For many athletes, heading into a new season achieves individual goals.
But for recent Ottawa High School graduate and girls football star Gabi Krueger, who was graduating from a junior season with 25 goals, helping and seeing the team improve from day one was the most important goal on her mind.
Krueger, the Times Girls’ Soccer Player of the Year for the second year in a row, did so in many ways beyond the 10 goals and 10 assists she scored last spring to help the Buccaneers finish the 6-7-1 record.
“My main goal was that I really wanted to improve the team, not only in terms of records but also the way we played the game,” said Krueger, who finished her career with the Pirates with 40 goals and 17 assists from the midfielder’s position. “I feel like we did both.
“I think the girls who were new last year worked on their off-season game, and this year it showed up. From the first practice until the last seconds of our last game, we were better. I also think we all had more confidence in each other, that we would be in places The right plays or we’ll do the right plays….Due to inexperience, this wasn’t always the case last season.
“There was a better flow of everything we did.”
Soccer is different from many sports in that there are not only fewer stats to track, but even those may not always tell the true impact of a player on a particular day or season.
It was common to see Krueger, a two-time Conference All-Interstate 8 pick, hit or pass a pass that led to a chance in the offensive third, then seconds later in the defensive third helping keep the ball out of danger – all in between making sure a win Her team battles in the middle of the field to gain an advantage.
“Her stats support how great she has been in our program on paper, even with her second season cancelled, but she really only tells a small part of the story,” Ottawa coach Sean Porter said of Krueger. “We’ve won 21 games in the last three seasons she’s played, and I feel like that number might be closer to just five or six without her contributions. She has a special talent to be able to dictate the course of a match, and she’s probably the most balanced player I’ve ever coached. She’s made Every player around her is better in every training and game.
“Success is a way of life for her. It has had an amazing positive impact, not only for the girls’ soccer program in Ottawa, but also for the high school itself. I think it showed that you can be all business but have fun at the same time, and you can be successful and have fun.” It also, and that you can strike a balance between athletes and academics.
“To sum up, she is a true role model and a winner both on and off the field. We will miss her greatly in the coming seasons, but she has also shown the younger players what it takes to not only be a strong player and a leader, but also someone special.”
Krueger scored the only goal in a 1-0 win, in the season opener over his rival Strettor, and a few days later scored in the Pirates’ 2-0 win over La Salle-Peru. She also has two goals and two assists in the victory over DePue-Hall, and two goals and one assist in the victory over Coal City.
Ottawa, like many other teams across the state, have had a number of their games postponed and eventually canceled due to the cold and rainy weather this spring. Although she couldn’t remember specific opponents, a pair of toys came to her mind as her favorite toys.
“There are two games that really stuck in my mind,” Krueger said. “It was matches that I think maybe those teams in general were better in terms of skill than we were, but we outplayed them and ended up winning. That’s one thing about our team this year, we’ve always played hard, no matter the situation. I don’t think the coach Porter once had to tell us that he felt we weren’t playing as hard as we could. I feel like that was the best unknowing compliment he could give us all.”
Although college-level football for Krueger may be as a club player, she said she’s excited about moving on to the next chapter of her life.
“I decided to go to the University of Illinois to study sociology,” said Krueger, who plans to major in criminology with possibly a future job at the FBI. “It was a choice between that or continuing to play football at Wheaton College, where my dad wrestled. I wasn’t sure I wanted to keep playing, and I also fell in love with the U of I campus.
“I’m excited to get started.”