Makena Silber already had committed to play soccer at the University of Illinois when her dad, who works for General Electric, was offered a position in Illinois. Geographically, the move made sense.
So the family picked up and moved to Crystal Lake from Erie, Pennsylvania, where the 17-year-old lived since she was in third grade. The junior forward enrolled at Prairie Ridge over the summer and plans to play for the Wolves’ girls soccer team this spring.
“Funny enough, U of I was kind of like a last-minute visit,” said Silber, who plays club soccer at Sockers FC. “I went out to U of I, and it was a perfect combination of things.”
The Prairie Ridge girls soccer team won a Class 2A regional title last season, losing to eventual state runner-up Deerfield. The Wolves return nine seniors, two juniors and add a Division I forward with some state tournament experience of her own.
In two years at Villa Maria Academy in Erie, Silber finished as a state runner-up her freshman year and won a state championship as a sophomore. She is a goal-scorer who said she is always “looking for new ways to score and get in and around the box.”
Second-year Prairie Ridge coach Andre Watson inherits the center forward at the perfect time, because last year’s starting center forward, Caty Karacia, moved to Ohio last summer.
Watson has not seen Silber play except on video (girls soccer tryouts begin Feb. 27). But from what he has seen, he’s excited.
“(She’s a) natural goal scorer, very composed on the offensive end,” Watson said. “She seems like a very well-rounded player.”
Silber is excited to play for the Wolves, and Watson said she was up-front about wanting to play for her new high school team.
“I think playing for a high school in general is awesome,” Silber said. “I’m excited to get to know some knew people and (be in) a different atmosphere.”
Silber has a little bit of experience playing for the U.S. Youth Soccer Olympic Development Program, taking part in a pair of tournaments in Germany and Costa Rica her freshman year. She also committed to the Illini as a freshman in 2015.
Along with Illinois, she was considering Penn State, West Virginia, Kentucky, Louisville, North Carolina and Florida State. In 15 seasons under coach Janet Rayfield, the Illini have made the NCAA tournament 10 times and reached the Sweet 16 four times.
“Janet Rayfield is a phenomenal person on and off the field,” Silber said. “They kind of just put the belief in me, and they made me want to play for them. They made me excited about playing D-I soccer. That’s been a dream of mine ever since I was little.”
Silber hopes to major in business and minor in psychology. But first, she will try to help Prairie Ridge win its sixth consecutive regional title.
“I really felt that we had a strong team going into this year with that group of (nine) seniors,” Watson said. “To get a goal scorer – goal scorers are rare. It’s huge. She’s a real plus, a real bonus to what we already have going on.”