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Soccer seniors share secrets for success
March 15, 2023
The lights of Lazier shine on the 2023 roster as the girls soccer team once again takes the field. Prepared to fight for another top place in the state rankings, eight seniors taking on their fourth year stand out among the next group.
They finished at the top of the Central Suburban League and earned the chance to compete in the state semifinals against Barrington last year, with 13 since-graduated seniors leading the team through the 21-4-1 season. In 2021 and 2019, they finished as regional champions. In 2020, they hardly had a season. These seniors have seen it all.
What’s the secret to making it to state? Hard work, years of friendships and weekly team
dinners. Though they play for different clubs, coming together to represent the orange and blue creates a special bond that can’t be replicated. The chemistry shared between players is visible in their gameplay and infuses every practice with energy and teamwork.
While battling a pandemic and personal challenges, the Kits have grown to become one of the top teams in the state. A rising group of sophomores and freshmen prepare to carry on the tradition. After the loss of the class of 2022, the new seniors are ready to step up and lead the program to another exceptional year.
As a goalie for ETHS since freshman year, Ariel Kite is a rock-solid final line of defense. She stumbled upon the position early in her soccer career.
“I was at that weird age where there’s not an assigned goalie so everyone plays goalie every once in a while, and I was just really good,” she says. “I was like, ‘oh, it’s fun.’”
“Really good” is an understatement. Three saves by Kite—including one stopped penalty kick in the last 16 minutes of last year’s sectional victory against New Trier—won the game for the team.
In the words of teammate Jordan Kadiri, Kite “really has to be a leader. She can see everything that we can’t.”
Kite had large shoes to fill in the wake of Caitlin Fitzpatrick, the 2021 season’s primary goalie, whose six saves in the sectional semifinal secured the team’s 1-0 shutout win against Loyola before their inevitable fall to New Trier in the next round of state playoffs.
“When I first started playing at the high school, freshman year, we didn’t really have a season because of COVID,” says Kite. “And then sophomore year, there was a senior
[goalie], so I split time with her and didn’t get to play. Last year, the team was really good
and it was my first year playing. People really underestimate how stressful it is to play with people watching.”
A leader in skill and personality, Kite has the confidence needed for such a pivotal position. The goalie committed to Kenyon University in the fall of last year to continue her soccer career in Division lll.
“I had some other offers,” Kite says. “I went back to Kenyon. I liked the team environment, and the school itself had a very collaborative environment. The other schools I was looking at had a more competitive culture.”
Kite enjoys the ETHS team for a similar reason, emphasizing the bond that the players share.
“It’s really fun getting to represent your school. I know that sounds cheesy, but it’s really fun representing your school and having people come to watch. We have so many traditions, and we spend a lot of time together.”
When she’s not playing soccer—either for ETHS or FC United—Kite can be found cooking, baking or volunteering at the Evanston History Center.
Not only is Brigid Mulvihill taking the mantle of a senior athlete this year, she’s become a leader throughout ETHS as a champion of community service.
A soccer player since she was four years old, Mulvihill joined the varsity Kits last year, bolstering the defensive line. She plans to create a welcoming environment for the new players joining the returning team.
“All the girls that I knew [last season] were super intimidating, and I was so scared of all of them, but once I was into the season, I felt so welcome and comfortable,” she says. “I’m hoping that’s how it is for all the new varsity players this year.”
Despite having reservations over whether to continue with the ETHS team for the 2023 season, the players’ bond swayed Mulvihill to make the commitment for her fourth year playing for ETHS.
“[The team] is so big,” says Mulvihill. “It feels so good to have all those people behind you and to have something to play for, something to work for.”
Community is important to Mulvihill in more ways than one; she is a leader in the Community Service Club, one of ETHS’ most popular clubs for students of all years. The club organizes drives, fundraisers and events that cover a wide range of outreach activities, from collecting canned food donations at football games to sorting books for Young, Black & Lit.
“I’m on the outreach committee,” says Mulvihill. “We mainly focus on connecting with other community organizations within Evanson. One time we did a wheelchair race, and so we raised money and got people there to volunteer.”
Mulvihill is also on the board of the Wildkit Buddies program, which pairs students with peers in special education programs to foster friendships, and is a member of the Clean Water Club. This season, she will bring her leadership skills and determination to the field.
“In soccer, everyone has to step up at one point,” she says. “Either it’s on the field or just asking someone to hang out or come to a team dinner. Everyone that’s on the team right now is super sweet and welcoming and they’ll take their leadership when it feels right.”
A positive influence on the field and a club leader off it, Anna Bergmann returns to motivate with a consistent attitude and strong work ethic. Though Bergmann played center midfield for the majority of last year, she will most likely be returning to her primary position on the defensive line.
Playing soccer “as long as I can remember,” Bergmann has experience on both FC Lakeshore and two years on the ETHS varsity team.
“At the beginning, I had so many friends who [played soccer,]” she says. “I just like the community and the game.”
Within the team, Bergmann fulfills a strong social role as a friendly figure and morale booster.
“I think my teammates would say I’m kind of goofy, but at the end of the day, I’ll get it done,” says Bergmann. “I’m not super serious on the outside, but I definitely have a work ethic.”
With practice six times a week and games that stretch through the afternoon, varsity sports can be overwhelming, even for an athlete with strong personal drive.
