WHEATON – A day that began with sadness ended in camaraderie and a milestone goal for Wheaton North soccer player Leila Parente.
Just hours after attending the funeral of her mother, Parente scored her first varsity goal in dramatic fashion April 15 at Rexilius Field.
The sophomore forward volleyed home a cross from Kate Kortenhoeven just nine seconds into the second half against Oswego East. That gave the Falcons their third goal of what turned out to be a 4-0 win that snapped a three-game losing streak.
“It was really nice,” Parente said. “The whole team came up to me and hugged me. It felt really good.”
Parente needed something positive after her mother, Kimberly, died of cancer two weeks ago at age 49, leaving behind her husband, Brian, and three children. She found it on the soccer field.
“Soccer is like an outlet to me, so when I play soccer it’s like stress relief,” said Parente, who has two younger brothers, Braden and Kory. “It makes me feel better.”
The entire Wheaton North soccer team and coaching staff attended the funeral.
“We really appreciated it,” Parente said. “We felt so loved and cared for.
“Everyone has been so kind to us. It’s been really sweet of them.”
Parente’s teammates are in awe at how she has handled her loss.
“We’ve all been amazed at how she perseveres through that and still plays in the games on days that none of us could even imagine playing a game on,” Wheaton North senior defender Niamh Kane said. “It’s honestly unbelievable.
“When she got that goal I think it was an awesome moment for all of us. I got goosebumps.
“You’re so happy for her. It was the best way to end the day.”
The emotional victory may have been a turning point for the Falcons (5-6, 1-3), who recorded their first DuPage Valley Conference victory on April 18 by beating Lake Park 3-0 at Rexilius Field.
Kane had two goals and an assist and defender Morghin Klein had one goal in that win.
“I think we really connected [against Oswego East],” Parente said. “We all wanted to win. We all had motivation. I wanted to score for [my mom].”
Parente has played mostly on the JV team but has seen action in several varsity games so far this season and has shown promise.
“She’s super fast on the wings, like crazy fast,” Kane said. “She’s small, so you don’t really know what is going to happen, but she’s so fast, just blows by everyone and she has such good technique, too. It’s awesome to have her.”