By Bob Narang

This might be Emily Graham’s senior season at Riverside-Brookfield, but the goalie is nowhere near the end of her soccer career.

Back in February, the Lyons Township Soccer Club product signed to play Big Ten soccer at Purdue.

But despite being considered one of the top players in the Midwest, Graham actually had a very rough start to her career.

“I was 6 years old when I started playing soccer and right away I got kicked in the face and broke something,” Graham said. “I was like, ‘I’m going to jump on that.’

“Yes, it was crazy to think like that so young. But looking back, you’ve got to have a certain level of violence to be a goalkeeper, just to sit in front of a ball and a player. I loved playing (soccer), so I continued.”  

With Graham in the box, the Bulldogs will be a formidable team in the Metro Suburban Conference. As a junior, she tallied 161 saves and recorded eight shutouts.

“I feel ready, really readier than any previous season,” Graham said. “I’ve been doing extra workouts to get fit for this season and I feel stronger.

“I remember my freshman year going to play on the varsity was very scary, just because I was a lot younger than some of the other varsity players. But having the team confident in front of me helped build my confidence.

“I’ve been doing that for the younger players on our team ever since. Now this is my final year, and I want it to be great before heading to Purdue in the fall.”

Riverside-Brookfield coach Ivek Halic said Graham’s an ideal leader in the Bulldogs’ quest to make a strong run in the Class 2A playoffs.

“Emily Graham is an elite athlete, but it goes well beyond the soccer field that makes her so special,” Halic said. “Her welcoming personality, determination to excel and leadership are only a few characteristics that make her so great.

“She’s a unique player who takes the lead by example mentality to heart and encourages her teammates to do the same. Her hard work, passion and commitment is a true testament to her success, and there’s no question she’ll continue to do just that at Purdue, too.”

Saint Xavier-bound midfielder Vanessa Fragoso is another player to watch for the Bulldogs. The senior had three goals and eight assists in 2017 and is one of eight returning starters from last season’s 11-7-1 team, which finished second in conference play.

“Hopefully, I can be a better leader and make sure the team has someone to look for on the field,” Fragoso said. “I have a feeling that it’s going to be a great season.”

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