“Having to balance my schoolwork with the practices is pretty demanding,” she says. “It’s kind of nice to have a regimen that I can stick to. But sometimes it does get hard because you get home from practice and all you want to do is take a shower and go to bed. But you’ve got four hours of homework. So sometimes it’s hard to keep yourself motivated school wise.”
Despite a busy schedule of soccer, Bergmann finds time for other passions, including snowboarding and running the ETHS sports business club. The club connects to individuals in the sports marketing and business world, inviting guests such as the Director of College Sports Marketing at Nike or the USC Associate Athletic Director to speak.
“I really like to snowboard, which is my favorite thing to do other than soccer, but it’s hard because we don’t have that much around here,” says Bergmann. “Other than that I’m a president for the Sports Business Club, which is super cool. We get to interview people in the sports in marketing careers.”
Tearing her ACL stopped Jordin Kadiri from participating in the 2022 season, but she’s back and ready to conquer 2023. The versatile Kadiri plays center and outside back, as well as “everything but goalie.”
A member of both FC United and the Kits, Kadiri went to middle school in Rogers Park before transferring over to Evanston for high school. Soccer provided a community in a new town.
“I didn’t really have any friends from Evanston,” she says. “Then I went to play soccer.”
Before joining FC United, Kadiri was a part of the inaugural girl’s team at Jahbat FC, now a staple travel program in Evanston and beyond. The girl’s program launched in 2013, and among the first players was Jordin Kadiri, encouraged to try out by a family friend.
“[I] didn’t make it but they put me on the team anyway,” says Kadiri. “We were so bad the first few years, and then all of our friends joined, and then we exploded. It was amazing.”
Sophomore year, she was pulled from junior varsity to play with the team for playoffs. Prospects were looking up until a fateful ACL injury at a recruitment camp in the winter of 2022. Despite being present for every game and practice last season, this is the first full year Kadiri will see on the varsity soccer team.
“The [ETHS] community is a lot different than club,” she says. “Club is a bunch of girls from different schools playing together. It’s still fun, but it’s like when you play a club versus your country. One of our coaches said you never really get an experience like high school soccer.”
Despite the loss of many teammates—and friends—Kadiri has high hopes for the 2023 season.
“I think people have their doubts just because we lost so many people,” Kadiri says. “But I think we’ll be fine. Every team lost a good amount of seniors last year. We’re all level on the playing field. I think we can be very successful.”
When not on the field, Kadiri can be found baking, running, making pottery, or creating “Kadiri’s Kitchen” segments for the Evanstonian, where she films food reviews from around Evanston.
The ex-gymnast turned soccer player Lily Shure has come to love the team bonding and growth aspect of soccer, and she continues to work hard every day.
“My favorite part about soccer is seeing the growth throughout the years and being able to see how much I’ve grown,” Shure remarks.
Shure started playing soccer with Team Evanston, then moved onto play with Chicago Fire and, eventually, FC United, playing center and outside midfielder.
While playing with FC United and the Kits, Shure has developed a huge amount of gratitude towards her parents and her friends that she develops chemistry with on the field.
“After I got my license, I realized how far places actually are, and I can’t believe they drove me that far for so many years,” Shure jokes. “If that was me, I would be upset every time I had a soccer game.”
“I would say that the seniors are all very close, and we love just getting food together or doing stuff [together] after practice. I love playing with them, and I’m going to be sad when we all graduate,” Shure says.
Lily plans to commit to a four-year liberal arts college, with the hopes of playing Division III, while also furthering her academic career, balancing studying and working hard to train more with soccer.
When she is not in soccer practice, you can find Lily doing activities in and outside of ETHS. She is a part of the math team, the Asian Heritage club, Justin Wynn and she often does writing on the side.
Adriana Merriam continues to dominate on and off the field, volunteering to coach and co-captaining this year’s varsity team. She began her career under the encouragement of her uncle, who plays for the Honduras National Team.
“I started playing soccer when I could walk,” she jokes. “My uncle really influenced me to start playing soccer, and I spent a lot of time with him when I was younger. He always kept me outside kicking the ball.”
Merriam leant her skills to Jahbat and Chicago Fire before landing on FC United and the Wildkits, where she currently plays.
Within the team, Merriam demonstrates a strong leadership commitment, with exceptional skill that has distinguished her as a player. She’s also had the ability to create cherished bonds throughout senior year.
“I think [my teammates] would say that I’m very determined, disciplined and hardworking, and I want to bring out the best in myself along with everyone else on the team.” Merriam remarks.
That determination and hard work these past four years at ETHS have gotten Merriam far as an athlete and also as a student. She committed to Baylor University as a D1 soccer commit and plans on majoring in kinesiology.
“I’m so excited to train almost every day and do everything at the next level,” she says. “I’ve worked so hard and to see it finally pay off is rewarding unlike anything else.”
Along with the extensive practices that come with being a varsity athlete, Merriam still has time for soccer volunteering opportunities to do around Evanston.
Girls Play Sports, a non-profit program that offers activities for Evanston girls to learn to play and compete in clinics and camps, employs passionate students like Merriam to help run their programs and mentor young athletes.
“I love to help out with Girls Play Sports, volunteering coaching teams, just activities that relate to soccer,” says Merriam. “I want to inspire others to play the sport that I love.”