“It’s definitely something I won’t ever forget.”

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By Bob Narang

At the end of a memorable weekend, Nazareth senior Julia Olander experienced the joy of playing soccer for the first time in several months, the thrill of victory and the taste of Pepsi.

Olander and senior teammate and close friend Grace Heery each closed out memorable careers in style, jumping up and down with smiles on their faces during the team’s Pepsi Spray celebration on July 19 during the PepsiCo Showdown Girls Community Showcase at Olympic Park in Schaumburg.

The Roadrunners were among the championship bracket teams that celebrated their final time together on the field by indulging in the popular celebration known as the “Pepsi Spray.”

Each squad that won its four-team bracket during the two-day PepsiCo Showdown will remember it forever. The popular post-game celebration features each player receiving a Pepsi two-liter. A 30-second countdown is culminated with the players jumping up and down dousing each other with Pepsi just like professional athletes do with champagne after winning major professional championships.

“This was a great experience,” said Olander, a University of Penn recruit. “It was awesome.

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“My freshman year, we won the tournament and got to do the Pepsi Spray. It was full circle for me to do it again at the end of my career.

“I’m not a soda person, but this tastes so good. This is what makes the PepsiCo Showdown so special and fun. It’s definitely something I won’t ever forget.”

Heery, a two-year captain, said her main goal was to drench Olander with Pepsi.

“This was the perfect way to end my career,” Heery said. “I was able to get Julia.”

Guerin Prep was among the teams that participated in the Pepsi Spray. The River Grove school closed after 59 years on June 30.

The Gators had a celebration to remember, honoring the final event in the school’s athletic history with a prolonged party with coaches, players and parents hugging one another. Dripping wet in Pepsi, Guerin Prep coach Roberto Cianci took several pictures with his players to commemorate the final game.

“I couldn’t ask for a better weekend,” Cianci said. “These girls meant so much to me.”

Warren senior Annika Attiah made two critical mistakes during the Pepsi Spray that caused her to get drenched by her teammates. Nearing the final seconds of a 30-second countdown, Attiah took her time opening up her Pepsi two-liter bottle and then dropped it.

Needless to say, Attiah’s teammates relished soaking her in Pepsi.

For her part, Attiah was proud to walk away a winner – on and off the field. Not only did girls soccer players from around the Chicago region get a chance to play with their friends and peers in front of family and friends, but all the players also rallied together to collect and donate 1,000s of children’s books, sweatshirts and a $1,000 check to I Grow Chicago in Englewood.

“It felt amazing to be playing, especially after the high school season got canceled,” Attiah said. “I didn’t mind getting soaked.

“This also was a great opportunity to be part of a greater cause that’s bigger than ourselves by donating to help enhance the lives of others. I want to make other people know that there are people out there that will support you and help make lives better – especially during the coronavirus.”

Joliet Catholic Academy defender Makenzie Kaput, a Wisconsin-Parkside recruit, called the Pepsi Spray “the cherry on top” of her illustrious career. Kaput, the 2019 East Suburban Catholic Defender of the Year, led the Angels to a fourth-place finish in the IHSA Class 2A state tournament in 2019.

“This was an amazing tournament and experience,” Kaput said. “It’s a sweet way to end everything.”

Bio on reporter: Bob Narang has been covering prep recruiting and sports for the past 25 years. His work also appears in the Chicago Tribune, Daily Herald, Athlon Sports and the DeKalb Daily Chronicle.