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Kits to commits: spring sports
Celebrating the graduating athletes beginning a new chapter of their sports careers
May 11, 2023
During his four years at ETHS, Dylan Groff starred in both lacrosse and football, being a four-year varsity lacrosse player and the starting quarterback for varsity football. Although Groff likely could have played football in college, he learned throughout high school that he wanted to play lacrosse at the collegiate level. In November of Groff’s junior year, he committed to playing lacrosse at Rutgers University.
“To be honest, I always wanted to play football. I never really thought I wanted to play lacrosse in college … [As a rising Junior], I had a really good summer with lacrosse, and it all happened really fast from there. With Rutgers, I couldn’t pass that up,” said Groff.
Groff’s recruiting process happened in the blink of an eye. Per the NCAA recruiting rules, colleges cannot reach out to players until Sept. 1 at midnight of the athlete’s junior year. Rutgers reached out to Groff about as soon as they possibly could have.
“Rutgers reached out to me at 12:07 AM on Sep. 1,” Groff said.
Rutgers wasn’t the only school that showed interest in Groff: Michigan, Delaware, Long Island University and UMass also showed interest. After visiting several schools, Groff immediately fell in love with Rutgers over the others.
“I got to talk to some of the guys on the team, and I felt that I could have just fallen in with those guys; they were just so nice and so helpful, even to a junior who was not even committed. They were all great leaders; they just had such a presence.”
For Groff, the most exciting thing about playing lacrosse at the collegiate level is the chance to compete at a higher level.
“Getting to play such a high level of lacrosse every single day, year-round, is gonna be so much fun. To play with some of the best guys in the country is going to be a blast.”
Even though Groff is moving on in his lacrosse career, he had so many good times playing for ETHS. His favorite lacrosse memory at ETHS came in an upset win against Marist High School during his junior year.
“The Marist game was probably my favorite game I have ever played in, because they were ranked so high above us and we kind of just sh*t on them.”
Groff cherished playing with his childhood friends.
“There are a lot of guys on the team that I have been playing with since I was seven years old, playing with those friends that I have been playing with for forever was amazing,” Groff said. “I’ll never get that again.”
Ariel Kite was just three years old when she touched her first soccer ball. Now, at 18, she’s preparing to travel 350 miles away from her American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO) fields and continue her career as a goalie for Kenyon College. As a liberal arts college with just under 2,000 undergrads, Kenyon was exactly the place that Kite was looking for to call her home for the next four years.
“I wanted to go to a small school, because I’m studying political science, so I just thought that’d be the best fit for me and my major,” she said. “I really got along well with the coaches at Kenyon. I really liked the culture [both] academically and on the soccer team; it’s very collaborative, and everyone’s super nice.”
Mirroring her early exposure to the sport of soccer in general, Kite began her recruiting journey early on as well. After attending a showcase her freshman year, Kite started receiving interest from Division III schools, and she decided she wanted to pursue collegiate soccer. Unfortunately, Kite’s plans took an unexpected turn the following year.
“COVID hit my sophomore year, so it cut my club season sophomore year. I didn’t get a club season, which was pretty prime for recruiting in soccer, so I spent all of my sophomore year [doing] fall and winter training and emailing schools training film, which helped a little bit, but [it’s] obviously not the same as them seeing you play.”
Nonetheless, Kite was able to overcome these unprecedented challenges and start off her junior year with interest from several schools, one of which being Kenyon, but it wasn’t until a year later that Kite committed.
“[At] the end of my junior year, going into senior year that summer, I was still going to ID camps and still looking at a bunch of different schools,” she said. “I finished up my visits [at] the beginning of senior year, and I just decided that Kenyon had wanted me the whole time, the coach loves me, and that was just the best fit for me.”
Although Kite looks forward to a new level of gameplay and chapter of her life, she still looks back on her time at Evanston with gratitude and nostalgia.
“I love Evanston girls soccer. I just love getting to play for my school and going to school with my best friends and having friends in different age groups [who are] people I wouldn’t talk to normally [if we hadn’t met] through soccer,” she said. “At Kenyon, they gave me that same vibe. Everyone was really close friends and hung out a lot, and there’s a lot of school spirit and rivalries with other schools in the conference, so I think that’s what I’m most excited about.”
After coming into high school exclusively a swimmer, Molly Lemmon will leave ETHS as a water polo player. She will continue to play during her next four years at Macalester College.
“I didn’t think that [water polo] would be my main sport, because I swam from [the time] I was little. But once I did water polo, I realized how much I liked it,” says Lemmon.
Contrary to what it may seem, the decision to take up water polo was an easy one for Lemmon. For her, it was essentially a matter of continuing her family’s legacy.
“I have a lot of aunts, and my uncle—they all played [water polo] at the high school here,” says Lemmon. “I always knew that I would be doing it eventually, so I started freshman year.”
