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Ari Kowalski tops All-Area Girls Soccer East Team

Indiana recruit plays much bigger than her 5-foot-2 frame for Lyons Township

Published: Thursday, June 6, 2013 2:30 p.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, July 29, 2014 9:57 p.m. CDT
Caption
(Bill Ackerman file photo - backerman@shawmedia.com )
Lyons Township's Ari Kowalski goes high to head the ball against Hinsdale Central this season.

WESTERN SPRINGS – When Ari Kowalski was growing up, her older brother, Billy, would put her in front of a hockey goal, pad her up and shoot on her for practice.

It may sound more like sibling rivalry than athletic training, but the 5-foot-2 Kowalski said it helped to toughen her up.

“He really made me tough and it just transferred over I feel like over the years,” Kowalski said. “I never liked it, but looking back on it, it definitely helped I guess.”

The Lyons Township senior’s toughness is evident on the soccer field, where she is always pushing her way through opposition to get to loose balls and isn’t afraid to go to ground. Her tenacity and skill on the ball helped her earn a scholarship to continue her career at Indiana starting in the fall.

“I’m small, but I like the physical aspect of it, too,” she said. “I really don’t feel that much smaller than people so when I go up against them people seem surprised, but I really don’t even notice my size out there.”

For an example of how tough Kowalski is, just ask her about the most memorable moment from her high school career.

“I guess my most memorable memory would be my junior year when we played (Naperville) North and I split my head open,” she said. “They put a wrap around my whole head so I could go back into the game and then I got stitches after the game.”

Maybe that’s the hockey player mentality her brother instilled into her. Either way, it’s helped her play as a defender, which she did throughout club soccer and in her first three years with the Lions.

This spring she moved up to midfield to show off her versatility, but her success was the same. She remained a key player for LT and was named all-state for the second year in a row.

She started playing AYSO soccer as soon as she could and by third grade was playing travel soccer for Windy City Pride. Following her freshman year she joined Chicago Fire Juniors and started traveling all over the country to play.

Through her club excursions she never got to play with her friends from school. That’s what made her time with LT so special to her.

“My club team is always like 20 different feeder schools,” Kowalski said. “We travel a lot and play the highest ranked teams in the country with club, but it’s definitely way different. The skill level is different, but it’s fun for high school because it is all the girls you know. For me, I feel like I know someone on every team I play whereas club you don’t know any of the girls that you play.”

Meet the 2012-13 All-Area Girls Soccer East Team:

Lidia Breen

School: Lyons Township

Year: Sophomore

Filling the spot of all-state goalkeeper Maggie Orlowski was never going to be an easy task, but the sophomore stepped into the role nicely. Breen finished the season with 11 shutouts and helped the Lions win a penalty shootout in the sectional semifinal against Wheaton Warrenville South with two penalty saves.

Erin Fitzgerald

School: Lyons Township

Year: Junior

Fitzgerald is already committed to play for Cornell but still has another year with the Lions. The strong forward is the focus of LT’s attack by holding off defenders and sending streaking teammates on open runs. Her powerful right foot also made her a free kick specialist. She led the Lions with 12 goals and also contributed four assists.

Lauren Frank

School: Fenwick

Year: Senior

Frank was an all-conference pick in the East Suburban Catholic Conference and helped the Friars place third in Class 2A. She scored 10 goals and had six assists while playing as a midfielder.

Bridget Hillsman

School: Fenwick

Year: Senior

The Elmhurst resident led the Friars with 14 goals and was second on the team with eight assists. She will continue her career in the fall with Providence.

Briana Keska

School: Morton

Year: Senior

Keska was the Mustangs’ top scorer each of the last two seasons and finished with 51 goals and 34 assists for her career. The attacking midfielder carried Morton’s offense despite being the focus of opposing defense’s throughout the season. Keska scored 18 goals and had 16 assists to become an all-sectional and all-conference pick this spring.

Catherine King

School: Lyons Township

Year: Junior

King anchored the Lions’ defense that allowed just 15 goals in 23 matches this season. The aggressive central defender was the first LT defender to step up to intercept passes and clear danger. She also was the Lions’ long range free kick specialist, scoring four goals from dead balls and contributing four assists.

Ari Kowalski

School: Lyons Township

Year: Senior

Kowalski earned all-state honors for the second year in a row and did so in two different positions. She moved to midfield this year from her familiar position of defender and grew into the role. The Indiana recruit helped guard the back line as a holding mid and showed she could also be a threat in the attack.

Emily Lange

School: Lyons Township

Year: Junior

Lange emerged as one of the Lions’ top players this spring. She was second on the team with 11 goals despite playing primarily as a midfielder. The athletic Lange also had three assists and earned all-sectional honors.

Gianna Milaro

School: Nazareth

Year: Senior

The Purdue recruit ends her career as one of the best soccer players in Nazareth history. Milaro was capable of turning a match around quickly as a creator and a finisher for the Roadrunners. She scored seven goals and had 16 assists this season. She also earned her third all-conference selection in the East Suburban Catholic Conference.

Cali Pyzdrowski

School: Fenwick

Year: Senior

Pyzdrowski joined the Friars this season after focusing on club soccer. She was rewarded by scoring the lone goal in Fenwick’s 1-0 win over Lemont in the Class 2A third-place match. The Marquette recruit scored eight goals and had four assists for the Friars.

Nelly Romero

School: Morton

Year: Senior

Romero was an all-around player for Morton. She began the year as a defender but moved into the midfield to give the Mustangs more attacking punch. Romero was an all-sectional and all-conference player this season while scoring eight goals and dishing out six assists.

HONORABLE MENTION

Fenwick: Kelly Collins, Elizabeth Cusick

Lyons Township: Abbie Pasquinelli

Morton: Iesha Gomez

Nazareth: Maureen Culligan, Nicole Moore

Riverside Brookfield: Hannah Claywell, Liz Sanchez

St. Joseph: Gaby Foster

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