Alex Gage said she used to be picked on when she was a little girl, part of the reason she became deeply intrigued by taekwondo as she grew up.
“I was kind of the small kid and smart, kind of kept to myself,” Gage said. “So the pretty kind of girls picked on me a little bit, but it’s OK.”
From third grade to freshman year, the standout St. Charles North girls soccer midfielder immersed herself in taekwondo, earning a black belt and building ample self-confidence along the way.
Since then, she’s blossomed into one of the premier soccer players in the area, and will help lead the North Stars in their bid for a second straight IHSA Class 3A state semifinal berth in tonight’s Barrington Supersectional match against the host Fillies.
“I did it for a long time,” Gage said. “I studied the language, I almost went to Korea for a little while, I did a lot of sparring and a lot of tournaments and stuff. It was really cool.”
Gage said she arrived at a juncture in which it came down to choosing between taekwondo or soccer so she could fully commit herself, and she opted for soccer, citing her love for the sport and opportunities for a college scholarship.
Aside from knowing how to stand up for herself, Gage said there are lingering benefits from her martial arts training that apply to soccer.
Building tremendous leg strength, endurance and an appreciation for respecting the game and opponents are all soccer virtues that Gage traces back to her years of taekwondo.
Gage is part of a dynamite North midfield that includes fellow Division I-bound seniors Natalie Winkates and Kelly Manski. North coach Ruth Vostal has raved about Gage’s savvy and versatility throughout the season, most recently after the North Stars’ 1-0 win against Geneva in Friday’s sectional championship match.
“Alex was unbelievable,” Vostal said. “She was was behind the ball, in front of the ball, setting up. She was more than just a playmaker today, and that’s what we talk about.”
Gage will play college soccer next year at Loyola, where she will be a teammate of her big sister, Sam, a former standout for the North Stars. Sam Gage – who also studied taekwondo, albeit for a much shorter time – will be a junior for the Ramblers next season.
“I am so excited because she’s my best friend,” Gage said. “It’ll be really fun to play together.”
First, Gage intends to play three more matches with the North Stars, the final two of which would be Friday and Saturday at North Central College in Naperville.
For that to happen, North will need to defeat Barrington on its home field in a supersectional for the second straight season. The North Stars topped the Fillies last year, 1-0.
“I think what’s really special about our team is we have a lot of girls who have been there, and experience is so important,” Gage said. “When you get into these really [pressure] games, people get really excited and nervous, and I think we’ll be more calm and ready.”