Ultimately, this choice proved to reap huge rewards not only for Lemmon but the ETHS girls water polo program as a whole. Last season, the team took home the conference title, its first one in ten years.
Despite her successes, however, Lemmon did not initially anticipate becoming a collegiate athlete. But upon discovering Macalester, things rapidly changed.
“I really wasn’t expecting to play any sports in college, but then I talked to a few people and they were like, ‘Oh! you could totally play water polo there,’ and I was like, ‘Oh my god! That would be so cool,’” says Lemmon. “Once I realized that I could play there, it was the perfect school for me.”
Like it is for all senior athletes, moving onto the next step is undoubtedly a bittersweet moment, and that is perhaps most true for Lemmon.
“Each year is so special, and to be able to get so close and be working towards a common goal, it’s just such a great experience,” says Lemmon, “It’s really sad to know not only is the season ending, but I’m not going to be playing with any of my teammates again.”
As well as playing water polo, Lemmon will also be pursuing a major in English Literature.
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.
A pitcher and first baseman for the Wildkits, Jared Lortie will continue his academic and athletic careers at Hamilton College in Canton, NY, come next fall.
Unlike most of Evanston’s varsity baseball team, who played for Evanston’s feeder program from the time they were nine years old, Lortie did not live in Evanston until he was 12, having spent most of his early childhood in Tokyo.
But upon coming to E-Town, Lortie was met with open arms.
“Even though I was born in Japan and moved here, these teammates made me feel like I was included and belonged,” says Lortie. “Since being in Evanston, my teammates are basically my family.”
Incidentally, meeting and bonding with his new teammates are what Lortie looks forward to most on Hamilton’s team.
“The teammates and the people I’m going to meet at Hamilton through playing baseball is definitely the most exciting part,” says Lortie.
Since Hamilton is a liberal arts college offering a wide variety of courses, Lortie is undecided about his field of study but is looking to potentially major in Economics and minor in Spanish.
And his advice to younger students? Don’t be afraid to explore all of what ETHS has to offer.
“Try everything,” says Lortie. “Freshman year, I tried doing DECA, a business club, and I absolutely loved it. Even though I was nervous at first. I wanted to go beyond my comfort zone. Trying out new things would be my advice.”
With his senior baseball season still ongoing, Lortie looks forward to achieving what has been long considered the Wildkit Nation’s ultimate goal—a state championship. This year, that aim appears well within the realm of possibility after Evanston has been ranked as high as third in the state by Sloche.
“Coach Joe, he’s been saying this is the year that we’re gonna win state. I totally believe in that,” says Lortie. “We work really hard every day, whether it be morning lift, morning practice, pregame practices—all that. We’ll definitely have to focus on every inning as Coach Consiglio preaches, and winning state would be our biggest goal.”
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.”
Shayna Da Silva
The midfield position in soccer is vital to the team’s success. Yet Shayna Da Silva makes it look easy. In the Kits’ home thriller against New Trier, she traps a bouncing pass mid-stride, maneuvering past her defender to strike a high powered shot at the goal.
Boasting a powerful shot, incredible awareness and seamless passes, Da SilvaDa Silva is the complete midfielder. All of this is only dutifully enhanced by her speed and fierceness on the opposing side.
“I have a good vision of the game and always try to get the team in a rhythm that will help us keep the ball and succeed,“ Da Silva said.
Starting at JahBat FC, then moving to Chicago Fire FC, she now plays for Eclipse SC, a select club for college prospects. At the high school, she was selected for varsity as a freshman but opted to join sophomore year. Since then, she has proven invaluable and joined a community she cherishes.
“Some of my closest friends are my teammates, and I love getting to meet girls from other grades that I generally wouldn’t have ever met if it wasn’t for ETHS soccer,” said Da Silva, expanding on what makes this team so great.
Tenacity is the driving force behind Da Silva’s success, and it’s served her well. Since she was five years old, Da Silva has been an avid soccer player, even making the Varsity team as a freshman. She opted not to play that year though, because of her commitment to an elite league. Last year, she was a crucial piece in Evanston’s run to the state semifinals and has only proved more valuable this year as the Kits overtook New Trier for the first time.
“[We] had never beaten New Trier before [during my sophomore year] and winning a game against them felt like such a big accomplishment for the team and myself,” said Da Silva.
Next year, she will play for the DePaul Blue Demons with teammate Jordin Kadiri. As she moves forwards with her career, excitement is inevitable.
“I look forward to experiencing a new level of competition and learning the standards of college soccer,” Da Silva said “I am so happy to be able to play with some of my teammates next year and get to carry on some of my youth relationships into college. It’s always nice to have a friend that you know and can count on when it comes to being in a new environment.”
