Goals Set High


Sam Nelson

The LHS varsity girl’s soccer team won three out of four games in the Pepsi Showdown tournament.

The 2015-2016 girls’ varsity soccer team at Libertyville High School is looking to make a strong comeback from previous seasons this year. The team is working on skills that will take them farther in the state tournament than they have been in years.


Whole team in their hands

Captains are the stronghold of any team. They are the ones who push the team to their limits in hopes of getting everyone to succeed. Whether the team’s spirits are up after a win or down after a loss, the captains are the ones who lead by example.

LHS seniors Julia Neiweem, Danielle Pacholski, Annie Thompson, and Ellie Daugerdas are this year’s captains for the varsity girls soccer team. All have been playing soccer since at least preschool, some even longer. Playing from such a young age gave these girls a big head start when it came to playing for the Wildcats. Since freshman year, all four of the captains have been members of the varsity team.

Having four years of experience on varsity has given the captains different perspectives in regards to team bonding. All captains expressed how this year’s team has clicked exceptionally well with one another.

“Our team unity is really good,” said Neiweem. “We are very close with one another, and we bond really well.” Having close relationships with each other has helped them both on and off of the field.

“I think that’s going to help,” said Daugerdas, responding to the strong team bond. “In years past, in my experience playing, if a team doesn’t get along very well, we haven’t done well.”

Being very close has also had a slight downfall for the team as well. The captains expressed their thoughts of how the closeness of all of the girls can lead to distractions on the field.

“Sometimes, we get a little distracted at practices when we should probably not be,” said Thompson. Yet, even with a little distraction, the team is working tirelessly in their strides toward success.

The captains all stated that their goal for this season was to help the team win as many games as possible and get as far into the state tournament as they are able.

After the boys team made it all the way to state and won the championship game this past season, there is undoubtedly pressure on the girls to follow the boys’ path to success.

Some of the pressure is coming from the girls themselves, pushing themselves towards a victory of their own; towards the rings that their coach, Andrew Bitta, tells them about; towards the satisfaction of proving this year’s team is worthy of the accomplishment.

While sprinting to state is an achievable goal, there’s no doubt that it will take a lot of practice, preparation, and even luck to get there.

“It just has to do with how hard people are willing to work throughout practices and games,” stated Pacholski. “We’ve got big shoes to fill!”


Backing up to look forward

After picking up momentum at the end of the 2014-15 soccer season, this year’s varsity girls soccer team is motivated to come back as strong as ever and get as far into the state tournament as they can.

Last year, the team finished with a 12-5 record.  After having made it all the way to the state semifinals, the Cats ended up losing to Mundelein in a very tough, competitive game. Some of the key players from last season have graduated, but many others are now stepping in to fill the gaps to create a well-rounded team once again.

This year’s team is led by Bitta, who has been the coaching the boys and girls soccer teams at LHS for 31 and 23 years, respectively. He was named the Coach of the Year by the Illinois High School Coaches Association for girls soccer in 1991 and entered the Illinois High Schools Soccer Coaches Association Hall Of Fame in 2001.

Practicing for nearly two hours every day after school, the team prepared themselves for the opening game of the season, a 3-1 victory against St. Viator. At halftime of that contest, it was still anyone’s game, with the score tied at 0, until the second half, when the scores of juniors Taylor Underwood and Natalie Jaroch led the team to their first victory.

Shortly after the opener, the Wildcats fell to New Trier and Mundelein during the next two games. “We’ve got to be ready for everybody, because everybody wants to kick our butt,” said Coach Bitta. “Everyone wants to beat Libertyville!”

Strong motivation led to a comeback with the girls winning the following two games: first, against Grant with a 7-1 win and then again against St. Ignatius, which was also the first round of the Pepsi Showdown.

The Wildcats then had two more wins against Metea Valley and Highland Park, along with one loss to Downers Grove North. This lead the team to an overall standing of three wins out of four games in the Pepsi Showdown.

Each hour of practice and each victory brings the Wildcats one step closer to the final win that everyone has their eyes and hearts set on. The boys winning state showed them that their hard work can pay off. “The girls, they want to be the same,” said Coach Bitta. “They saw what the boys accomplished and they’re feeling like ‘Why can’t we do that, too?’ And they can! They really can; we just need to get better in a few places.”

Even if the majority of the girls on the team don’t go on to play soccer after high school, the main goal of the coaches is to teach them life lessons that they can apply in the future. Playing a sport can form skills that can be applied to many situations in a lifetime outside of high school sports.

With more games in the future, anything can still happen. Yet, with the team’s willpower and determination, their dreams of making state is always a possibility.

“Everyone’s been playing well,” expressed Coach Bitta. “It’s just a great group to work with.”