Boys Soccer: Sandburg’s Zack Biel Fire/SouthtownStar 2012 Player of the Year
By Steve Millar For Sun-Times Media November 25, 2012 5:30PM
Boys soccer player of the year Zack Biel of Sandburg, at the school in Orland Park, IL on Friday November 9, 2012. | Matt Marton~Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 27, 2012 6:04AM
Zack Biel may not play college soccer. After playing virtually his entire life, he says he’s “a bit burned out” on the sport.
If 2012 turns out to be his final year playing competitively, the Sandburg senior sure went out with a bang.
An All-State selection, Biel scored 25 goals and dished out 14 assists from his midfielder position, leading the Eagles to third place in the state in Class 3A.
“It was such an incredible run,” Biel said. “It felt like our first game (of the playoffs) against Brother Rice was so long ago. The journey to get to state was something I’ll never forget.”
Biel has added to his accomplishments the title of Fire/SouthtownStar 2012 Boys Soccer Player of the Year.
“It’s definitely an honor, especially with all the talented kids around here,” Biel said.
Sandburg coach Desi Vuillaume was Biel’s coach for all four of his years at Sandburg. Vuillaume was the sophomore coach during Biel’s first two years before taking over as varsity coach two seasons ago.
“He’s been such a huge asset to our program,” Vuillaume said. “I can’t think of the number of times he won a game for us. He took us on his shoulders a lot.”
Biel came into the season with a chip on his shoulders after the top-seeded Eagles were stunned by No. 17 seed Providence in a 2011 regional semifinal.
“It felt like a nightmare,” he said. “I woke up the next day like ‘Did that really happen?’ I can’t even describe how bad it felt to not live up to our expectations and to choke in the first round.
“Thank God for us seniors, we had a second chance.”
It was a chance they took advantage of.
The Eagles outscored their four opponents by a combined score of 8-0 in cruising to the Class 3A Lincoln-Way Central Sectional title.
Biel then turned in perhaps his greatest performance, dominating the match and providing a goal and an assist as Sandburg punched its ticket to state with a 2-1 supersectional win over Fenwick in overtime.
Biel’s goal in a 1-0 win over Stevenson in the third-place match was his 25th, quite a leap from the eight he scored in 2011.
“I just worked hard in the offseason trying to get better,” he said. “My teammates helped me out a lot. Playing with great players, they make you better, too.”
Biel is quick to credit his teammates, with whom his roots run deep.
He remembers playing soccer in his back yard with teammate Ronnie Merjan in first grade.
“Most of our starting lineup, we’ve been playing together since we were 10 years old,” he said. “It was definitely cool to go out on a good note with them, especially since everyone’s going their separate ways.”
For Biel, the path away from Sandburg may lead to Eastern Illinois or Illinois State. Though he has garnered plenty of interest from Division III soccer programs, he craves the big-school college experience.
“It’s been a tough decision so far and I haven’t fully decided that I’m not going to play college soccer, but that’s what I’m leaning toward,” he said.
The uncertainly surrounding his future in soccer was a motivator throughout the Eagles’ postseason march.
“Every game in the playoffs, I told myself it could be the last game I ever play,” he said. “I played the hardest I could possibly play. I didn’t want to leave anything on the field and have any regrets.”