By Steve Millar

For Morton seniors Jackie Velasquez and Jennifer Gonzalez, it’s friendships like the one they have with each other that makes playing high school soccer so special.

The duo met when they first started playing the sport at the age of 11, and the friendship actually pushed Velasquez to continue with soccer.

“I wasn’t really a sporty person, but my mom said I needed to be active because I like food,” Velasquez joked. “She told me to just try soccer one season and if I didn’t like it, I could quit. Then I met Jenny and the other girls.

“When you meet new people every season and get to work together with them, that’s so much fun. I love it.”

 Gonzalez echoed those sentiments.

“I love meeting people through soccer and becoming family with them,” Gonzalez said.

These days, Velasquez and Gonzalez are teaming up on Morton’s back line. This spring, they both hope to be leaders as seniors.

“We lost a lot of seniors to graduation, so we need to build it back up,” Velasquez said. “We have to help the underclassmen know how we play, how to have teamwork. We have to be like older sisters to them.”

Velasquez and Gonzalez say it’s a special experience playing soccer at Morton, a school where the sport is engrained in the culture. Morton’s boys team has won five sectional titles in the last seven seasons, capturing a state title in 2011 and finishing third in 2015. They’ve also been a power in the PepsiCo Showdown, which is an event the girls are looking forward to in April.  

“Playing new teams in the PepsiCo Showdown is always fun,” Gonzalez said. “I know we’ll play hard.”

Last spring, Morton finished 16-6 overall, and it’s looking forward to another successful campaign this year.

“Morton is so known for soccer, so it’s exciting,” Velasquez said. “There’s some pressure sometimes where people are like, ‘Oh, you’ve got to live up to the boys,’ but the boys support us and we support them back – it’s great.

“Everyone is very supportive of us. It’s good to know the school has our back.”

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