Illinois State recruit is a work of art — and not just on the field.
CHAMPAIGN — As a senior, Dagny Olson finished what she started in 2010.
The Centennial athlete capped her prep career with bookend awards as the All-Area Player of the Year in girls’ soccer.
She scored an area-best 31 goals this spring for the regional champion Chargers.
Soccer is the sport where she excels and the one she will play in the fall at Illinois State. It’s far from her only interest or passion.
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Two years ago, in conjunction with Champaign’s 150 years of existence, Olson was the winner in a Youth Art Contest themed, “Honor Yesterday, Celebrate Today, Build Tomorrow.”
“I drew some trains,” said Olson, who frequently has a sketch pad in her possession. “An old train, today’s train and a futuristic train.”
Her artwork was posted on a downtown billboard.
At ISU, she hopes to minor in graphic design.
“That (interest) is something Dagny has always gravitated to,” said Gretchen Olson, her mother. “She is very creative.”
It’s a trait that extends to the soccer pitch.
“There are players you watch technically doing everything correct,” Gretchen Olson said. “You know they will shift the ball from their left foot to the right and take a shot they have practiced over and over. Dagny has a way of pulling something out of her hat which isn’t necessarily planned and putting a beautiful spin on it. It’s almost like she is dancing. When we watch her on the soccer field, she doesn’t just play the game, it’s very artistic to us.”
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For the sixth summer, Olson is spending part of her days at Champaign Country Club. She’s not out on the course playing but working in the golf shop “selling merchandise or organizing tournaments.”
Her father — CCC club professional Lance — made sure she was well-schooled in the game years ago, but it hasn’t reached the top of her to-do list.
“I can play, but I don’t,” Dagny Olson said.
That may be due to her nature.
“She can definitely play,” Gretchen Olson said. “She is very hard on herself. Being somewhat of a perfectionist, she has tended to gravitate to team sports.”
Golf’s day will come, Lance Olson believes.
“She has the ability to play it after soccer,” he said.
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Golf wasn’t the only sport Olson grew up with. Before the family moved from Libertyville to Champaign when she was in kindergarten, she was introduced to soccer.
“All of my mom’s brothers played soccer,” Olson said. “We were surrounded by it. We were always around it.”
Olson soon went from watching to being watched as others took notice of her skills. She joined her first club team as a 6-year-old. “We were the Sharks,” she said.
At a young age, her mom saw the abundant athletic potential in her oldest child.
“She started gymnastics when she was teeny, tiny,” Gretchen Olson said. “At age 2, you could tell she had a gift. Any sport she chose to play, she could excel at.”
Lance Olson saw the signs early in Dagny’s soccer career.
“With her park district team at 3, she was running and playing and actually scoring goals,” Lance Olson said.
Young Dagny enjoyed being on the sidelines when her uncles were playing, “always passing the ball and also watching,” Gretchen Olson said. “Certainly being around it helped, but I definitely think she was born with a love of the game. Being around my family and soccer, and watching it at home, it was natural she’d go that way.”
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In the Olson family, soccer has gone full circle. This fall, Dagny Olson’s twin sisters — Willa and Gressa — will enter Centennial as freshmen.
“They’ve been dragged to every game I’ve played,” Dagny Olson said. “Now they will start their journey.”
For Dagny Olson, there have been hundreds of matches. She came up through the Champaign Park District program and then joined what was known as the Little Illini Soccer Club on the 9-and-under team.
For as long as she can remember, “my goal was to play in college. As the years went by, it became more realistic.”
Gretchen Olson probably has watched more matches than anyone in the family.
“I’ve seen soccer at so many different levels,” she said, “but my favorite is in the backyard with my four kids. They challenge each other and encourage each other. It takes my breath away.”
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Dagny Olson burst onto the scene as a 30-goal scorer in 2010, her freshman season. She was the first ninth-grader to be recognized as Area Player of the Year in soccer.
Olson missed much of her sophomore year with an ankle injury and played on a Chicago-area club team — the Eclipse — as a junior.
