Look! Up in the sky!
It’s a soccer player.
It’s a Trevian.
It’s … Sam Urban!
Urban — a senior center defender and tri-captain for New Trier’s girls soccer team — found herself airborne, taking up space below a jet stream, during her spring break last month in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.
Picture a 5-foot-9 human attached to a rather large kite above a body of water.
Urban likes to parasail when she’s not taking the wind out of a forward’s sails on soccer pitches.
“Breathtaking,” Urban said of her latest opportunity to soar, following New Trier’s 2-0 defeat of visiting Brookfield (Wisconsin) Central on April 1.
“I’m not afraid of heights,” the University of Wisconsin recruit added. “Never have been.”
NT (5-0) had entered its first match in nine days with a lofty national ranking of No. 9 (by TopDrawerSoccer.com), while Brookfield Central (1-1) arrived in Northfield as the site’s No. 32 team.
“What a great test for us,” Trevians coach Jim Burnside said of facing Wisconsin’s top high school team. “It’s always a tough game, our [first game after spring break]. We knew this would be a defining moment for us in the early part of the season.
“Our girls came out with great energy in the second half [after a scoreless first half]. Coaches … we do very little; the girls brought the thunder themselves.”
BC’s fans didn’t make much noise — the cheering kind — because of tireless efforts like Urban’s on the first day of April. A third-year varsity member and two-time state champion, Urban, an FC United club soccer veteran, glides more than she runs during matches. At times, her grace masks a tenacity that never takes a break.
“It’s smooth, isn’t it?” Burnside said of Urban’s running gait. “Sam runs with great posture, with her shoulders back. Like a deer — she moves like a strong deer. And her game is ultra-effective.”
Urban’s game had to rest for quite a while in 2012, when she suffered an ACL tear. A certain Chicago Bulls guard incurred the same injury in the same year and recently received more tough news (torn meniscus) as a New York Knick.
“It motivated me and inspired me, seeing Derrick Rose come back from that injury,” said Urban, a Bulls fan who attends home games at United Center each winter.
Urban made her first visit to the University of Wisconsin in her sophomore year. Badgers women’s soccer coach Paula Wilkins gave the Kenilworth resident a thorough tour of the program’s facilities. What struck Urban the most about her time in Madison was Wilkins’ ability to find free time — on a crazy-busy day.
“I think her team was getting ready to play Penn State on the day I went up there,” Urban recalled. “I was amazed how much time the coach spent with me and how attentive she was. I’d compare each of my visits at other schools to my Wisconsin visit, and none of them beat the experience I had at Wisconsin.
“I love the Big Ten vibe there.”
Urban verbally committed to Wisconsin in December of her junior year, before helping the Trevians (26-3-1) capture their third straight Class 3A title on June 1. Wisconsin went 9-5-8 overall last fall, splitting its two NCAA Tournament games.
Graduation 2016 claimed NT’s leading scorers —Kelly Maday, Bina Saipi, Haley Yamada and Celia Frei — as well as all-state goalkeeper Dani Kaufman.
This spring’s varsity roster includes four sophomores and two freshmen. Of the sophomores, only midfielder Lily Conley (1 goal, 11 assists last spring) saw significant varsity minutes in 2016.
“Being a senior, being a captain [with senior midfielder Avery Schuldt and senior defender Megan Murdoch], being a veteran, I show our program’s traditions to our new players and make sure we meet our goals,” Urban said. “We don’t have just one big goal at the end of the season; we also have little ones along the way. As a defender, I have a responsibility to see the whole field, to constantly talk out there. Communication — it’s a big part of our program.”
Shortly after the match against Brookfield Central, Urban spoke with New Trier’s trainer while holding two cups of water. The topic: one stubbed toe.
Urban’s left big toe.
“I was thirsty, and I wanted to know if I should ice the toe,” Urban said. “I’m fine.”
But she’s better than that as the CEO of the Trevians’ formidable defense.
“Sam helps organize us back there,” New Trier junior defender Sydney Parker said. “And she’s not afraid to dribble forward and distribute the ball to our forwards, if there’s enough space to do so. She’s serious in practices and in games, but she also shows her fun, energetic side, too — the one who laughs, sings and dances.”
Burnside sang after the match against Brookfield Central last weekend.
Sang Urban’s praises, that is.
“Sam loves this team, cares about this team,” the coach said. “She’ll do anything she can to help the team win. She’s an emotional leader, and she’s a leader on the field with her physical play.
“Sam,” he added, “inspires those around her.”
As well as those who look up at a parasailing Sam Urban.
Notable: New Trier sophomore midfielder Lily Conley and freshman midfielder/forward Emma Weaver scored the goals in the Trevians’ 2-0 defeat of visiting Brookfield (Wisconsin) Central’s Lancers on April 1. Both tallies came in the second half. The winning goalkeeper was senior Katy Symanietz. “[Senior] Avery Schuldt solidified our midfield, and [senior defender/midfield] Hope Baisley was a stabilizing force who freed up Emma,” Trevians coach Jim Burnside said. “Hope didn’t start for us today, but she never came out after we put her in.”