RIVERSIDE – Lia Sanchez was a freshman on the varsity soccer team, and now that Riverside Brookfield features a young team with as many freshmen as seniors, she can relate to the young Bulldogs.
Sanchez is RB’s key playmaker in midfield. With the senior leading the way, the Bulldogs defeated Fenton 3-1 Thursday to improve to 6-6-1 overall and 4-1 in the Metro Suburban Conference entering Tuesday’s match at Illiana Christian.
“She is my main lady in the middle. If she’s playing good, we’re playing very good. She can completely control the game,” RB coach Danny Makaric said. “She has very good technique, gets the ball onto the corners and we like to attack from the sides. She did a wonderful job [against Fenton]. Usually she’s one of the best we’ve got this season.”
That responsibility is something Sanchez has grown into during her four years with the varsity squad. She has especially noticed the difference this season.
“This year, I feel like it’s more responsibility but also more pride in the team that I have,” Sanchez said. “It’s more of me showing everyone, the younger teammates, how it is.
“I think it’s easy to connect since I did start off freshman year on varsity, it’s easy for me to actually tell them how it is and let them know how to transition from eighth grade to [playing against] people where they’re going to be challenged by other teams that are much older than them.”
Sanchez is one of two four-year varsity players on the team along with Caroline Waas. Goalkeeper Lily Lisle and midfielder Amy Zyck are the other seniors on the team.
RB has four freshmen and four sophomores each to make for a young team. Freshman Estger Annoreno scored twice in Thursday’s victory against the Bison.
With all that youth, Sanchez’s role in central midfield is more crucial than ever.
“At first it was more of a pressure to me, but now it’s more of a challenge and I actually like it,” Sanchez said. “Just being able to start the plays and see them finish off is a great feeling.”
Sanchez aims to play college soccer but isn’t going a traditional route. She is set to attend Northern Illinois next year and has hopes of walking on.
“I didn’t decide early enough to play in college, and I just recently thought that I wanted to, but I’m thinking I will see if I can walk on,” Sanchez said. “The worst they can say is no, I guess.”
Before Sanchez can focus on her college prospects, she will lead the Bulldogs into the postseason. RB will host a Class 2A regional as the No. 6 seed in the sectional. No. 3 seed Glenbard South, the only team to beat RB in the MSC, is a possible regional final opponent.
The Raiders beat RB 2-1 April 24 in Riverside.
“This is my third year as coach, and we’ve always finished second [to Glenbard South] and they were always better than us,” Makaric said. “The game which we lost 2-1, we were the better team. We were supposed to win that. That gives us extra hope that they are beatable.”