Written by Jeff Vorva
BOYS SOCCER PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Photos by Jeff Vorva
When Sandburg senior Ryan Kozlowski was suddenly brought up to varsity team his sophomore year when the Eagles entered the IHSA state playoffs, the talented underclassman got a taste of varsity action on a higher stage.
That experience stoked Kozlowski’s desire to be the best and two years later, he has been named the Reporter/Regional’s first Boys Soccer Player of the Year.
In 2015, Kozlowski scored a team-high 16 goals and helped Sandburg capture a regional championship before the team was denied further advancement on a rain-soaked field against rival Andrew in the sectional.
“I’ll never forget how excited I was with that experience as a sophomore and being able to play during an important part of the season,” Kozlowski said. “I had lots of club experience, but you learn so many parts of the game when playing varsity soccer. I’ve learned so much in the past two years.”
Kozlowski said that as a senior leader, he also learned the value of friendship with just about every player on the varsity squad this season.
“I only knew a couple of the guys on the team at the beginning of the season, and I know I’m happy to say that I’m pretty good friends with all of them,” he said. “This was a great group of guys to play with and go to battle with.
“We proved all season that we were a team that could battle back and was always in the game.”
Kozlowski said a great deal of his success is attributed to the guidance of head coach Desi Vuillaume, who said Kozlowski led by example.
“Not only did coach show me how to be a better player, he showed how me to class act off the field as a well as on,” he said.
GIRLS GOLF PLAYER OF THE YEAR
One of Sandburg freshman Hannah Kilbane’s biggest accomplishments on the golf course this fall was relatively quiet.
The Eagles were at the Marian Catholic Class AA Regional at the Lincoln Oaks course in Crete and fired a 302. Emilyee McGiles was the talk of the tournament by winning the tournament with a 68.
The oohing and aahing over the dominance shown by the team and McGiles overshadowed an amazing nine-hole stretch by Kilbane, who followed up a front-nine 40 with a stunning back-nine 32.
Kilbane’s other accomplishments were not so silent. She won the SouthWest Suburban Conference Blue title (shooting a 79) and was the top Eagles scorer in their second-place finish (73) in sectional play and sixth-place finish in the state tournament (164 in two rounds).
The freshman was named the first Reporter/Regional Girls Golf Player of the Year.
It was not the easiest situation to come into. Two years ago, the Eagles qualified for state for the first time in school history and they finished 11th. In 2014, the Eagles took fifth in the state and while they had plenty of talent back, they lost an ace in graduated Frankie Saban.
During an undefeated dual season, the Eagles had shared the wealth with seemingly a different player leading the team every match.
Little did the St. Michael graduate know that she would become such a postseason force. She said she felt welcome right away.
“It’s been really fun because my team has really been awesome,” she said. “No one put any pressure on me. I put pressure on myself because I really wanted to do well.’’
Kilbane said she started getting serious about golf four years ago and has participated in United States Kids Golf events. But her debut as a freshman was anything but kidding around.
GIRLS TENNIS PLAYER OF THE YEAR
That’s all Sandburg freshman Anna Loureiro lost at the Sandburg Sectional in October and that came against Stagg freshman Karolina Wolowiec.
The young sectional champion advance to the Illinois High School state tournament and won her first two matches, which put her in the top 32. Although she lost her next two matches to bow out of the tournament on the second day, her finish was the best in the area and the start of what could be an amazing prep career as she is named the first Reporter/Regional Girls Tennis Player of the Year.
Since the end of her first high-school season, Loureiro went back to the United States Tennis Association circuit. She competed a tournament in Dayton, Ohio in late November and is ranked No. 213 in the nation among 14-year-olds. She has a 60-31 mark in USTA competition and said that her biggest accomplishment was finishing second at a Level II tournament two years ago.
After facing some of the best players in the country during the offseason, she was able to go 26-6 in her first season for coach Brian Ostrander at Sandburg.
“I didn’t think I would do this well,” she said. “I tried not to put too much pressure on myself. Even though the players are older, I expect the best from myself.’’
She said she’s played serious tennis for six years. After she found out she had a knack for playing badminton when she was eight, she decided to give tennis a chance because it was more of an intense sport.
She said she fell in love with the sport because of its individual nature.
“I love how it’s just me on the court and no one else,” she said. “Even though it’s really intense, it’s just me and all I can do is rely on myself.’’
BOYS GOLF PLAYER OF THE YEAR
When the Chicago Christian boys golf team advanced to the IHSA Class 1A state finals this past season, it was the first time junior Pete Vos had ever competed on such a prominent stage.
And the way Vos and his teammates performed at the state finals – with the team finishing fifth and Voss placing 10th individually – it would have been easy to mistaken the group for a team which competed in the finals before.
And that’s what made Vos’ performance all the more impressive as he shot a 79 on day one and concluded with an 81 on day two at state and earned the Reporter/Regional’s first Boys Golfer of the Year honor.
“We all just wanted to go down there and have fun and also represent the name of our school,” Vos said. “I knew it was going to be a unique opportunity, and I didn’t know what to expect. I knew the competition would be tough, and I definitely didn’t expect to golf so well.”
But to hear Chicago Christian head coach Colin Brookyse tell it, he wasn’t very surprised of Voss’ success this season.
“He’s been our No. 1 golfer all year, and he’s averaged about a 38 for nine holes all season” Broekhuis said. “He was so consistent and is very laid back on the golf course. He and our No. 2 golfer (fellow junior) Nate Kamp both love golf and love coming to practice. They golf all summer long.’’
Vos said he was grateful for where he finished at State but said he had his focus on a loftier height at the state meet.
“The place was great, but I was more focused in honoring the Lord Jesus Christ in what I did,” he said. “It was a memorable experience.”