PREVIEW: U.S. ARMY 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. ARMY BRACKET OF THE 2018 PEPSICO SHOWDOWN GIRLS (CHICAGO):

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

The teams, the seeds: St. Charles North (1), Metea Valley (2), Downers North (3), Wheaton Academy (4), Deerfield (5), Wauconda (6), Maine South (7), Plainfield North (8), Warren (9), Wheaton South (10), York (11), Minooka (12), Libertyville (13), Saint Viator (14), Nazareth (15) and Stagg (16).

Top players (college in parenthesis): St. Charles North midfielders Gia Wahlberg (Michigan State) and Hailey Rydberg (Iowa); Metea Valley forward Maeve Riordan (Illinois); Downers North midfielder Abby Swanson (Loyola); Maine South midfielder Aly Kilburg (Loyola); Warren defender Jamie Kwon (Winona State); Minooka midfielder Kennedy Messina (UIC); Saint Viator goalie Anna Johnston (New Hampshire); and Stagg midfielder Ally Mussallem (Purdue).

Top teams: St. Charles North headlines with the Big Ten-bound Rydberg and Wahlberg leading the way for the defending champions. Metea Valley, which has won four straight 3A regional titles in the loaded Western Suburbs, is paced by Riordan and Sophia Sense. Downers North is aiming to top last season’s 3A fourth-place showing with 13 players returning from a 20-4-2 team.

Keep an eye on: No. 16 seed Stagg. Purdue-bound midfielder Ally Mussallem, who returns to Stagg after playing club soccer the last two seasons, is one of the main reasons why the Chargers are off to a hot start. Coach Allison Kaim, who played in the PepsiCo Showdown as a player, has led her squad to eight consecutive victories to start the season, with Mussallem scoring nine goals.

Interesting note: Mussallem is following the same path taken by her older sister. Hannah, a junior defender at Purdue, also played for Stagg her freshman season, then played for her club team the next two season before returning to lead Stagg to a Class 3A sectional title in 2015.

Did you know: In a growing era of sports specialization, Deerfield has a unique mix of multi-sport athletes on its roster, according to coach Rich Grady. Senior Ashley Morgan is a four-year varsity basketball player, while sophomore Mallory Sawyer played two years of basketball. Junior goalie Carolyn Curley is on the gymnastics team, and junior Sydney Burns was a state qualifier in the Class 3A cross country meet. Senior Lauren Goodsnyder qualified for state in Class 3A and is a goalie in field hockey. Junior Hannah Shapiro is a competitive figure skater. Juniors Naomi Fischoff and Dylan Sachs both play field hockey.

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