said East coach Kent Overbey. “When she came to us she would always want to get in behind [the defense] and she’s really learned to make the check back, to hold up, the runs and become a shooter from outside, as well.
“Her finishing is clinical. When she gets the ball on top of the 18 she doesn’t need to hit the leather off the ball anymore like she used to.”
DeJong is the go-to scorer for East and has shown the ability to step up in key spots. In a DVC game against West Chicago on April 25, DeJong scored an equalizing goal in the final minute of the game to force overtime in an eventual 2-2 tie.
DeJong will continue her career at North Park University in Chicago. The Division III program offered her the chance to be in the city and play for a coach she was familiar with from her club team, Lyons Township Union.
DeJong’s experience has been crucial considering the Rams start five sophomores and a freshman. As one of the team’s captains, she now feels like one of the veterans of the team.
“I do, which is really weird,” DeJong said. “Being on [the team] for a couple years, it helps with the experience.
“I think my confidence is definitely up from the past years.”