Katie Constantino, left, Alyssa Kaufman, and Deanna Hecht, right, all will play Division 1 soccer in college after graduating from Huntley High School.
Most coaches feel fortunate if they have one Division I recruit on a team. Huntley girls soccer coach Kris Grabner has hit the trifecta. But then, that's nothing new for Grabner and the Huntley girls' program. On the steady rise the last several years, the Red Raiders had their furthest advancement in program history last spring when they reached the Elite Eight before losing in the Barrington supersectional to eventual Class 3A runner-up St. Charles East.
For programs to remain consistent in today's ever-changing world of high school sports is a challenge many can't meet. But Huntley's girls soccer program has, winning eight straight regional titles and consistently being a threat to get to state.
Next spring, the Red Raiders will trot out a team that graduated 11 key players from last year but also returns three stars who have already committed to Division I programs -- Katie Costantino, Deanna Hecht and Alyssa Kaufman -- and Grabner says at least two more could end up at DI schools.
"We've been very lucky," says Grabner, also the boys' coach at Huntley who will begin his 12th season running the girls' program next spring. "It goes back to the first couple of years when we had a lot of girls who took it seriously and they set the tone for today's players. We garnered a lot of respect and because of that the college coaches kept coming back. It's a family affair here."
All three DI Red Raiders say that growing up they watched and learned from the likes of Megan Hamm, Kaylee O'Brien, Nina Barreto, Aimee and Corrine Wronski and many others.
"Watching them, you knew how good they were and I wanted to be like them," said Costantino, a senior midfielder who is committed to Austin Peay in Tennessee, where she will study nursing. "They made me want to try even harder to fulfill what they had going."
"Seeing all the older girls, we wanted to be like them and play like them," echoed Hecht, a senior forward who has committed to Indiana-Fort Wayne where she will study sports psychology.
Kaufman, a junior forward who will attend Illinois State and study neuroscience, appreciated being in the same company as some of the graduated Huntley greats.
"I was always surrounded by really good players," she said. "And, my mom played soccer and she always pushed me to practice on my own and I loved watching the game on TV. I always wanted to be like Abby Wambach (U.S. National Team member)."
All three of these Huntley girls not only honed their skills under Grabner's tutelage but also as members of the Huntley-based Heat United club team.
"My dad played soccer and when I started playing I fell in love with the game," said Hecht. "My dad coached me for a long time but then when I started playing for (Heat United coach) Kevin Talbot, he made my love for the sport grow and made me really competitive."
All of the above has also led to lofty expectations, both on an individual basis and for Huntley teams.
"There are high expectations," Grabner said. "But the girls are growing up in this area and they see the opportunities our girls are getting when they get to college. When you have that expectation it's amazing how it builds.
"They're working at it 11 months out of the year and when you're dedicating that much of your time, you're going to be pretty good."
And that's exactly what Huntley girls soccer is.
OCTOBER,08 2014 - BY JOHN RADTKE - DAILY HERALD
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