By Bob Narang

Over the last three years, senior forward Angela Leon has watched the Thornwood girls soccer program slowly develop.

“We started really bad at the beginning,” Leon said. “But our players are developing and the incoming freshmen are playing better and their overall skill is good.

“Since I’ve seen all four years of the program, it makes me feel better to see how we’ve all improved. I love helping others and getting better myself, too. My coaches are pushing all of us.”

The Thunderbirds, a co-op team comprised of players from District 205 sister schools – Thornwood, Thornton and Thornridge, finished the 2017 campaign with a 6-12 overall record.

“We had more wins than previous years,” Thornwood coach David Gonzalez said. “We took a step forward last year and were a lot more competitive than we’ve normally been.

“We had some bad hiccups, but we were in a lot of games. The girls are excited, and they want to take ownership and push it further to keep the program going in the right direction.”

In order to take another step forward, Thornwood will need to fill the void caused by the graduation of Nataly Rodriguez, who recorded a combined 50 goals in 2016 and 2017.

“Nataly was a special player,” Gonzalez said. “When we get another player like her, I’m hoping that we’ll be in a better position as a program  to be able to take the next step and be even more successful.”

Leon will be one player Gonzalez will look to for some offensive power. Throughout this offseason, she’s focused on her conditioning and the finer aspects of the game.

“I’m 10 times better since my freshman year,” Leon said. “I was so nervous back then.

“I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. I’m ready and worked hard this offseason. Hopefully, we will have a good season, bond well and we’ll get better together.”

Senior forward Anita Rivera, a three-year varsity returnee, said she’s ready for an even bigger role this spring, too.

“I’m looking forward to this season,” Rivera said. “I’ve been practicing so hard in the offseason.

“I’ve worked a lot on my shot, because I feel that’s something I had to improve. I just haven’t had the confidence at times.”

Goalie Jasmin Gonzalez also is back in the net after enduring an up-and-down junior campaign.

“Last year, I learned you have to be confident in yourself when things go bad and you have to be there for your teammates,” Jasmin Gonzalez said. “The struggles made me work a lot harder. As long as I stay confidence, I’m going to be fine.”

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