She was reunited with her high school teammates this spring — taking a two-month hiatus from the Eclipse — and showed why she was highly recruited. In one six-match stretch — covering 21 days — Olson scored 23 goals.
“Dagny is a special talent,” Champaign Central coach Mick Galeski said. “Her technical ability has been a step above everyone since her freshman year. She can see a play develop long before most players, and she has the skill level and vision to make special things happen.
“Not only is she technically advanced but her strength and speed make it next to impossible to shut her down. She can beat you 1-on-1, create chances for her teammates, and she can flat-out score from anywhere on the field. When you put all these attributes together with the attitude and drive that she possesses, you have a superstar. ISU is very lucky to have a talent like this at their disposal.”
St. Thomas More wasn’t on the Chargers’ schedule this season, but Sabers coach James Johnson made a point of watching Olson play as a senior.
“She was a game-changer and dangerous every time she touched the ball in the offensive half of the field,” Johnson said. “Dagny is a phenomenal offensive talent. As far as her best traits, it’s not speed or flashiness that makes her so good, in my opinion. Her knowledge of the game is what sets her apart. I was very impressed that she always made the right decisions on the ball, which is remarkable for someone her age. Her superb technical ability — can play a great long ball and has a great shot — will make her a tremendous college player.”
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Centennial coach Hsiung Marler has watched the growth and development in Olson since she entered the program. She had a knack for making big plays at big times, such as the goal she scored in the final minutes of this year’s Class 2A regional championship match against Mahomet-Seymour.
Her shot accounted for the lone score in the Chargers’ 1-0 triumph.
“You would think my favorite moment would be her goal in the closing minutes against Mahomet in the regional final,” Marler said. “However, my favorite moments of Dagny were at practice. As a younger player, she was always extremely focused.
“After making her decision on where to attend college, it was like a big weight was lifted off her shoulders. She seemed able to relax this season and enjoy simply playing with her teammates. There were so many times at practice where I would describe the next activity and she would say, ‘Ooh, I love that activity, that’s my favorite.’ Those are the moments that stand out most for me this season.
“Behind it all, she is still that player with the great smile who loves being on the soccer field more than anything else.”
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Olson didn’t set the type of goals as a senior that many would expect to hear from such a high-profile player.
“My goal was mostly to stay in shape, play every day and have a good senior year,” Dagny Olson said. “With all of the weather cancellations, it was hard to get the start we needed. After a few games, we got a flow and figured things out.”
Centennial accounted for the only blemish on Big 12 champion Normal West’s league mark. The Chargers and Wildcats played to a 2-2 tie.
“Her understanding of the game and how she reads the game at important moments is what impresses me the most,” Lance Olson said.
Marler made use of Dagny Olson in a different capacity this spring.
“This year with her move from striker to center-mid, she’s become more comfortable working in a crowd to win the ball and learned how to space the field and set up other players,” Marler said. “Playing in the midfield allowed her to see more of the field and impact a bigger piece of the game. Her ability to win headers in the midfield especially was a tremendous advantage for our team.”
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As a junior, Olson took the unprecedented move to bypass high school soccer to play for a club team in the Chicago area. Her mom drove her to practice every Thursday, and most weekends there were tournaments.
“It was hard on everyone and a big financial expense,” Gretchen Olson said. “We tried to put a positive spin on it: Mom gets to spend quality time with Dagny before she heads off to college.”
The teenager grew as a player and also as a person.
“Seeing her travel all over the country without us was a big change,” Gretchen Olson said. “It was a step toward preparing her for college and life on her own.”
Confidence in her abilities grew as she was surrounded by other players with a strong commitment for soccer.
“It was her first opportunity to really be around like-minded soccer players,” Gretchen Olson said. “The Eclipse girls were a group who wants to play high-level college soccer and beyond.”
Dagny Olson’s efforts paid off.
“She was always a technical player, but this year we’ve seen her become a more physical player,” Marler said. “In the last two years, Dagny’s game has made big strides.
“I am so proud of how much her defense and physical play has improved since her sophomore year. That will serve her well as she transitions to the more physical college game at ISU.”
