By Bob Narang

Bulls Prep’s Michelle Ulloque is setting her standards high for her final high school season.

After scoring 37 goals and tallying six assists in 16 games last spring, the senior midfielder will have to work even harder the next three months if she hopes to exceed those eye-popping statistics.

Ulloque and returning teammates Alma Cruz and Kiana Ortiz were named to the All-Noble Athletic Conference and All-Academic Team last season from Bulls Prep, which finished with a 13-5 overall record – two wins shy of its 15-7 mark in 2016.

“I feel really excited, ready and want to win a conference championship,” Ulloque said. “We all want to win as many games and go as far as possible. I feel ready to lead my team.”

With eight starters returning, Bulls Prep coach Rafael Quizon knows Ulloque will play an important offensive role if they plan to open eyes in the city and suburbs this season.

“We graduated a lot of our forwards, so we need to find more finishers in the final third,” Quizon said. “We were a little too dependent on Michelle to generate offense at times last year.

“We’re looking for a multi-faceted attack, but Michelle has an intuitive feel for the game. Technically, she’s far more advanced than anyone on our team and definitely more than some of the girls we compete against.

“She usually ends up in the right position and right space either to receive the ball or defend the ball. So much of our game flows through her.”

Quizon upgraded his team’s schedule in 2018 to increase the program’s reputation throughout Northern Illinois. Along with adding new nonconference competition, Bulls Prep also will be competing in the PepsiCo Showdown for the first time.

“The girls are very excited,” Quizon said. “The (Noble) network is growing as far as exposure, but it’s nice to be able to be competitive outside the network.

“With the success of the boys program in the fall (advancing to the Class 2A sectional finals), that’s something hopefully we can build off. That’s one of our goals as a program – to be more recognizable around the city and the state.”

With an enhanced schedule, Cruz saw a renewed vigor during offseason conditioning and throughout spring practice so far.

“We hope to win all the games we can, go far in state and do good at (the) PepsiCo (Showdown) since it was the first year we were invited,” Cruz said. “When we were invited, there were a lot of happy people because we want to be like the guys in the fall (who advanced to Championship Sunday).

“It’s also been a lot of fun doing everything for PepsiCo off the field, like seeing the pictures and doing the random acts of kindness and activities we get to do. It brings all of us together and builds our chemistry and makeup of the team.”

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