Gifted sophomore Anya Gulbrandsen led Oswego East to historic season – Shaw Local
Posted onAuthorLinda M. DiazComments Off on Gifted sophomore Anya Gulbrandsen led Oswego East to historic season – Shaw Local
Juan Leal had the pleasure of watching Anya Gulbrandsen work magic with her footballing skills for two years in Oswego East training.
The girls who defend her?
Well, needless to say, containing Oswego East’s talented sophomore midfielder can be a little painful at times.
“I’ve seen her break so many ankles this year in training,” Oswego East coach Leal said. “I feel bad for our defenders in training. I told them you have some of the best midfielders. Don’t feel bad if Anya or Riley [Gumm] break your ankles.
The skills of Gulbrandsen and the rest of Oswego East’s young and talented squad make for some fun times in practice. This results in the best two-year run in program history.
An unbeaten 2021 regular season required a historic callback to crown it this spring – and Wolves did just that.
Oswego East went 18-3, captured its second consecutive undefeated Prairie Southwest Conference championship and went on to win its first-ever regional championship.
A 6-0 loss to Naperville North in the sectional semi-final left a sour taste in Gulbrandsen’s mouth but could not stop what Wolves achieved.
Oswego East dominated their competition, outscoring their opponents by a cumulative margin of 78-17. Wolves’ only two regular season losses were by one goal against No. 1 seeds Naperville Central and Lyons, and they beat fellow No. 1 St. Charles North at the Naperville Invitational.
Oswego East, playing in the shadow of Naperville’s football hotbed, has established itself as one of the best teams in the state this spring.
“The season didn’t end the way we wanted it to, we wish it had lasted longer, but it’s really nice to sit with my teammates and think how amazing the big games were,” Gulbrandsen said. “The coach said it was the best list we had.”
At the center of this talented line-up is Gulbrandsen, who has scored 17 goals and 10 assists, second to Oswego East. All-conference, all-section, and team MVP on offense, Gulbrandsen is the all-time newspaper player of the year.
“Anya came into this season and picked up where she left off after an explosive first season,” Leal said. “You can tell she worked very hard on the things that we talked about at the end of last season. She knew what her mission was, her importance, her role in the team and she showed herself to the height.
Even in matches where Gulbrandsen had just a few touches, Leal reminded her that she was a dangerous player just with her presence.
“Her speed, her incredible reading of the game, her ability to attack any available ball, to take on any defender is what makes her special,” Leal said. “She is explosive with the ball. We can say that she grew up with two older brothers. She brings it to practice every day. You’ll see at the end of the practice, she’s just drenched in sweat from how hard she’s working. I think that’s what made him stand out, was his hunger for success and the success of his team.
Athletic ability is in the DNA, and that competitive fire was bolstered as the youngest of three siblings, and only daughter. Gulbrandsen’s father played football, basketball and baseball, as did his two older brothers.
“Living in a sporty family, living with two brothers who are four and six years older than you, you have to manage,” Gulbrandsen said.
Gulbrandsen continued to be pushed into training with other talented football players.
“The practices were a blast,” she said. “Not only is the group very talented and competitive, but they’re just a fun group of people. We could talk trash, be competitive, bicker and then we could all go to dinner. This environment was good for our team.
“It’s just a great group of girls who work well together, talk badly to each other in practice, challenge each other. Anya fits in perfectly,” Leal said. “Her personality is very easy going, she is very humble about her abilities. With her personality, she blends in perfectly.
Leal noted that he had played Gulbrandsen somewhat out of position for the past two years to meet the needs of the team. He’s a real central midfielder, but he played against Gulbrandsen away from home. His intelligence allowed him to adapt well to the position, and it seems to suit him. She has also moved away to her new club team, U16 Eclipse Select.
“My style of play is much more outward oriented,” Gulbrandsen said. “My speed becomes more of an asset outside.”
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