Abby Swanson has a knack for helping her team make history.
It never gets old.
The former Downers Grove North soccer star led the Trojans to the state semifinals in 2017, bringing home the first soccer trophy in school history.
Swanson proved equally adept at the club level. She teamed with several other area players to help the NSA Shock capture the Under-19 national title last month at the U.S. Youth Soccer National Tournament in Frisco, Texas.
Swanson and Benet grad Erin Flynn both scored in the Shock’s 2-0 victory over Utah FC 99 in the July 28 championship game
“It’s a really cool experience,” said Swanson, an incoming freshman midfielder at Loyola. “All club players talk about being able to play at that level and how so few players get to do it.”
Indeed, it was just the third national championship for NSA, which is based in Naperville, and the first in that age group. In fact, the team had never before qualified for regionals.
“I hadn’t been to club regionals so when we won State Cup, we just kept going,”Swanson said. “Once we made it to nationals we were like, ‘We made it this far, we might as well keep going.’”
NSA went all the way, going undefeated and allowed just one goal in four games at nationals.
Flynn, a Woodridge resident and incoming freshman at Washington University, scored twice and St. Francis alum Kendra Pasquale scored in a 3-0 opening win over Invictus, a Texas squad. NSA then beat AFC Lightning of Georgia 1-0 on a goal by Benet’s Mary Kate Hansen and finished pool play by tying Utah.
The rematch with Utah two days later started well for the Shock. Flynn tracked down a rebound of her own corner kick and scored in the 23rd minute.
Swanson made it 2-0 in the 37th minute with a rebound shot in traffic.
“I got a first shot off and their goalie, who was really good, got a good save on it,” Swanson said. “The rebound came out and they had two defenders in front of it so we were trying to get in the way to avoid the clear.
“Somehow it stayed in the box and it came to me and I got my second shot off.”
That shot went in. Nothing else did after that as the Shock’s back line of Catherine Johnson, Kailey Serna, Jessica Siebers and Amy Ten Haken battled constantly in high heat to hold off a furious Utah attack in the second half. Goalkeeper Isabella Alessio made several tough saves to preserve the shutout.
“[Alessio] played amazingly the entire game, especially toward the end of the second half when Utah had some opportunities,” Flynn said. “We were able to hold them off.”
For Flynn, the victory capped a club career shared with several longtime friends. The forward has been teammates with Naperville North stars Jessica Siebers, Alyssa Siebers and Shaina Dudas, who will all play at Illinois State, for a decade.
“There is a core group of four of us that have played together ever since we were 8 years old and then a lot of us have played together for five or six years,” Flynn said. “It was such a great experience to be able to go out on top with the girls I’ve grown up playing with.”
Swanson and Lyons Township alum Johnson, in contrast, were relative newcomers, having joined the team two years ago. Swanson was thrilled to play with the New Mexico-bound Johnson, who had some memorable battles against Swanson in high school.
“We were definitely the new girls,” Swanson said. “I like being on the same team with her a lot better than playing against her.
“She’s so strong and trying to get around her is a nightmare some days, so it’s much better to have her on my side.”
The roster also included Benet’s Maddie Becker, Hinsdale Central’s Kate Shroyer,and Kaitlyn Joniak of reigning Class 2A state champion St. Francis.
With a memorable youth career over, Swanson was asked if she can continue to succeed at the next level. She came off the bench in Loyola’s first exhibition game against Northwestern on Aug. 5.
“For high school and club, I couldn’t ask for a better experience for both of those,”Swanson said. “I still feel like I have more to do at the college level.
“It has just been good soccer over the years and I’m excited to see what that looks like at Loyola now. I’m excited for what is to come.”