Veteran players, team chemistry behind Elmwood Park soccer team’s success

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After dismantling Guerin 9-0, the Elmwood Park girls soccer team left little doubt about its team chemistry.

In particular, senior attacking midfielder Samantha Garcia, fellow captain and junior forward Elliana Jimenez and junior defender Denisse Avila worked well together. Garcia finished with a hat trick and one assist, Avila had a goal and an assist, and Jimenez scored twice against the Gators on Thursday in River Grove.

It has taken years to develop their bond.

They all played together this past season for the Elmwood Park Express club team, while Garcia and Jimenez have played together for seven years. The three have started on varsity since they were freshmen.

Together they have won two straight Metro Suburban Red crowns and not lost a conference game. Garcia also was part of the Tigers team that went 5-0 and won the league in 2015.

Their fluid movement on the ball, as well as their ability to find each other’s runs, can be traced to the work they do together off the field.

“This year we have tried (to do) more team bonding, after practice and before games. We have more time to get to know each other,” Jimenez said. “That builds up our (bond) more off the field, so we trust each other more on the field. That’s where are give-and-gos come from.”

Elmwood Park (5-1, 2-0) played with confidence in the attacking third against Guerin, sometimes turning and shooting from 35 yards out.

“Usually, some girls are afraid to shoot from far,” said Garcia, who was named conference MVP her freshman season. “During practice we encourage it. We have a really cool coach (Martin Blake) that wants us to try new things. Most people are right-footed, in practice we only shoot with left so that in games we can adapt.”

Guerin coach Roberto Cianci had high praise for Elmwood Park after the game.

“They are going to play in a sectional,” Cianci said. “That is the best team we have seen so far.”

Hunter Tickel is a freelance reporter for Pioneer Press.

Twitter @Pioneer_Press

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