Lacey Clarida keys depleted Lockport

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The modern athlete has never been confronted with so many choices. Lacey Clarida elected to negotiate the high stakes world of college recruiting by concentrating her efforts exclusively at the club level her first two years of high school.

“I wanted to make a commitment to college first,” Clarida said.

She earned a national reputation playing for the Homer Glen-based program Chicago International Soccer Club. She committed to Alabama, selecting the Crimson Tide over Kentucky and Arizona.

Now Clarida occupies a different platform as a star forward at Lockport. Her impact has been immediate and profound. She scored four goals in a game against St. Ignatius during preliminary play of the Pepsi Showdown.

It turns out she was just getting started.

Clarida has scored 26 goals and added six assists as the No. 13 Porters (13-3-1) ended regular-season play by ripping off nine consecutive victories and going undefeated in capturing the Southwest Suburban Blue.

She is a crucial reason the Porters have overcome a succession of injuries coach Todd Elkei characterized as the worst he experienced in his career.

“Lacey has size, speed, strength, vision and most important, confidence,” Elkei said. “She is as dangerous with her left foot as she is with her right, and teams cannot force her to one side. They have to face her straight up.”

Clarida’s physical skills combined with an aggressive style of play separates her from the pack.

“I think the strengths of my game start with my quickness,” she said. “I have the speed to get around other players. Also, I am good at distance, and I am taller than a lot of defenders I go against, so I’m good at headers,” she said.

The more comfortable Clarida has become playing with her new teammates, the more dangerous she has become.

“I think the rest of the players have gotten used to the way I play, the runs I make and how I attack,” Clarida said.

Her familiarity with her teammates has only accelerated her individual achievements. During a recent tournament in Burlington, Iowa, she recorded back-to-back two-goal games on the same day. Elkei said one of her greatest qualities is her unselfishness.

“Lacey has also had many chances to score herself but she chose to give up the ball to have other players that don’t score often or have never scored, chances to score,” he said.

Clarida’s emergence is essential now that the Porters confront their most difficult challenge of the year. The Porters have been given the unenviable assignment, as an No. 8 seed in the loaded Class 3A Bolingbrook sectional, of being matched with top-ranked and defending state champion Naperville North in the Huskies’ regional.

“We’re not looking past our first game [against Plainfield South], but we are looking forward to matching up with Naperville North and playing them and seeing what happens,” she said. “We’re hot right now and we are excited by the challenge.”

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