Naperville Native Achieves Professional Soccer Dream
Waubonsie Valley High School grad Sarah Griffith recently became yet another Naperville native to achieve their pro soccer dreams by playing for the Chicago Red Stars in the National Women’s Soccer League.
Every year, like many American pro sports leagues, the National Women’s Soccer League holds a draft where the top collegiate players are allocated to teams. And every year, or at least it feels that way, a Naperville native joins the ranks of one of the top women’s soccer leagues in the world.
Vanessa Dibernardo, Chicago Red Stars Midfielder and 2010 Waubonsie Valley High School graduate said “I think it shows the level that Naperville soccer has at all different ages and it’s pretty constant. So it’s pretty cool to see and pretty nice to also have a Chicago team to be able to play for.”
The latest in the pipeline is Sarah Griffith, fresh off a career at Purdue University where she became the Boilermakers’ all-time leading goal scorer. Unlike many of her predecessors, she’s young enough that rooting for the Red Stars and aspiring to play for them was part of her childhood. Griffith said, “When I was like 11 and 12, having a team to look up to in the city from the same hometown was amazing. I think I knew I never wanted to stop playing soccer, so yeah it just gave me something to look at and something to dream about…”
The ever-presence of Naperville natives among the area’s, and country’s, elite women’s soccer talent has allowed a tradition and pedigree to form. It’s such a pattern that those who are part of it have come to see it not as an accident, but as a result of the environment they developed in as younger players.
Kayla Sharples, Chicago Red Stars Defender, and Naperville North 2015 graduate said “I think Naperville just fosters a really competitive, talented group of girls and so just to be a part of a club and a team that [has] the homegrown roots, the homegrown kids is really awesome to be a part of because…..I have these women that I look up to and, for Sarah to get into that same environment with a ton of Naperville kids working together it’s pretty special to be a part of.”
Griffith officially joined the club of Naperville pros on March 20 when she replaced fellow Waubonsie Valley grad Vanessa DiBernardo at halftime of the Red Stars first game of this year’s NWSL Challenge Cup against the Houston Dash. She then made her first start in the club’s next game against Racing Louisville.
The Challenge Cup serves as the NWSL preseason, so with the regular season on the horizon Griffith and her fellow rookies are working to prove themselves to new head coach Chris Petruccelli as they learn the ropes of being a pro.
Sarah Griffith has achieved a dream she’s had for the last decade. She’s begun a new chapter, one where the goals aren’t so clear. She looks back on that 12-year-old who one day hoped to be where she is now, and considers what she would tell herself then, saying “…just keep loving the game and play it because I love it, stay positive, work hard… And I think that started with high school soccer, I loved it so much. So yeah I would just tell myself to find the fun in the game and enjoy the game.”
For NCTV17’s Sports Story, Alex Campbell reporting.
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