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Olson’s collegiate career will start with an Aug. 14 exhibition match. One date that is highlighted on her calendar is a Sept. 1 match (tentatively set to start at 7 p.m.) against the Illini on the same UI field where she recently had her All-Area picture taken.
“I’m very excited to play in Champaign,” Dagny Olson said.
That night, she will play on the field where another former Area Player of the Year — Urbana’s Ella Masar — starred.
“I looked up to her and what she did, and what she’s doing now with the (Chicago) Red Stars (National Women’s Soccer League professional team),” Olson said. “I’m looking to play right away at ISU and make a big impact. Eventually, I’d like to try and continue my soccer career.”
All of Dagny Olson’s accolades are nice, but Lance Olson appreciates what he sees in his daughter away from the spotlight.
“She plays an important role in our family,” Lance Olson said. “The twins definitely look to her as an example. She is a better person than she is a player.”
Dagny Olson is once again The News-Gazette girls’ soccer Player of the Year. The list:
YEAR NAME SCHOOL
2013 Dagny Olson Centennial
2012 Katelynn Martinez Centennial
2011 Chantal Meacham Centennial
2010 Dagny Olson Centennial
2009 Kelsie Donley Mahomet-Seymour
2008 Amanda Greco Champaign Central
2007 Liz Clegg Champaign Central
2006 Erica Houk Urbana
2005 Ashley Bolen Urbana
2004 Ella Masar Urbana
2003 Megan Bushue Centennial
2002 Tricia Johnson Centennial
2001 Brittany Ward Centennial
2000 Erica Peters Champaign Central
1999 Katie Stephens Urbana
1998 Katie Stephens Urbana
News-Gazette girls’ soccer Coaches of the Year
2013 James Johnson St. Thomas More
2012 Hsiung Marler Centennial
Despite playing only 21/2 seasons of high school soccer, recent graduate Dagny Olson finished her prep career as one of the Chargers’ top career goal scorers in girls’ soccer. The all-time leaders:
NAME GRAD YEAR GOALS
Megan Bushue 2003 106
Tricia Johnson 2002 103
Brittany Ward 2003 102
Dagny Olson 2013 81
Katelynn Martinez 2013 79
All-Area first team
PLAYER SCHOOL YR. POS.
Katelynn Martinez Centennial Sr. Forward
Jade Brinkoetter St. Thomas More Sr. Midfielder
Chantal Meacham Centennial Sr. Defender
Kathy Bradley Mahomet-Seymour Sr. Goalkeeper
Lexi Wallen St. Thomas More So. Goalkeeper
Louisette Lukusa St. Thomas More Jr. Forward
Hannah Walker Champaign Central Sr. Defender
Dagny Olson Centennial Sr. Midfielder
Ellie England Urbana Jr. Midfielder
Sarah VanWingerden Mahomet-Seymour Jr. Midfielder
Maddy Chalifoux Champaign Central So. Midfielder
All-Area second team
NAME SCHOOL YR. POS.
