Girls Soccer: Glenbrook South’s Keeley Nolan, Kelsey Byers teach lessons on defenseGlenview, 4/10/12
Glenbrook South's April Cronin battles with Lake Zurich's Maisie Cox for possession of the ball during their match at Glenbrook South April 10. | Curtis Lehmkuhl~Sun Times Media
A trend within the Glenbrook South girls soccer team has developed in recent years, one that senior Keeley Nolan hopes continues long after she graduates.
Each year, Glenbrook South has an experienced player who takes control of the team’s defense, helping install the team’s principles and a tough-minded mentality. By coupling leadership with talent, the Titans have built their success upon a foundation of defense.
“I would say I have more of a leadership role (this season),” said Nolan, one of the team’s central defenders. “Last year there was a senior (Rori McPhilliamy) on the defense who was a central defender, and she was kind of the person on the defense who really controlled us. And then two years ago, and three years ago, there was another person (Melissa Schakowsky) who took on the responsibility of organizing the defense. I’ve kind of tried to step into that role. It’s been hard to kind of adjust to it, but I really like having that control.”
One of Nolan’s greatest assets is her ability to communicate on the field. She teams with senior Sara Meinecke, who has missed time this season with a concussion, and third-year starting goalkeeper Kelsey Byers, to form the core of Glenbrook South’s team.
Like Nolan, Byers has assumed a more vocal role this season. The senior goalkeeper who, along with Nolan, played a prominent part of Glenbrook South’s fourth-place finish at state in 2010, has made a conscious effort to communicate on the field and help the team grow together away from it.
“I don’t like to have cliques on our team,” Byers said. “I like to hang out with the juniors and the sophomores. We have one freshman this year; it’s kind of interesting to have one newbie. But definitely on the field, I always need to be talking, need to see things. If I don’t see something, I need to ask the coaches, like ‘Oh, how do we fix this?’ I just try to make it work smoothly.”
To have two seniors with a combined seven years of varsity experience like Nolan and Byers is something most coaches crave. Beyond just experienced, confident play on the field, the right leaders on a team have the ability to command the respect of the younger, less experienced players.
As Glenbrook South coach Seong Ha has seen this season, his team has largely fit the mold of Nolan and Byers. They effectively communicate on the field and they have bought into what’s being taught and asked of them. Most importantly, they’re all ears, which bodes well for the Glenbrook South program this season and beyond.
“I think one of the things you see with the younger kids is they listen,” Ha said. “That’s half the battle. I’ve seen many times that (it can’t be) athleticism alone. The kids need to be engaged. They need to be buying into a system, and invest in something they really care about, whether it’s in the classroom or out of the classroom. These girls really care and when Keeley speaks or when Kelsey speaks, they listen.”