Former Naperville Central players share thoughts on retiring Watson's impact as coach
Longtime Naperville Central coach Ed Watson is retiring after this season with 452 victories and counting. He's in his 30th season as the coach at Naperville Central and has one of his best teams (11-0-1).
"I am fortunate to have had the chance to work with great people over my 30 years as head coach," he said. "That includes players, coaches, officials and school administrators. I am most proud of the number of our former players that have gone on to coach. Paying it forward is what it is all about."
Watson (452-149-81 through April 25 with 14 conference titles and two runner-up finishes in the state) has always invited reporters to talk to his players so it makes sense for some of them to share about the impact he's made on them over the years.
Amanda Alberts (Class of 2013) said he was an outstanding coach but an even better person. Taylor McLean (Class of 2009) said the most important lesson she took away from him about being a good coach was to truly care for your players off and on the field.
Katherine Short (Class of 2012) found Watson's trust to be invaluable, calling it more valuable to any advance she had received over the years.
"That was exactly what I needed to gain the confidence I had been struggling for years to gain," Short said.
Taylor Heatherly (Class of 2010), who teaches at Naperville Central and is a coach with the Evolution Soccer Club, doesn't hold back when sharing the significance Watson has had in her life.
"I would not be the player, coach, teacher and person I am today without the love, guidance and support that Watson has poured into me over the past 11 years," she said.
As for Casey (Short) Krueger, a 2008 graduate who plays for the Red Stars in the National Women's Soccer League, she remembers a coach who allowed her to develop into the player she has become.
"He allowed me freedom and creativity which helped me to gain confidence and to develop as a leader," she said.
Naperville Central hosted Ed Watson Day on April 16 as the Redhawks defeated Downers Grove South 3-0 for victory No. 450 for Watson, who doesn't know for sure what the future will bring.
"Time will tell," he said. "I still have a passion for coaching, but where is an unanswered question."
Eyeing the trophy:
The championship bracket is set for the Naperville Invitational with the remaining eight teams playing again on Thursday night.
Recent winners of the tournament, which returned for the first time since 2019, have done well in the state series with the champions the past three tournaments advancing to the state championship, but with only Barrington (2017) winning both a state title and the Naperville Invitational. New Trier won the tournament in 2018 but lost to Barrington in the state final while Barrington and St. Charles North were co-champions in the tournament in 2019 but Naperville North upset Barrington in the state final.
Dominant defense from Hilltoppers:
Emmie Roberts managed to score her fifth goal of the spring on Monday, but Glenbard West (8-4) suffered a 3-1 setback to Waubonsie Valley (7-3-3). The Hilltoppers had won six of their last seven games coming into the action with their lone loss during that stretch coming to Plainfield North in a PK shootout.
"Looking at the IHSA sectional assignments, we're a strong contender for a No. 2 seed in the sectional behind Lyons," Hilltoppers coach Adam Szyszko said. "We really haven't had any bad losses. We didn't convert our chances against Wheaton North, lost to a top team in Metea Valley, 1-0, and they scored with like eight minutes left, and then Plainfield North it was PKs."
Sophia Brown leads the team with 7 goals and has combined to produce a formidable attack with Roberts, but it's really the defense that has set the tone this spring.
"We have 6 clean sheets and Ava Callaway, our sophomore, has been doing a great job in goal," Szyszko said. "Emma Kluge and Ellie Beaudoin, our two center backs, and Jennifer Fox and Elise Pollock, our outside backs, have been strong defensively. We're unscored on in conference."
Falcons soar home with Porter Cup:
Wheaton North (8-4) has committed to defending as a unit and it has resulted in a six-game winning streak that includes five shutouts during that span and the championship of the Lockport Cup tournament on April 14. The Falcons had their streak snapped on Tuesday with a 1-0 loss to Wheaton Warrenville South (5-4-2).
"We have been fortunate to get on a nice roll over the past couple of weeks," Falcons coach Tim McEvilly said. "The overall success has come as the team has committed to defending as a group and taking pride in limiting other teams dangerous opportunities. We can attribute part of that commitment to the confidence the girls have in Zoey Bohmer being back healthy in the net for us."
Bohmer made 14 saves and also made the game-winning penalty kick as the Falcons edged Lincoln-Way East 1-0 to win the Lockport Cup.
"Zoey has the ability to make dramatic saves, plays well with her feet and leads with her voice," McEvilly said. "Her presence makes it easier for Anna Roe and Rowan Smith, our two senior center backs, to focus upon setting their teammates in the right position to succeed."
Roe and Smith have stabilized Wheaton North's back line and provided communication to the players in front of them that allow the Falcons to be a defense-first team.
"Both recognize their importance to the team being focused on defending, and have done a great job leading us by handling pressure like the experienced players they are," McEvilly said.
Izzy does it for Willowbrook:
Timing was everything for Willowbrook last Friday night as the Warriors got a goal in the 79th minute from senior Izzy Manning to rally past Glenbard East 2-1.
The Warriors (8-5) had been outscored 13-2 during a three-game slide coming into the action while the Rams (7-4) rolled into the action after two consecutive shutout wins in a rivalry game.
"The girls knew what was at stake. It was more than a game for both teams," Willowbrook coach Julio DelReal said. "The friendships and playing in the same club and seeing each other for so much time. I told the girls that if you can't get up to play this game then you shouldn't be playing soccer at all."