The Triad girls’ soccer team has enjoyed a ton of success over the past few seasons. They are the defending Illinois High School Association Class 2A State Champions and have only lost one game this season as they are starting their state playoff journey. One of the main reasons for their success is the play of senior Gina Catanzaro.
Catanzaro is leading the Knights with 19 goals and 44 points on the year as Triad is currently 19-1 after winning their regional semifinal game over Taylorville 12-0 Tuesday night. In that game, Catanzaro had a pair of goals and an assist to help the Knights advance to the regional final against Civic Memorial Friday evening.
This season has been a good one for Catanzaro and the Knights, but there have been some ups and downs along the way. Triad won their first 15 games of the year and extended their winning streak to 39 games before seeing that come to an end against Waterloo.
“Our season so far has been good,” stated Catanzaro. “We started well in the beginning, but we had so much pressure on us heading into the Waterloo game. We are excited entering that match, but they just wanted it more than us. Honestly, we needed that loss to take some of the pressure off us, but now, we have more fire in us than ever and we just want to go back to the state finals. Our run over the past couple of years has been amazing and our team is super close both on and off the field so that helps a lot of things.”
When you talk to many coaches about winning streaks and if a loss is good, they all say that even though the streak is cool, sometimes the pressure can be a bad thing. Catanzaro mentioned the same thing about the streak and how the loss to Waterloo was a good thing for the Knights.
“The seniors were definitely upset after the loss, but we all got together afterward and said that if anything, this should put more fire in our bodies to just go out there and finish strong,” said Catanzaro. “We had not lost in over two seasons, and we did not know how that felt. So, after that loss, we all said that we did not want to lose again, and we want to go far.”
One of the little-known facts about Catanzaro is that she did not play her freshman year due to a torn ACL. Between that and the spring season, her sophomore year was canceled due to COVID, she was just excited to get back on the pitch to enjoy want she loves to do.
“After losing my freshman year due to the ACL injury, you just really do not realize how much you miss the sport until it is gone,” stated Catanzaro. “I knew that due to the injury I would not be able to play my sophomore season, but then COVID hit, and it hit all of us at once, so it was terrible.”
With a team that has 12 seniors on it, sometimes it is hard to be a team leader with all those voices. The one thing that stands out about Catanzaro is that she found a way to be a leader for the Knights with her play and how she approaches things with the younger members of the team.
“We have the 12 seniors and three captains on the team, so no matter if you are a senior or not, you need to take a leadership role,” stated Catanzaro. “That is what I have been trying to do over this season and be vocal and encourage our team. I am a vocal person on the field. When someone makes a mistake, I will pick them up and just say to get the next play.”
Competing at such a high level in both the game of soccer and in the classroom takes a lot of time and enforces that time management skills are just as important as practice. Catanzaro has learned that aspect and it shows in her ability to maintain that level of excellence in both.
“You need to find time because it is so hard to be a student-athlete,” said Catanzaro. “Things are a bit easier now that I am out of school, so some of the stress has been lifted off me. But the biggest thing is to make sure that you find time for yourself to get the things done that need to be completed.”
Catanzaro announced earlier this year that she is going to further her academic and soccer career at Maryville University. The recruiting process was a little tougher due to her injury, but she is excited to take her game to the college level.
“The process was long because once I tore my ACL, I lost a lot of connections with coaches,” stated Catanzaro. “I was getting worried but one of my club coaches reached out to the Maryville staff and they ended up needing players, so that is when I started talking to them and having them come to see me play. I was able to go on an official visit and it was amazing. Their coaching staff was very supportive and everything about Maryville is nice. Plus, playing for Lori Chalupny is going to be great and I am excited to learn from her and become a better player.”
Congratulations to Gina Catanzaro from Triad on earning this week’s HSSC/Scoops with Danny Mac Student-Athlete of the Week honor and we wish her the best of luck in the state playoffs.
Jim Powers has been covering prep sports in the St. Louis area for 15+ years and a part of the Missouri State High School Activities Association Championship Broadcasts for the past 11 years. Powers is also a part of the Fox 2 Verlo Mattress Prep Zone Friday nights at 10:10 during the football and basketball seasons. If you have a prep sports story, please contact Jim at email@example.com. Follow Jim at @hssportscaravan