BATAVIA – Batavia freshman soccer player Megan McEachern is keeping her game plan simple in the early stages of her high school career.
“Just don’t get nervous and just go hard every play, and not freak out, basically,” McEachern said.
So far, McEachern’s straightforward approach looks like a winner.
McEachern scored both Batavia goals March 16 in the lone match the Bulldogs have played this season, powering Batavia to a 2-0 win against Wheaton Warrenville South.
Batavia coach Mark Gianfrancesco doesn’t want the hype machine to hit overdrive – there’s only been one game, after all – but he nonetheless is enthused about the lone freshman on the Bulldogs’ roster.
“She’s quick with the ball, she’s a forward or center-mid, so she’s used to distributing, so even up top she’s looking to set others up,” Gianfrancesco said. “ … It could have been 4 or 5 to 0 [against Wheaton Warrenville]. She set up another two that other girls should have probably finished. Just with that attitude, where she’s willing to score when she has to, but yet she’s willing to distribute, that makes her better and it makes everyone else on the team better.”
One of McEachern’s goals in the opener came when she deposited a deflection of her own shot. Scoring two goals the first game of her freshman year caught McEachern off guard, let alone the rest of the Bulldogs.
“I was actually pretty shocked,” said McEachern, who came off the bench in the match. “I didn’t know if I would score and stuff. I knew I’d probably have chances but I didn’t know if I’d be able to finish them.”
McEachern’s older sister, Lindsay, played softball at Batavia, and McEachern also played softball and basketball leading up to high school before opting to specialize in soccer.
She’s played travel soccer since third grade, and her transition to high school was eased by familiarity with some of her older teammates through the Tri-Cities Premier club.
“I’ve got seven sophomores on this team and then her, so it’s eight girls out of 19 girls [that are underclassen],” Gianfrancesco said. “That’s a lot of girls, so the transition has been easier I think for her because the girls last year, because it was my first year and I called all those girls up, they had it rougher. … They kind of paved the road for her to come in and just play, whereas last year they kind of had to take the ‘Well, you’re the freshmen, you’re playing over me.’
“That doesn’t happen this year.”
One of McEachern’s older teammates, senior midfielder Shelby Stone, is confident McEachern will deal with her early success constructively.
“I think her personality is very level-headed,” Stone said. “Before the game she told me that she was nervous, so I know that she’s going to stay calm and be a good teammate. I’m excited for her.”
The Bulldogs, like every outdoor spring team in the area, have had a slow start to the season, but they’re scheduled to return to action against Glenbard South today as part of the Lake Park Early Bird Invite. The match will be played at noon at Olympic Park in Schaumburg.
Gianfranceso thinks the Bulldogs might be ahead of many teams because, despite the cold, damp weather, they’ve been practicing outdoors at Mooseheart’s turf stadium.
“We’ve got a fieldhouse that’s beautiful but you start throwing three [levels] in there, it’s not as big as you think,” Gianfranceso said. “ … It’s a mental edge, it’s a preparation edge and it’s a fitness edge I think because we’re running in this stuff. The girls have been very positive about it.”