Girls Soccer: Elkei elevates Lockport, takes Coach of Year honors
By Steve Millar For Sun-times Media June 15, 2012 6:42PM
Lockport’s Todd Elkei is the 2012 SouthtownStar Girls Soccer Coach of the Year. | Matt Marton~Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 18, 2012 6:11AM
When Todd Elkei took the job as Lockport girls soccer coach before the 2011 season, he knew the potential was there with a program he called “a diamond in the rough.”
Some things had to change, though, for a Porters squad with virtually no history of success.
“There’s always been a lot of talent here,” Elkei said. “Part of it was just changing the mentality. It’s about instilling that confidence and pride in themselves and the program and the community.
“We wanted to get people talking about Lockport soccer.”
People are certainly talking after a 2012 campaign that saw the Porters finish 18-8, win the first conference title in program history and make a deep playoff run that shocked many.
For all that success, Elkei has been named the 2012 SouthtownStar Girls Soccer Coach of the Year.
Reclamation projects are nothing new for Elkei, who was named the top boys coach by the Daily Southtown while at Crete-Monee in 2001 and took the paper’s girls award in 2007 with Homewood-Flossmoor.
Still, it’s this season that will go down as one of his greatest coaching jobs.
Lockport began knocking down doors when it beat Sandburg 2-1 on April 23 — the program’s first-ever win over the Eagles — then topped H-F 3-1 two days later.
That weekend, the Porters competed in the Tournament of Champions in Burlington, Iowa, and lost three one-goal matches to top out-of-state competition.
The Porters finished the week 2-3, but it was about the best under-.500 week a team could ever have.
“That week, I think that’s when the kids started to realize ‘We are pretty good,’ ” Elkei said. “It gave us confidence going into the playoffs.”
Lockport wrapped up the SouthWest Suburban Blue title with a 6-0 league mark.
Then it was on to the postseason, where the Porters’ reward for having the best regular season of any Southland squad was a No. 7 seed in the ridiculously strong Naperville North Sectional.
“We could have been a one (seed) other places, but we get sent north and we’re a seven,” Elkei said. “We just decided you’ve got to beat them sometime.”
The Porters became the sectional’s Cinderella by posting three straight 1-0 wins. After topping Plainfield Central, Lockport won a regional crown by stunning a Naperville Central squad that had spent a good portion of the year ranked as the state’s No. 1 team.
A sectional semifinal win over Metea Valley followed. It took eventual state champion Naperville North to end the Porters’ run. North posted a 2-0 decision over Lockport in the sectional title game.
Elkei pushed the right buttons along the way. He moved senior Cortney Jerzy from goalkeeper to forward to jump-start the Porters’ offense. In the playoffs, Jerzy was back in goal and leading the run.
“(Jerzy) is a dominant player wherever she goes,” Elkei said. “We just figured out as coaches as we went along what would be our best chance to win.”
The winning goal against Naperville Central, Ally Brehm scoring off a corner kick, came on a play the coaching staff designed a day earlier.
“The day before we were working at practice,” Elkei said. “We couldn’t get any corners so I was like, ‘That’s it. We’re changing it up.’ We went with a little diagonal run play and that’s how we scored.”
That win won’t soon be forgotten by Elkei. The same could be said for the entire season, which brought overwhelming success quicker than even he expected.
“A lot of it is having something to work with,” he said. “We have good kids. We have good parent support. Those things were already there. They’ve wanted this for a long time.
“But to beat Naperville Central and win a regional, no I didn’t think that would happen in two years. But we’re not going to give it back.”