Girls Soccer: Loyola’s Burns right at home on defense
Loyola junior Corey Burns, a Libertyville resident, passes the ball upfield during a varsity soccer game against St. Viator last month. | Ryan Pagelow~Sun-Times Media
Updated: May 20, 2012 8:28AM
Loyola’s Corey Burns experienced her own epiphany on a soccer field, and it changed her fortunes — and connection to the game — almost instantly.
Like most young players, she was initially drawn to the offensive possibilities of the sport.
“Growing up, I was always a forward, and I really loved playing offense,” she said. “One game, I went in on defense and I made a great tackle and saved a goal. Ever since then, I’ve been a defender.”
And what a defender she is. The junior keys a suffocating back line that, in concert with junior keeper Brittany San Roman, has allowed a stunning one goal in the Ramblers’ first 12 matches.
In a showdown with New Trier — the Ramblers’ greatest soccer rival — in a Pepsi Showdown quarterfinal on Saturday, Burns played a starring role in neutralizing the Trevians’ high-powered attack in an impressive 2-0 victory. The Ramblers are the defending tournament champions, and they advanced to meet top-seeded Metea Valley at Olympic Park, in Schaumburg, on Saturday.
“It’s a great tournament, and we’re in it to win it,“ Burns said. “Winning last year was a great feeling, but we’re not defending anything. We’re in it; winning last year was a great feeling. We’re not defending anything.”
Loyola (11-0-1) remains undefeated, the only blemish being a scoreless draw with Glenbrook South the first week of the season.
“Corey Burns is one of the elite players in Illinois, regardless of position,” said Loyola coach Craig Snower.
As New Trier star sophomore forward Maddie Mulford observed, Burns is great at closing off space and not letting opposing players find a comfortable, offensive rhythm.
It takes a different mentality to play the position, Burns said.
“I do love playing offense — when I go forward, I get so excited,” she said. “It’s fun being a defender, but you realize the importance of the position, because if you make a mistake, it could cost you. With our team, we have only goal scored against us so far, and it’s a great feeling. As a group, we just have a hard mentality about playing defense.”
Burns combines strong physical attributes with a sharp feel for understanding the game, and how a match is likely to unfold.
“I’m a winger, so I now how to communicate,” Burns said. “My greatest strengths are in seeing the field, and really reading plays and helping the offense out as far as where they should go.”
Burns, who lives in Libertyville, grew up in an athletic family. Her father, Billy, and her mother, Heidi, are sports enthusiasts who provided their daughter with a great zest for competition and athletic endeavors.
Burns attended parochial school in Lake Forest. Her Lake Forest-based travel team merged with the North Shore club program, FC-United, which Snower helps operate. Her father is a Loyola graduate.
The pieces all came smoothly together.
“I did play every other sport, and I was always the fastest,” she said. “Growing up, soccer was always my first priority. Once I figured I wanted to play, it got me to where I am today.”
Burns also has locked up her college choice, committing to the University of Iowa over Illinois State and Holy Cross. Her father and many of her cousins were also Hawkeyes.
Her only focus now is helping sustain the team’s remarkable run for the rest of the year.
“What motivates me is I want to have a great season with these girls,” Burns said. “For me, I just want to play my best and see whatever outcome happens for me at the end of the year.”