First time’s the charm: Ava Kozak dominating in sensational debut season with Lockport girls soccer team.

Kozak has played soccer most of her life, but it’s her first year playing with the Porters

Lockport’s Ava Kozak works the ball along the sidelines against Plainfield Central on Friday, April 5, 2024.

Let’s just clarify right now, Ava Kozak has been playing soccer since she was six-years old. This is not the first time she’s ever played soccer. Putting up the numbers that she has for Lockport this season in her first year playing the sport would just be absurd.

Truthfully, though, it’s still a little absurd regardless.

Kozak is a junior forward for the Porters’ soccer team. She’s played club soccer for Chicago Inter for years and has played the sport for roughly three quarters of her life. However, despite living in Lockport since she was born, this is the first year she’s ever played for the school.

“A lot of my club teammates are seniors at Lockport now,” Kozak said. “They played last year as juniors when I didn’t and told me how fun it was. I really just wanted to give it a try, I thought it would be fun.”

It sure has been fun for the Porters. What’s not fun about entering the sectional semifinals with an unbeaten record? Not just unbeaten, too, but unblemished at 24-0-0. And, to be honest, relatively unchallenged. Aside from an early season overtime contest, one PK shootout and a 1-0 result, none of their matches have been close. They’ve scored 102 goals on the season while giving up just seven.

That’s not a typo. They’ve outscored their opponents 102-7. Aside from the season opener against Hinsdale, which they won 4-2, they haven’t allowed multiple goals in a contest and have 18 shutouts.

Lockport’s Ava Kozak takes a shot against Plainfield Central on Friday, April 5, 2024.

Senior Natalie Zodrow has 17 goals while senior Emma Czech has 19 assists, both outstanding numbers with Czech leading the team. But credit has to be given to Kozak for her outstanding play in her first year with the team as she leads the squad with 23 goals to go with nine assists.

Don’t tell her about the credit, though. She’s not interested in it.

“I don’t really think I can take much credit for it,” Kozak said. “We’ve been really fortunate to score a lot of goals. It really is a result of the defense and midfielders winning the hard battles and creating opportunities up the field. I’m just really appreciative of them.”

While Kozak’s familiar with many players on the Porters from their time together at Inter, this is still a remarkable run. Make no mistake, the expectations were high coming into the season after the Porters went 21-3-1 with an appearance in the sectional semifinals, but to be 24-0 and back in the sectional semis again with a “new” player on the squad is quite a feat. How was she able to settle in so quickly?

“I think it’s just her competitiveness,” Lockport head coach Todd Elkei said. “She just has that competitive edge to her. She has a nose for the goal and an uncanny ability to find the ball at the right time. She’s had back heel goals, classic finishes, she just finds a way to get the job done.”

Still, even he wasn’t expecting this level of dominance from Kozak.

“I’d never seen her play,” he said. “I’d seen some of the other girls play, but not her. I’d heard she was a good goal scorer. What I heard was 100% true.”

And then some. Twenty three goals in 24 games to be exact. It’s that kind of scoring ability that’s earned Kozak a Division I scholarship from Marquette University. She says she’s looking forward to experiencing the intensity and pace the Golden Eagles play with at the next level.

First, though, she’s got a couple of other things to take care of. Namely, another year of high school and another season with the Porters as she says she plans on playing her senior year with the school. Well before that, though, she’s got some stuff to take care of just this week.

After falling in the sectional semis last year, the Porters will look to make it at least one more round with a win over Plainfield North on Wednesday. It won’t be an easy task, as the Tigers are 21-2-1 after a 1-2 start to the year and have won 14 consecutive games.

However, this Porters team has accomplished a lot this season and plan to accomplish just a little bit more. For what it’s worth, the semi new kid on the block is feeling confident.

“We’ve stressed keeping the energy up and keeping the right mindset,” Kozak said. “We’re trying to be the best we can be. We want to go out there, do our best and leave it all on the field. That’s all that we can do.”