Sydney Gountounas for Andrew Soccer for Spring Photo Day at Andrew High School, Sunday, March 23rd, 2014 in Tinley Park | Gary Middendorf/for Sun-Times Media
Updated: June 7, 2014 6:23AM
Compared to many of the girls she plays against, Andrew’s Sydney Gountounas is a relative novice on the soccer field.
“I’ve been playing soccer since I was 10 years old,” she said. “I had been playing softball since I was 4 and I just wanted to try out something different. I started playing soccer and I just stuck with it. I decided it was the sport I wanted to keep playing.”
Andrew is glad she made that decision.
Gountounas has become an invaluable member of the Thunderbolts squad, a versatile player who can help the team in just about any way necessary.
“Sydney can handle the ball just as good, or better, than any player we’ve played against,” Andrew coach Loren Zolk said. “She can play forward, midfielder or defender for us and can do well at all three spots.”
Spending most of her time as a center midfielder last season, Gountounas led Andrew with 12 goals and earned All-Sectional honors. This year, she’s transitioned to the role of center defender.
That’s just fine with her.
“Defense is what I normally play for my club team (the Windy City Pride),” Gountounas said. “In high school, I’ve had more of an offensive role in the past, but I’m glad that I’m playing defense this year.
“I like defense more. I like that you can still go up and attack sometimes, but if the other team scores a goal, you know it’s on you. There’s a responsibility and a pressure that make the position fun to play.”
Off the field, Gountounas is a big Blackhawks fan, and a fanatic of Andrew Shaw in particular.
She even asked Shaw to prom when the Blackhawks center came to Lemont for a meet-and-greet in March.
“Unfortunately, I got turned down, but I’m still a huge Andrew Shaw fan,” she said.
Gountounas has signed with Valparaiso to continue her soccer career in the fall. She will join many Chicago-area products there, including former conference rivals Rita Craven (Lincoln-Way North) and Morgan Manzke (Sandburg).
“I’m really excited,” Gountounas said. “On my visit there I got to see a lot of girls I played against in high school. It’ll be a lot of fun to play with them now. One of my friends that I’ve played with for years on club, Lily Chetosky (of Hinsdale Central), is also going to Valpo, too.”
First, she hopes to end her Andrew career on a high note.
“We’ve had a good season,” she said. “There are a couple games we wish we could have come out on top in and didn’t, like the Lincoln-Way North game (a 1-0 loss), but that gives us more motivation for next time. We really want to win our regional and then see what we can do in the sectional. Hopefully, we can have a good run.”