Home News Ellie Elders breaks free for Burlington Central

Ellie Elders breaks free for Burlington Central

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Senior midfielder Ellie Elders has always been the younger sister for Burlington Central.

Elders’ older sister, Ava, graduated last year. Clearly, Ellie had to cope with typical hiccups of following in Ava’s footsteps, but she also was eager to create her own identity for the Rockets.

How did it all begin, however?

“I didn’t start playing until my freshman year,” Ellie said. “Ava said, ‘You should try out so I can make fun of you.’ I always looked up to her and used her as an example for a lot of things in life.”

Ellie Elders provided a great example of how to play the game all season.

She ended her high school career on her own graceful terms Saturday in Burlington Central’s 3-1 loss to Peoria Notre Dame in the Class 2A third-place game at North Central College in Naperville.

Sophomore midfielder Mekenzie Rogers scored in the 67th minute to push her season total to 39 goals for the Rockets (15-10-2), who captured the second state trophy in program history.

Ellie Elders, who scored a goal in Burlington Central’s 5-0 supersectional victory Tuesday over Wheaton Academy, closed out her senior season with two goals and four assists.

Burlington Central's Ellie Elders (2) gets a leg up on a ball against Peoria Notre Dame in the Class 2A third-place game in Naperville on Saturday, June 1, 2024. (Vincent D. Johnson/for the Beacon-News)
Burlington Central’s Ellie Elders (2) tries to control the ball against Peoria Notre Dame in the Class 2A third-place game at North Central College in Naperville on Saturday, June 1, 2024. (Vincent D. Johnson / The Beacon-News)

The two weekend losses could not dull the sense of excitement or accomplishment.

“We are so happy we made it all the way to state,” Elders said of the Rockets, who also finished third in 2017. “We never expected that we’d make it this far, especially since we lost my sister and all three of our top scorers from last year.”

Fast and quick, Elders used her speed to spark Burlington Central’s attack.

“I like to play aggressively in order to win the ball,” she said. “Playing out wide right the way I do, I’m able to just watch the game from the side and I get to see what everybody else is doing.

”Whenever it comes to me, I want to be able to keep possession so the defense doesn’t have to work as hard.”

Ava Elders just completed her rookie college season as a freshman forward at Lawrence. The bond and rivalry between the two sisters has proved to be a defining experience.

Burlington Central's Emersyn Fry (15) looks to control the ball against Burlington Central in the Class 2A third-place game in Naperville on Saturday, June 1, 2024. (Vincent D. Johnson/for the Beacon-News)
Burlington Central’s Emersyn Fry (15) looks to make a pass against Peoria Notre Dame in the Class 2A third-place game at North Central College in Naperville on Saturday, June 1, 2024. (Vincent D. Johnson / The Beacon-News)

“They’re very different, as players and people,” Burlington Central coach Jessica Arneson said. “I was really happy to have both of them. Last year was fun to see them play together.

“Ava was an aggressive and physical presence on the field. Ellie is just a hard worker who gets in there. She sometimes goes unnoticed, but then pops back up and does something special.”

Sophomore midfielder Sydney Batts played with both sisters last year.

”They’re both so sweet, but I think they’re very different,” Batts said. “Playing another year with Ellie and knowing her more, I learned so much more about how she likes to play.

“She is so supportive and was a big reason I was able to grow and fit in with this team, especially since we play together in the offense.”

Elders helped the Rockets turn their season around after they started out with an 0-5-1 record playing against primarily Class 3A programs. Senior defender Emersyn Fry noticed the difference.

“She never stops running,” Fry said. “We can rely on her to keep going and go after any ball.”

Burlington Central's Ellie Elders, follows a Rockets' attack against Peoria Notre Dame in the Class 2A third-place game in Naperville on Saturday, June 1, 2024. (Vincent D. Johnson/for the Beacon-News)
Burlington Central’s Ellie Elders (2) follows the ball against Peoria Notre Dame in the Class 2A third-place game at North Central College in Naperville on Saturday, June 1, 2024. (Vincent D. Johnson / The Beacon-News)

While the Rockets boasted a roster with 15 sophomores, the four seniors in Elders, Fry, defender Rylee Butler and midfielder Eva Samuelian formed a special connection.

”We’re all really close,” Fry said. “It’s going to be hard leaving them. We really trust each other.

“Ellie and the other seniors helped us get where we are.”

In the end, Ellie Elders showed the sport wasn’t the sole province of her older sister.

“I started playing to show I had my own identity,” she said. “I fell in love with it because I tried to push myself to be as good as everyone else. When I did that, I almost surprised myself.”

Patrick Z. McGavin is a freelance reporter for The Beacon-News.



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