PREVIEW: U.S. AIR FORCE BRACKET – 2018 PEPSICO SHOWDOWN GIRLS (CHICAGO)

By Bob Narang

The 16th Annual PepsiCo Showdown Girls is a high school sporting event unlike any other, featuring 96 high schools, 2,500+ girls soccer players, more than 200 communities and nearly 200 games in an eight-day span.

And to top it off, all of those teams and players are at Olympic Park in Schaumburg on back-to-back Saturdays – starting with 48 games on April 7 for Opening Day and finishing with a massive celebration on April 14 for Championship Saturday.

This spring, PepsiCo Showdown girls players will make a difference in the lives of 96 children from military families. Each event, the PepsiCo Showdown brackets are named after a local charity/nonprofit to bring awareness, engagement and exposure to that cause. This time, however, the brackets are named after the U.S. Armed Forces: Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard and National Guard.

Let’s meet the U.S. AIR FORCE BRACKET OF THE 2018 PEPSICO SHOWDOWN GIRLS (CHICAGO):

Miss the LIVE seeding show? CLICK HERE to see WGN-TV coverage. 

The teams, the seeds: Plainfield Central (1), IC Catholic (2), Jones (3), Marist (4), Oak Forest (5), Joliet West (6), Latin (7), Mother McAuley (8), Lake Park (9), East Aurora (10), Aurora Central (11), Northside Prep (12), Farragut (13), Reavis (14), TF United (15), Resurrection (16).

Top players (college in parenthesis): Jones midfielder Gabriela Baxtrom (Lake Forest); Oak Forest midfielder Yasmine Matthews (Saint Xavier); Joliet West forward Amanda DiNardo (Southern Illinois); Latin midfielder Lily Keiderling (Tufts); Lake Park midfielder Brianna McAloon (North Central); East Aurora midfielder Marubeni Nieto (Robert Morris); Reavis defender Arlette Hernandez (Saint Xavier); and TF United midfielder Jasmine Quesada (Moraine Valley).

Top teams: Plainfield Central’s offseason focus was improving overall speed and skill level. During the early portion of the season, they have moved well off the ball, relying on Alyssa Marroquin, Tianna Etienne and Katie Kearney to be leaders. Marist junior midfielder Annie Callaghan is hoping to lead the RedHawks in scoring for the third straight season. IC Catholic was 21-6 last season. Senior midfielder Grace Fuller and junior forward Olivia Hurt are among the key returnees. Baxtrom and junior Devin Barry bring optimism for Jones to post another winning season.

Keep an eye on: The Mighty Macs of Mother McAuley. Led by midfielders Izzy Garrity and Grace Hynes, the prestigious South Side school has the talent and depth to make some noise in this bracket.

Did you know: Aurora Central has one of the most experienced teams in the bracket. The Chargers lost two seniors from last season’s 14-win team that lost in a sectional final. Senior goalie Alex Montalbano recorded 11 shutouts in 2017, while senior forward Shannon LoPresit is looking to top her 14-goal total from last season.

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