Ruby Gonzalez is one of the shorter players on Oak Park-River Forest, but that doesn’t make her less of a leader.
Gonzalez was called up to varsity halfway through last season, but has started every game this season as an impact player for the Huskies, who had won six consecutive games until back-to-back losses last week.
OPRF rallied, but could not beat Fenwick in a 3-2 loss April 4 in the annual rivalry between neighbors and WW South won 5-1 Saturday in the opening round of the Pepsi Showdown in Schaumburg.
The Huskies are scheduled to host Oswego Tuesday in the consolation bracket of the Showdown.
Gonzalez is off a to a slow start offensively on the season, with one goal in OPRF’s first win, a 7-0 victory over Young on March 21.
She had the assist on OPRF’s final goal against Fenwick, which pulled the Huskies (6-3) to within one with 2:48 remaining in the game.
“She’s one of our main leaders on the team,” OPRF coach Ignacio Ponce said. “She’s one girl that you always have to look for. She always gives you an advantage. She also gets the team pumped up.”
With her 5-foot-4 height, Gonzalez knows she can’t get to balls in the air much for headers. Three other reserves for OPRF are listed with 5-3 heights.
“She does not give up. She fights for every ball,” Ponce said. “When she gets her confidence, she’s on fire. She’s our go-to person.”
Gonzalez rarely comes off the field and is one of the top players for a junior class that makes up the nucleus of OPRF’s roster. Ponce is carrying 13 juniors on his roster of 24 players. His other top juniors are Wren Osler, Tess Trinka, Lauren Wilkes, Erin Schrobilgen and Meredith Blatner. All of them, except Osler, a defender, have at least one goal this season.
“Really you have 80 minutes to play a soccer game; you give it your all all of the time,” Gonzalez said. “Sometimes my job is to get everyone to calm down.”
In the offseason, Gonzalez worked on her shot selection and speed. With several seniors lost to graduation, including goalkeeper Katy Ordach, Gonzalez knew the junior class would take over a leadership role on this year’s team.
“I know our team is nothing but juniors, but these are girls that I have played with since middle school,” Gonzalez said. “We work well together. I know we have to pass a lot more.”
OPRF’s next three games are in the Showdown until resuming West Suburban Silver play against York April 16. The Huskies beat Glenbard West 1-0 on April 2.