Boys soccer: Rasmussen kept Libertyville on top

By Rusty Silber
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 11/9/2018 10:55 AM
  • Evan Rasmussen of Libertyville High School is the All-Area Team Captain in boys soccer in Lake County.

      Evan Rasmussen of Libertyville High School is the All-Area Team Captain in boys soccer in Lake County. Patrick Kunzer | Staff Photographer

Going into this season, Libertyville senior Evan Rasmussen knew it was going to a good one and he knew the Wildcats had unfinished business.

Libertyville had lost to Naperville North in the Class 3A state championship last year. Rasmussen was confident the Wildcats would be back with vengeance next season.

Rasmussen, who verbally committed to the University of Michigan in the offseason, would have to assume a leadership role considering Ryan Wittenbrink was off playing soccer for Indiana University after an All-American campaign last fall.

Rasmussen didn't disappoint and neither did his teammates. Libertyville set historic marks by going undefeated and untied during the entire regular season. The Wildcats went 7-0 in the highly competitive North Suburban Conference and won the Northside College Showcase at New Trier. They then netted more wins in the playoffs, ousting Fremd in penalty kicks, getting past Lake Zurich in the sectional final and edging St. Patrick in the supersectional.

At state, Libertyville edged Collinsville in the semifinals at Hoffman Estates, as Rasmussen scored the game-winning goal. But in the title game, the Wildcats' offense was stymied in a 1-0 loss to Naperville North for the second year in a row.

Libertyville ran off 22 straight victories until that loss.

Rasmussen finished the season with 34 goals, about half of them on headers, and 14 assists as the man up top for the Wildcats. Named all-state and all-American, he is the captain of the Daily Herald Lake County all-area boys soccer team.

He had 59 goals and 30 assists in his career.

"It's all incredible," Rasmussen said. "I didn't really expect that a couple years back. I just kept developing and moving forward."

Rasmussen was a team player. Teammates looked up to him, in games and in practices, day in and day out.

"Evan is capable of playing anywhere across the field," Libertyville coach Kevin Thunholm said of the three-year varsity who moved from midfield to forward this year. "He has a great presence on the field. He's a tireless worker who played with passion and a determination that was contagious. He never needed to be motivated, and he always left everything he had on the field in every game and training session. It was that effort, desire, hustle and feisty play that will be missed the most. He was a top-level striker."

Rasmussen had a lot of talented teammates on the field with him. When they curled a pass to him in the air, he had a knack with his 6-foot-2 frame and leaping ability of winning the ball and flicking it into the back of the net.

"Everyone asks me how I do it. It just comes natural with me," Rasmussen said. "I can jump pretty high and can win the ball. I just go with the flow. If I see the ball in the air, then I have a shot of getting it."

Last summer, Rasmussen and Thunholm talked about expectations for a team with still plenty of talent left over from last season's squad.

"Since last summer, (Thunholm) was talking about bringing this group of guys through and having a great year," Rasmussen said. "That's what I was trying to do all year long."

Next year, Rasmussen will be playing soccer at Michigan, following in the footsteps of his brother Jacob. He plans to study cognitive science, which involves psychology and computer science.

"It has been a dream to go there since I was a little kid," Rasmussen said. "Both my parents grew up in Ann Arbor, and I have grandparents and aunts up there. Playing soccer or not, that was my number one choice."

Rasmussen will leave Libertyville with plenty of memories. His teammates won't forget him.

"He's a great player, for one," senior midfielder Tanner Kelley said. "He's physical and knows how to use his foot skills. He's fast and bigger than most people, and uses that to his advantage. He's able to put a lot of (balls) away, get the ball up top and dish it wide, dish it back and get the rest of the team involved. (He) made us much better as a team."

As a defender, DePaul recruit Grant Herbek appreciated what his classmate and teammate could do on the field.

"He had a big presence up top," Herbek said. "From the defender's perspective, he's like the worst type of attacker that you have to deal with. He has height, speed, skills and can score goals. He's that hard to defend. He's so good at creating space for himself. It's really amazing some of the goals that he puts away."

It added up to an amazing season and career for Rasmussen.

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