WEST CHICAGO – Grant Stoneman was one heck of a talented water boy for the Wheaton Academy boys soccer program last year.
Stoneman, who lives on the west end of St. Charles, attended Burlington Central as a freshman before transferring to Wheaton Academy, where he was eligible to practice but not play in matches last year as a sophomore, per IHSA transfer rules.
Wheaton Academy coach Jeff Brooke recalled Stoneman making himself useful at an in-season tournament.
“I remember him in a locker room with all the water bottles, filling up 12 water bottles from a shower for all of the guys,” Brooke said. “That was near the end of the year where maybe he could have checked out. Instead he took on that role of serving the team.
“For me, having watched him in practice, I knew he was going to be a special player, so I thought that was a cool moment to see him try to do whatever he could to help the program and the team.”
Stoneman intends to continue doing much more than keeping his teammates hydrated today when the Warriors (21-6) face Peoria Notre Dame in an 11 a.m. IHSA Class 2A state semifinal at Lincoln-Way North High School.
Stoneman has scored five goals in the Warriors’ past three postseason matches, including the lone score in Tuesday’s 1-0 supersectional victory against Chicago Lake View. His 28 goals and 18 assists have him in the program’s top-five, all-time list for points in a single season.
The decision to transfer to Wheaton Academy was made primarily for academic and spiritual reasons, said Stoneman, who also had a comfort level with Wheaton Academy’s program through knowing Warriors players Marshall West and Zebediah Lewis from the Campton United club program.
Stoneman will be the lone Warrior today with state semifinal experience. A senior-laden Burlington Central team that included Stoneman, playing up on varsity as a freshman, qualified for the state semis in 2010 before finishing fourth.
“Even though it’s state, we definitely just have to play our game,” Stoneman said. “There’s going to be a lot of fans but I told [my teammates] not to worry about the fans.”
Center-midfielder Stoneman has clicked with his new team, especially senior forward Gareth Flynn, who has 17 goals, 16 assists and set up Stoneman on Tuesday off a corner kick.
“They’ve been fantastic together,” Brooke said of his talented duo. “It’s interesting when you see a couple of players who are good, you just wonder how they’ll work together. Flynn is always looking for Stone, Stone’s always looking for Flynn.”
Stoneman knows all about close relationships with other, gifted players. He has a close one with his older sister Maddie, who is now a freshman at the University of Wisconsin after a standout high school soccer career at Burlington Central.
“We always have a competition of who can score more goals,” Stoneman said. “But she was definitely pretty good.”
The Warriors started the season a pedestrian 6-5, but challenged themselves against bigger schools such as Wheaton Warrenville South, Oak Park-River Forest and Class 3A state semifinalist Warren.
Wheaton Academy picked up steam throughout an unbeaten run to the Suburban Christian Conference title that culminated with a dramatic, double overtime win against Marmion. Stoneman had a goal and an assist in that 2-1 thriller.
As the Warriors seek to play their way into the state championship game for the first time in program history, Brooke will continue to preach embracing a shared identity.
“Through this postseason run, we’ve mentioned that if we play well and get the result, then a plaque will be at the end of the competition, but if we’re just playing for a plaque, it seems kind of small,” Brooke said. “So the guys have really been playing to be the best possible that they can be as a unit each and every time that they step on the field.”