Vernon Hills finds kickers on girls soccer team

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VERNON HILLS — When the Vernon Hills football team needed a placekicker, assistant coach Dave Schroeder turned to the soccer team.

But since the boys soccer season coincides with football, Schroeder found what he needed on the Cougars’ girls squad. Kaitlin Gramins and Maddie Guillaume now kick the extra points after Vernon Hills touchdowns and are ready to contribute field goals if needed.

“They reached out to us,” Gramins said. “The coach told us they needed someone to kick. I checked with my [FCX Barrington club] soccer coach, and he said it was OK.”

She also has long had a passion for football, saying, “I’m a Packers fan.” Guillaume shares that love of the game, but backs the Bears.

“I’ve loved football for a long time and I really like being on the team,” Guillaume said.

She has made four of five conversion attempts this year, and Gramins is 3-for-4. Gramins’ lone miss of the season came Friday as Vernon Hills (2-2, 1-1 NSC Prairie) lost 42-40 to Antioch.

Neither kicker has attempted a field goal, but each has connected from 35 yards out in practice. They may not get a chance to try a field goal this season because coach Bill Bellecomo prefers to take any chance at six points.

“I’ve never been about field goals,” Bellecomo said. “My preference is to put six points on the board.”

When will he try?

“If it comes down to needing a field goal to win,” he said.

Both kickers realize football is about blocking and tackling, and the time could come in a game when they need those skills. They have been practicing.

“One of our coaches has been teaching them how to tackle,” Bellecomo said.

They have been practicing with each other, but they have not tried to bring one of their male teammates to the ground. Gramins has thought about what she’ll do if the situation arises in game.

“I’ll go and do my best to bring him down,” Gramins said. “I’ll try, and if I fail, it’s on me.”

Bellecomo and the kickers say support from the boys on the team has been complete and friendly. That has not always been the case with opposing athletes. Guillaume said she has gotten some comments.

“They’re usually mean,” Guillaume said. “You concentrate, zone them out and play football like anyone else would.”

Both Gramins and Guillaume have been balancing club soccer — Guillaume plays for Hawthorn Woods Elite — with football and successfully blending the two sports with their schoolwork. They have also learned the two sports are very different.

“Football is much more mental,” Guillaume said. “In soccer you are running nonstop for 90 minutes. In football you are on the sidelines waiting, supporting your teammates.”

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