In the midst of a breakout senior season, Miles Granjean has decided to continue his track and field pursuits at the University of Iowa next fall.
Despite having previously established a niche for himself as a sprinter on Evanston’s track team, this year, Granjean opted to focus on the 110-meter hurdles, and boy have his efforts paid off. At the Minooka SmithStrong Invitational on April 15, Granjean broke the two-year-old school record in the event with a mind-boggling 13.99 seconds. The old school record of 14.01 was set by fellow Evanston Wildkit turned Iowa Hawkeye Kalil Johnson; the two will find themselves teammates once again come the fall.
With this time, Granjean cemented himself as the favorite in the event at the upcoming IHSA State Track & Field Championships; the second fastest time in Illinois this season lies over four tenths of a second back.
“After I made it to state and we placed third for the 4×400 last year, that’s when I really [decided I] wanted to pursue [track] in college,” says Granjean “I felt like I had potential, like I could do something in track and be able to take it to a higher level. I didn’t want to waste that.”
Determined to earn a spot on one of the country’s preeminent collegiate track programs, however, Granjean knew he still had much work to do in order to be able to achieve that goal. In fact, largely due to him bursting on the scene so recently, Granjean didn’t commit until April 25,, far later than the vast majority of Division I athletes of his caliber.
“Iowa is considered one of the best hurdling programs in the entire country,” says Granjean. “When I got the call from them, it was very hard to say no, because it’s an opportunity that doesn’t come very often.”
Looking ahead to his collegiate hurdling career, Granjean’s 13.99 would rank him third on Iowa’s roster so far this season and would have placed eighth at the 2022 Big Ten Outdoor Track & Field Championships, where Iowa’s men’s team took second overall.
On the academic side of things, Granjean looks to pursue a major in biochemistry, and hopefully attend medical school after college.
“The thing I love about soccer is the commitment. It’s always been there for me when I’ve been down.” Jahzara (Jahz) Middleton said. She is committed to play soccer at Oakton Community College. Jahz started playing soccer at 10 years old in Belize and her love for the sport only grew as she came to the United States at 14. Playing soccer for Evanston has helped Jahz make unforgettable memories, mostly due to her teammates.
“My favorite thing about the Evanston team is the communication we’ve been able to build as a team. From blasting music on the bus to playing challenging games, we’ve always worked together.”
While she never anticipated playing in college, it was a welcome surprise. “For me, the recruitment process was easy. The Oakton coach reached out to me and came to one of my games to see what I had. After that we stayed in touch, leading to my commitment.”
Jahz has a unique perspective to the college application and recruitment process due to her citizen status. Since she isn’t a United States citizen she doesn’t qualify for FAFSA, and therefore doesn’t get any financial aid to help pay for college. Fortunately the Oakton Coach, Tristram Bisgrove, guided her through the process of making college affordable.
“The Oakton coach helped me understand my financial aid as an undocumented student. He helped me get scholarships, allowing me to afford college.” Jahz said.
Jahz has dreams of being a pilot and believes that the discipline she has learned through soccer will only help her in her future career.
“Going to college is going to make me a better player. Doing what I love and getting my degree at the same time will help me on the field.” Jahz concluded.
Next year, Jordin Kadiri will be taking her talents to DePaul University. The versatile Kadiri plays center and outside back, but really can play “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.
Standing at a whopping 6’9”, Aidan Klein is built to be a volleyball player. The powerful middle blocker will be taking his talents next fall just five miles away from ETHS, at Loyola University Chicago.
Klein’s recruiting process was a rollercoaster. In August of 2022, Klein unofficially committed to Harvard after they offered him a spot on the team. However, he still needed to be accepted into the school through their normal admissions– where he was denied just shortly after his commitment.
“I didn’t really know 100% what was going to happen. I was pretty sure I would get in because the coaches wouldn’t offer you if they thought you wouldn’t get into the school,” said Klein. “It was a weird year but I’m super excited about the Loyola program.”
The proximity to home combined with the prestige of the Ramblers’ program is what drew Klein to the school.
“It’s a great opportunity. I’m really looking forward to playing at a higher level and getting better with new teammates but also being able to come back to Evanston. Lots of [ETHS teammates] can come and watch, so it’ll be nice to be connected to both communities.”
In addition to being a three-year player on the ETHS varsity team, Klein plays for Mod Volleyball, a club team in Skokie. The highlight of his volleyball career (as of right now) is beating New Trier in Beardsley this season, for the first time in 15 years.
“Winning against New Trier was pretty awesome. The one thing I love about our team is how much we bond off the court and that really helps us play better on the court. That was really important against [New Trier],” Klein stated.
While he’s excited for the near future, Klein is looking forward to the possibility of furthering his volleyball career past college.
“I’d love to try and play pro in Europe.”