CRYSTAL LAKE – If someone was to describe the success of the Crystal Lake South girls soccer team this season, it would be nearly impossible to not say the name Audrey Collard.
The senior defender did a little bit of everything for the Gators. She scored five goals, three of which ended up being match-winners, added four assists, was a lock-down defender, and her leadership made her become what first-year head coach Jay Mueller called a second coach out on the field.
“Audrey is the kind of player a coach dreams about having on their team,” Mueller said. “Sometimes she would say things before games and at halftime better than I could to tell the team what needed to be better. She could single-handedly change the way another team plays just because of her presence.”
Collard described herself as a natural-born leader. She believes communication and being on the same page played a huge role this year. The Gators went 13-4-4 this season, advancing to the regional final before falling to Huntley
Crystal Lake South went a span of 14 matches this season without a loss, and its defense did not allow a goal throughout their entire conference season, until the final match.
“Our defense saved us so many times this season,” Collard said. “We worked really well together, and when our defense makes plays, we feed off of that, and it really made our whole team stronger.”
Because of her accomplishments throughout this season, Collard is the Northwest Herald Girls Soccer Player of the Year as chosen by the sports staff with input from local coaches.
“It’s kind of surreal,” she said. “When I was younger, I would see other players get it and, yeah, I definitely didn’t think it could happen to me.”
Being selected as the player of the year, a defensive player doesn’t always show the statistics that are equivalent to the area’s top player. Mueller said Collard did so many little things that made her a constant focus for other teams.
“[Audrey] is not the typical defender you usually see,” Mueller said. “She is very offensive minded, but also can completely change the game with her defense. She is such a unique talent and has abilities that cannot be taught. It’s really going to be tough to replace her.”
Another quality that never showed up in statistics was Collard’s ability throw the ball a long distance. As much as a throw-in seems like a simple play, Collard was able to create scoring opportunities off her throw-ins into the box.
As strong of a soccer player and competitor Collard is on the field, it was evident her toughness stayed on the field, as she couldn’t help but smile while her picture was taken. Collard admitted that she really only has one face: a smile.
Throughout her high school and soccer career, Collard wore a knee brace when she plays because of a childhood injury. She explained that it really doesn’t affect how she plays at all and has now just turned into a superstition.
“I just got used to wearing it,” she said. “It’s become a superstition and it’s something I’m comfortable with. I think as long as I play soccer, I’ll always wear it.”
Collard will attend Division II Lewis University in the fall to play soccer. Her chances to be seen by college coaches came through club team showcases with the Crystal Lake Force Elite. She stressed how happy she was that her dream of playing in college will come true.
“Soccer has kind of been my life since I was little,” she said. “I had been in contact with several coaches, but when I went to watch a game at Lewis, I just got a good feeling. I’m thankful that it can continue beyond high school and I’m really excited to start the next chapter of my life.”