Now in her third year of varsity soccer, Woodstock North’s Taylor Prerost feels like her teammates are starting to trust her on the field.
And why wouldn’t they?
The Thunder junior forward is rewriting the program’s record books. Prerost has already surpassed the North records for career goals (30), career assists (13) and single-season goals (16).
“Last year I was still a sophomore, still an underclassman,” Prerost said. “This year I’m more of a leader, I’m a captain now. The girls are starting to trust me more and our passes are getting better. We’re looking at more open spaces.”
With an 8-2 record, the Thunder already have matched the program record for wins in a season (set in 2012 and 2017).
“The thing that impressed me most as I was getting to learn the girls this spring was just how quickly they came together as a team,” 33-year-old first-year coach John Liuzzi said. “The girls are just thriving, and we’ve got some really, really talented players. They’re enjoying what they’re doing and it shows in the result.”
Liuzzi took over a program that was 32-121-4 since North opened in 2009-10 but showed improvement with last season’s 8-10-1 campaign.
Prerost scored 11 goals last year, her second on the varsity. The junior has a chance to blow away the previous career goals record of 18 (which was shared by Nicolette Kruczek and Shelby Nicholson).
“Part of me is surprised by the hat tricks” – of which Prerost has had four – “but I’m not at all surprised by the amount of her production,” Liuzzi said. "She’s very capable.
“She is a unique player. She has great vision on the field, she really understands the game well. She understands how to move well in space, and she is very effective one-on-one in creating scoring opportunities.”
Liuzzi noted that the North midfielders have done a great job feeding Prerost and the forwards.
Prerost said sophomore midfielder Shae Jones has been a key piece to North’s success. Jones has played almost every minute for the Thunder.
“She communicates. She sees everything. She has such good passes,” Prerost said. “She’s one of the most important players on the team.”
On the defensive end, North is young. Senior defender Sandra Balleno is the most experienced of the back line. Balleno is one of only two seniors on the team, the other being goalkeeper Anicca Mackay-Slavin.
Freshman Lauren Chaney has stepped up at center back.
“As a freshman to be a starting varsity player in the middle of the back four, that’s saying a lot, and she’s earned every minute back there,” Liuzzi said.
North suffered its first conference loss, to defending Kishwaukee River Conference champion Burlington Central on Friday, in a 5-1 defeat, dropping to 6-1 in the KRC.
Even so, Liuzzi likes the direction the season is heading.
“They’re out there just having a good time,” Liuzzi said. “You can see it on the bench; you can see it in practices. There’s a different sort of feel to this team, and it’s shown thus far.”