By Steve Millar

Waukegan seniors Samantha Gutierrez and Diana Ortiz-Hernandez are determined to make their final season as Bulldogs count.

“We want to make our team the best it can be,” Gutierrez said. “We want to encourage all our younger players, help them out a lot and be the best leaders they’ve had.”

While the Bulldogs are intent on improving their 5-17-1 overall record in 2017, Ortiz-Hernandez is determined to soak in all the experiences with her teammates regardless of the results.

“I just really want to have fun this season since it’s our last one,” Ortiz-Hernandez said. “I’m really excited for the year, and it’s going to be a lot of fun. I want to enjoy it with all my friends on the team.”

Gutierrez, a defender, has always had fun on the soccer field.

“I love the adrenaline you feel when you play soccer,” Gutierrez said. “Personally, it’s my stress reliever. I feel so much better after I’m done playing, and it makes me feel like myself.”

Gutierrez began playing soccer when she was 7 years old.

“My brother and some of my friends were in the same indoor league,” Gutierrez said. “I’d go watch them and then I wanted to play, too. I started playing, and I haven’t stopped since.”

Ortiz-Hernandez started around the same time, following in the footsteps of her older cousins.

“I always watched them play and thought it was cool,” Ortiz-Hernandez said. “I played a lot growing up for fun, but I didn’t really take it seriously until high school.”

Off the field, Gutierrez, Ortiz-Hernandez and their teammates have taken time to give back a part of the PepsiCo Showdown and Buddy’s HELPERS “Making A Difference On AND Off The Field” campaign.

“Last year, we brought items to Waukegan firehouse to kickoff National Random Acts of Kindness Week, and that was a great experience,” Gutierrez said. “They give a lot, and it’s only right to give back to people who help our community.”

Make sure to follow Prep Soccer Report on Facebook, Instagram (@PrepSoccerReport) and Twitter (@Report_Soccer) for the latest updates on the college recruiting scene. #PrepSoccerReport