About five years ago, Loyola Academy girls soccer coach Craig Snower was an FC United soccer club director, and Ersin Kaspi served as one of the club’s coaches.
The pair huddled after a tryout session, with Kaspi sharing his assessment of the grade-school girls who had made one of FC United’s top age-group squads.
“Ersin said to me, ‘Bella [Broccolo] and Avery [Schuldt] are the girls to watch,’ ” Snower recalled last weekend. “Then he told me, ‘They’ll be heart-and-soul players for us.’
“He was right,” Snower added.
Broccolo today is a Loyola Academy senior center-back, while Schuldt is a New Trier senior midfielder.
“You could make a case that each is still a heart-and-soul player [for their respective teams],” Snower said.
The good friends battled against each other in the match for third place at the North Shore Invitational at NT’s west campus in Northfield on April 15. NT (10-1) won 3-0.
“It was one of the best halves of our season,” Broccolo said of the first 40 minutes, when her Ramblers limited the three-time reigning Class 3A state champions to one goal. “We showed improvement. I’m happy with our effort, and I’m looking forward to seeing our team build off the way we played today.”
LA (6-5) lost a critical piece of its foundation when junior center-back and University of Iowa recruit Riley Burns suffered a season-ending foot injury in the preseason. Snower shifted Broccolo — a midfielder at the start of the season — to take Burns’ spot along the back line.
“She’s doing a fine job … taking one for the team,” Snower said of the fourth-year varsity player and co-captain (with Burns). “Bella is one of the truly great kids I’ve coached here. She’s a fabulous team player who works very hard and makes everyone around her a better player. Bella keeps the game simple, challenges for the ball, and she plays soccer the way you’re supposed to play it.”
Now that Broccolo, a Wilmette resident, has been patrolling acreage closer to her goalkeeper, she gets to focus more on soccer’s mental component — her favorite component.
“You have to watch more [than that of a midfielder],” Broccolo said. “If you lose focus for two seconds on defense, the ball could end up in the net behind you. Another key is to do what you can to make sure we stay organized back there. My job is to motivate and to encourage, all while being aggressive and winning [50-50] balls in the air.
“I don’t have the loudest voice, so it’s up to me to lead primarily by example.”
Broccolo’s life as a competitive soccer player ends when Loyola Academy’s soccer season ends this spring. She will enroll at Santa Clara University in the fall, most likely as a business major; it’s a private Jesuit school, just like Loyola Academy. Her dream job after college is to travel the country as a business consultant.
Two of the hottest fields today: technology and consulting.
“I’ve enjoyed traveling for a while,” said Broccolo, who will head to Montana with her family this summer and stay in a rented house near a mountain for a week. It’s a trip the family last took six or seven years ago.
Her father, Andy, played basketball for a year at Loyola Academy, and her mother, Jenny, swam competitively while growing up in Iowa.
“They’ve been really supportive of my soccer, never pressuring me to play a sport at any point in my life,” said Bella, whose 19-year-old sister, Maddie, ran cross country at New Trier, and whose brother, Luke, is a freshman baseball player at Loyola Academy. “My parents work hard, and they’re both humble.”
Hanging with her friends ranks right up there with watching an episode of Grey’s Anatomy on Broccolo’s list of escapes from her student-athlete responsibilities.
“I can’t pick one [her favorite Grey’s Anatomy character],” Broccolo said.
“If I were interested in becoming a doctor,” she added, “I’d probably be a neurologist. The brain — it’s cool.”
Loyola Academy’s girls soccer team next spring, without Bella Broccolo?
Not so cool to Snower.
“Bella is a down-to-earth, humble person,” the coach said of the six-year FC United player. “You can’t say that about a lot of high school kids in this day and age. She truly is what a Loyola Academy student-athlete should be. She embodies the qualities our school promotes, and she does that probably better than any player I’ve ever coached here.
“The way Bella plays,” Snower added, “the way she carries herself off the field — that’s what we’re all about.”
Notable: Loyola Academy’s girls soccer team defeated Glenbrook South 2-1 in a North Shore Invite match on April 11. … Ramblers soccer coach Craig Snower’s niece, Jessa Snower, is a New Trier junior midfielder.
The Trevians defeated Loyola Academy’s Ramblers 3-0 in the match for third place in the North Shore Invite on April 15. Freshman forward/midfielder Emma Weaver scored twice, and senior forward Hannah Arment netted the final goal of the match. Senior goalkeeper Katy Symanietz recorded the shutout for NT (10-1), which lost 2-1 to eventual champion Naperville North in a tournament match on April 8.
Naperville North edged Barrington 1-0 in the title match on April 15.