Coming off their best season in 2011, including eight shutout games and a 12-5-1 record, the Cyclones are poised to build off that success, especially with a number of returning sophomores.
Captains Michaela Sheeran (Oak Lawn), who was the 2011 leading scorer, and Monserrat Espinosa (Hubbard), the best defender from last year, took charge in practices and look to be strong leaders. The team’s second leading scorer, Angelina Bricic (Reavis), also returns along with fellow midfielders Karla Lopez (Hubbard) and Gosha Skora (Reavis) and top defender Stephanie Navarrete (Shepard). The Cyclones are lucky to have goalkeeper Ashley Solus (Richards) back this season. She ended 2011 with a hand injury along with 11-shutout games but is ready to play.
Joining the Cyclones is a nice core of athletes that will balance out the sophomores. Midfielder Guadalupe Ruiz (Tinley Park) has the most powerful kick on the team and can work on the offensive and defensive side of the ball as well as stop opponents entering Moraine Valley’s zone. Alyssa Braun (Shepard) had 25 goals her senior year in high school and should be a scoring force with Sheeran. Having additional scorers will be a benefit, said head coach Jim Knawa. Patricia Tuxford (Richards) should add to the defense, typically a source of strength for the Cyclones. Forward Ana Valdez (Reavis) also will be an asset with her good control of the ball. Solus will have some backup at the net with freshman keeper Roxanne Milan (Beecher) in the lineup.
“I’m pretty optimistic. I like what I see so far. It’s a nice blend of different talents and we’re more balanced than last year. It’s also nice to have a couple keepers,” Knawa said. “The incoming freshmen have some good experience which will help us build off last year’s success. Our defense really kept us in games last season, and although we lost two defenders this year, we picked up some good players.”
Knawa has a new assistant coach this season in Laura Turk. She is a former Cyclone and has previously coached high school soccer.