DARIEN – Sarah Warren makes defending look so effortless that one would think she was born to do it.
But looks are one thing. The Hinsdale South senior said the reality is much different.
"Actually, there's been a lot of work that goes into it," Warren said. "I played on travel soccer since I was eight and I was lucky to be with some elite coaches. Coach [Jen] Belmonte and coach [Pat] Wolf have been a great help [at Hinsdale South], and our other defenders, too. I'm the last one back so it looks like I'm making the hero plays, but without them defending and communicating a certain way, I wouldn't be able to do it. It's definitely a team effort."
Warren, the all-area team MVP, has a blend of speed, athleticism and instincts that make her a lockdown defender, but that's not the only asset that makes her the player she is.
"I think speed helps, but it definitely comes down to knowing the game," Warren said. "If you have speed but you don't read the ball, you're not going to be so much faster that you can catch everyone. So reading the game, which I've learned over the years, is probably my biggest asset, but speed is nice to have."
It was Hinsdale South's defense that helped propel the team to its first state finals berth since 1990, and all that came in Warren's first season of high school soccer. Prior to this season, she ran track for South in the spring and played club soccer the rest of the year.
"This is the best year possible to come on the team. First year on the team and playing at state? You couldn't ask for a better year," Warren said. "And it's not just the placement at state, it's how much fun we're having. We're always laughing and everyone is always positive, so it's just a great experience overall."
"We didn't have her until this year, but it's no surprise what she's been able to do for us," Hinsdale South head coach Pat Wolf said. "She's a great player."
At South, track and soccer took up most of Warren's free time. She will continue her soccer career at the University of Illinois and pour more of her time into a different secondary sport – speed skating.
"I've trained [in Milwaukee] the last 4 or 5 years. They have a [speed skating] ring at U of I so I'll be training there while I play soccer," she said. "I'll be speed skating and hopefully making the 2018 Olympics. That's the goal."
When Warren steps on campus in Champaign, the Illini will be getting more than just a talented soccer player. They will also be getting a player willing to work to improve on the talent she already has.
"I want to say [they're getting] a player that plays with a lot of heart," she said. "You're going to go up against girls that are a lot better, but heart always beats skill. That's my motto. If you work hard out there, no one is going to beat you one-on-one. Have the most heart and you win the game."
Warren's four favorites
Soccer player: Alex Morgan
Sports movie: "Miracle"
Class: Physics or calculus
Music: Country and new hip-hop