WESTERN SPRINGS – Erin Fitzgerald isn’t like most high school soccer players.
For one, the Lyons Township senior forward is a tough, physical forward who isn’t afraid to use her size and strength to her advantage. Also, she is headed to play for Cornell in the fall. Fitzgerald was able to commit to the Ivy League school during February of her junior year.
Most students wouldn’t have the chance to commit to a school like that so early, but soccer gave Fitzgerald the early in.
“I started looking at schools when I was a sophomore,” Fitzgerald said. “I basically had to sit down with my parents and my coach and say these are the schools that are feasible for me to do academically and for soccer. Obviously, you get a little bit of lenience if you’re on a sport.”
Despite committing before even starting her junior season of high school soccer, Fitzgerald said many of her club teammates committed even earlier than she did. Fitzgerald is all set to head to Ithaca, N.Y.
“I kind of committed late, but they basically needed to see my grades from first semester junior year and my ACT to say you’re good, you’d be in a certain range that’s acceptable to go to our school,” Fitzgerald said. “Then it’s basically the same as every other kid.”
As for her field play, Fitzgerald and the Lions are off to a strong start to the season. An opening 2-1 win against highly regarded Waubonsie Valley and 1-0 wins against York and Lincoln-Way North last week show that LT is among the state’s top teams.
Fitzgerald assisted the only goal in the York game. Fitzgerald and Emily Lange, a senior signed to play for Cincinnati next season, give the Lions plenty of dangerous attacking talent. Both players are capable of playing as a forward or midfielder. For now, Fitzgerald is a forward while Lange is playing in midfield.
“Right now, I love the way Fitzgerald is kind of a target forward for us,” LT coach Bill Lanspeary said. “I think she plays well with her back to the goal, laying the ball off for us. I think Lange coming out of the midfield is dangerous. She’s very dangerous coming at you with a head of steam. Defenders don’t want to see her with the ball coming at them like that with her speed. I like the versatility there, too. If Lange makes a run up, Fitzgerald is a smart player and she’ll kind of cover back for her, too.”
Fitzgerald likely will play midfield in college where her ability to win balls in the air will be utilized. Until then she can help LT in the attack.
“I like playing center mid from the aspect that I get to be more involved in the play all the time,” she said. “I like winning balls in the air and being able to give that defensive effort more, but I also like being the holding person. I’m a bigger person. I can hold off the people, get the ball to my feet and play it back to someone and create a lot of good opportunities there.”