Hope Archer Centennial Sr. Goalkeeper
Morgan DeHaan Mahomet-Seymour Jr. Midfielder
Marisa Ellis Mahomet-Seymour Sr. Defender
Taylor Ellis Danville So. Midfielder
Catherine McHale Mahomet-Seymour Jr. Midfielder
Kimmy Montgomery First Baptist Jr. Striker
Emica Quigley Champaign Central So. Forward
Emma Reinbold Monticello Sr. Forward
Sophia Ruiz-Gehrt Urbana Sr. Stopper
Sarah Vaughen Urbana Uni High Sr. Midfielder
Michaela Ward St. Thomas More So. Midfielder
All-Area Special Mention
CENTENNIAL — Sara Regan, Jr., Midfielder; Lindsey Taylor, So., Defense
CHAMPAIGN CENTRAL — Kate Meyers, Sr., Forward; Claire Redden, So., Midfielder; Julia Smith, Sr., Defense
DANVILLE — Marissa McMillan, Jr., Midfielder
FIRST BAPTIST — Chelsea Allen, Sr., Forward; Ashley Greazer, So., Midfielder
JUDAH CHRISTIAN — Madelyn Decker, Jr., Defender; Kaitlyn Duchien, Sr., Forward; Erin Huggett, Sr., Goalkeeper; Mallory Namoff, Sr., Defender
MAHOMET-SEYMOUR — Allison Fritz, Jr., Forward; Morgan Paintner, Jr., Forward
MONTICELLO — Kia Smith, So., Forward
ST. THOMAS MORE — Katie Gillete, Jr., Midfielder; Katie Kulas, Jr., Defender
URBANA — Mary Cate Hummel, Sr., Forward; Kayla Lard, Jr., Goalkeeper
URBANA UNI HIGH — Tiye Baraka, Fr., Defender; Natalie Dullerud, Fr., Midfielder; Carmen Gewirth, So., Midfielder; Grace Lilly, So., Forward
SENIORS: Megan Cable, Normal Community; Elise Cather, Normal West; Maggie Curlin, MacArthur; Holly Gregory, Normal Community; Katelynn Martinez, Centennial; Chantal Meacham, Centennial; Dagny Olson, Centennial; Rachel Roggenbuck, Normal Community; Alison Seger, Normal Community; Hannah Walker, Central; Rachael Weber, Normal West.
JUNIORS: Ellie England, Urbana; Missy Ficek, Bloomington; Tess Marcordes, Normal West; Hannah Rodgers, Normal Community; Erin Roegner, Normal Community; Marisa Zamudio, Bloomington.
SOPHOMORES: Maddy Chalifoux, Central; Natalie Freeman, Normal West; Zoie Holloway, Bloomington; Emica Quigley, Central; Keely Theobald, Normal West; Abby Thompson, Normal West.
SENIORS: Toni Anderson, Bloomington; Hope Archer, Centennial; Ashley Cravens, Eisenhower; Mary Cate Hummel, Urbana; Savannah Myers, Eisenhower; Rachel Pierce, Bloomington; Sophia Ruiz-Gehrt, Urbana; Bailey Smalley, Normal West; Julia Smith, Central; Melissa Tallent, Eisenhower; Maggie Turner, Normal Community; Lindsey Wiggs, Normal Community.
JUNIORS: Kayla Lard, Urbana; Marissa McMillan, Danville; Sara Regan, Centennial.
SOPHOMORES: Grace Ganley, MacArthur; Amber Helton, Normal West; Forest Jacobson, MacArthur; Katie Leins, Normal Community; Carolyn Peters, Normal West; Claire Redden, Central; Lindsey Taylor, Centennial; Gabie Wegman, MacArthur.
FRESHMAN: Kate Lorenz, Normal West.
Final area Top 10
SCHOOL (PREVIOUS) W-L COMMENT
1. St. Thomas More (4) 14-6-1 1-2 in one-goal decisions
2. Centennial (3) 11-5-2 3-2 in one-goal decisions
3. Mahomet-Seymour (1) 13-4-3 3-2 in one-goal decisions
4. Champaign Central (2) 12-7-2 1-3 in one-goal decisions
5. Urbana Uni High (5) 6-8-1 1-0 in one-goal decisions
6. Urbana (6) 6-10-1 1-0 in one-goal decisions
7. Monticello (7) 5-7-1 3-2 in one-goal decisions
8. First Baptist (8) 6-1 0-0 in one-goal decisions
9. Judah Christian (9) 4-6-1 3-1 in one-goal decisions
10. Danville (10) 1-18-1 0-1 in one-goal decisions
Final area standings
Big 12 Conference
TEAM CONF. OVERALL
Normal West 7-0-1 22-5-1
Normal Community 7-1 18-6-1
Centennial 6-1-1 11-5-2
Champaign Central 5-3 12-7-2
Bloomington 4-4 6-13-2
Urbana 3-5 6-10-1
MacArthur 2-6 3-16
Eisenhower 0-7-1 2-15-1
Danville 0-7-1 1-18-1
First Baptist 6-1
St. Thomas More 14-6-1
Urbana Uni High 6-8-1
Judah Christian 4-6-1