Home News Aurora-Elgin girls soccer player of year: Anya Gulbrandsen

Aurora-Elgin girls soccer player of year: Anya Gulbrandsen

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On a date most people dread, Oswego East’s Anya Gulbrandsen got things started in style.

It was Tax Day in April 2021, and Gulbrandsen made her varsity debut as a freshman midfielder. She scored two goals for the Wolves in a 7-0 Southwest Prairie Conference win over Joliet West.

“I came off the bench, so I was very nervous,” Gulbrandsen said, looking back on that moment. “It was the first game of the season after the pandemic, so nobody knew what to expect.

“I scored off a header, and all the girls were so excited for me. All the nerves vanished, and I felt so comfortable. I felt immediately embraced and welcomed.”

It was the prelude to the most consequential career in the history of Oswego East’s program.

Gulbrandsen, the 2024 Beacon-News/Courier-News Girls Soccer Player of the Year, remade the team in her image of a poised, skilled and fearless talent.

As a senior forward, the Wisconsin recruit scored two goals three minutes apart for the Wolves in a season-opening 2-1 victory over Whitney Young on March 11, and she never looked back.

This spring, Gulbrandsen finished with 27 goals and nine assists for the Wolves (14-7-2). She completed her four-year career as the program leader in career goals (89) and assists (35).

But Gulbrandsen, who also set the single-season program record with 30 goals as a junior, typically found a way to deflect attention.

Oswego East's Anya Gulbrandsen (3) races with the ball ahead of Oswego's Gillian Young during their Class 3A Lockport Regional semifinal game on Wednesday, May 15, 2024, in Lockport.(Jon Cunningham/for The Beacon-News)
Oswego East’s Anya Gulbrandsen (3) races with the ball ahead of Oswego’s Gillian Young during a Class 3A Lockport Regional semifinal game on Wednesday, May 15, 2024. (Jon Cunningham / The Beacon-News)

“An assist means that somebody has to finish it and a goal means that somebody has to give it to me,” she said. “I’ve just been a part of four really good teams. I think it’s indicative of that.

“I’ve had so many good players around me who made me better, and I’ve made them better.”

Like clockwork, Gulbrandsen struck fear into the opposition, with teams running two or three defenders at her in an attempt to slow her down.

“Anya is a relentless player who never gave up,” Plainfield North coach Katie Monterosso said. “She’s technically savvy, and you always had to make sure you had your strongest defensive player on her. She knows how to take players on and is very difficult one-on-one.

“She’s a strong finisher, and she’s very calm on the ball.”

Oswego East's Anya Gulbrandsen controls the ball in front of Oswego's Ainsley Barnes (12) during their Class 3A Lockport Regional semifinal game on Wednesday, May 15, 2024, in Lockport.(Jon Cunningham/for The Beacon-News)
Oswego East’s Anya Gulbrandsen controls the ball in front of Oswego’s Ainsley Barnes (12) during a Class 3A Lockport Regional semifinal game on Wednesday, May 15, 2024. (Jon Cunningham / The Beacon-News)

The 5-foot-6 Gulbrandsen utilized explosion off the ball, touch, finesse and the ability to anticipate the flow of the game. Her closest friends testify to her pride, purpose and competitive fury.

And it’s the consistency, according to senior midfielder Riley Gumm.

“I say this all the time, but Anya is truly one of the hardest working people I know,” Gumm said. “She is incredibly confident and disciplined, which radiates onto everyone around her.

“She is an amazing player but an even better person.”

Her achievements were not in a vacuum, facilitating the greatest four-year run in program history.

During Gulbrandsen’s tenure, Oswego East had a .731 winning percentage (60-18-4), punctuated by earning a regional championship two years ago. It was the first for the Wolves in girls soccer.

Oswego East's Anya Gulbrandsen slides under Oswego's Gillian Young to steal the ball during their Class 3A Lockport Regional semifinal game on Wednesday, May 15, 2024, in Lockport.(Jon Cunningham/for The Beacon-News)
Oswego East’s Anya Gulbrandsen slides under Oswego’s Gillian Young to steal the ball during a Class 3A Lockport Regional semifinal game on Wednesday, May 15, 2024. (Jon Cunningham / The Beacon-News)

She made the team, but she said the program made the player.

“A lot of people in my life wanted for me something that I wanted for myself,” Gulbrandsen said. “I need people in my life. I love being part of teams and finding people through my teams.

“When you devote yourself to a sport, I think my biggest takeaway was finding people who shared those common interests.”

College marks the next frontier, and Gulbrandsen will soon begin her time in Madison.

“I like to think I set the bar high for myself,” she said. “I think if I do what I want to do, I will be able to get there. I think the same thing will happen in college that happened in high school.

“I’ll find new people I love to be around, and I’ll find new roles on my team. I think I have the tools necessary to figure it out.”

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



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