Coach: Cesar Gomez
Andie Lazzerini Jr., F
Shanda Maldonado Jr., D
Lauren Ott Jr., D/M
Devan Orr So., D
Jessica Quinn *C Sr., D/M
Shelly Molskow So., D
Yvette Hernandez Jr., M
Veri Mendoza Sr., M
Bianca Navejas *C Sr., F
Andrea Correa Jr., F
Kristyn Pavnica Sr., D
Katie Becker Jr., F
Kayla Kirkwood Fr., F
Cassie Thill Sr., F
Stephanie Mata Fr., M
Jenny Amaro Sr., D/M
Sonya Padilla Sr., M
Cat Canestrelli Jr., GK
*C denotes captain

WEGO's Andie Lazzerini overcomes adversity to excel

By Matt Le Cren


Andie Lazzerini is easy to spot on the soccer field.

The West Chicago junior is usually the only player wearing sunglasses, which she sports regardless if the sky is clear or cloudy.

But Lazzerini doesn’t wear shades as a fashion statement, though her teammates think she’s pretty cool. No, Lazzerini dons them as a protective measure because she is blind in her left eye, though by looking at her you can’t tell that anything is amiss.

“It’s pretty unique because she still functions very well,” West Chicago coach Cesar Gomez said. “If you don’t notice that she has an obstacle you would think that she is fine.

“Andie is one of those players who plays with her heart and it’s hard to measure the heart in sports events. She’s one of those kids who is very determined, and having one eye, I think she celebrates that she has one good eye.”

Lazzerini knows no other way. She has been blind in the eye since birth, when her vision was damaged when doctors used forceps during a difficult delivery.

But the vision loss has not prevented Lazzerini from becoming a talented forward who has drawn scholarship offers from Division I schools such as Northern Illinois and Indiana-Purdue at Fort Wayne. The 5-foot-4 dynamo creates havoc for defenses with her speed, determination and all-around toughness, traits that amaze her teammates.

“I don’t know how she does it,” West Chicago sophomore Shelly Molskow said. “It’s crazy. She always gets everyone all energized with her speed.

“It motivates everyone else to play hard. She’s a really aggressive player, too, and she’s a good leader.”

Though she’d rather have sight in both eyes, Lazzerini looks on the bright side, saying that she is better off than someone who loses sight when they are, say, 10 years old, because she doesn’t know what it’s like to have normal vision.

“It’s been that way my whole life and I started playing soccer when I was three, so it’s always been an adjusting thing,” Lazzerini said. “I don’t really know [any] different.”

Spatial awareness is crucial in any sport and this is where Lazzerini has difficulty. Judging balls that are coming toward her, especially in the air, is not easy and can’t be taught to her since her depth perception is different from everyone else’s.

“I’m not the best at balls in the air and I’m trying to work on that, definitely, because doctors have said my depth perception is different for me than it is for most people,” she said. “But it’s something I’ve gotten used to.”

Another thing Lazzerini has gotten used to is wearing her protective goggles, which protects her good eye from the glare and any errant balls. She didn’t want to wear them at first, but learned a hard lesson during a game her freshman year.

“We were playing Bartlett and a defender had the ball and so she stopped and I ran after her and she just booted it and it got me right in my right eye,” Lazzerini said. “I didn’t wear goggles then. My doctor had told me to but I just didn’t want to.

“I was blinking a lot and I couldn’t see anything. Everything looked orange and I thought it was just because I got hit really hard, so I started blinking and rubbing my eyes but everything was orange and hazy.”

Lazzerini started screaming at that point, a scary moment for both her and Gomez, who had never been told that she was blind in one eye.

“She was freaked out and we didn’t know why,” Gomez said. “She was screaming, ‘my eye, my eye, I’m blind, I’m blind. I was supposed to put in my goggles.’

“It scared me because I didn’t know anything about it. Her parents said she was supposed to be wearing her goggles. She couldn’t see anything at all so she was flopping on the ground. She came back and it was good, but from that point on, every little thing that we do, we have to force her to wear her goggles.”

It wasn’t the first time Lazzerini had gotten hit in her good eye.

“I had gotten hit before when I was younger and my doctor said if I got hit again it might be ‘the end’ for me, so that’s what I thought was happening and I was freaking out,” Lazzerini recalled. “But my dad took me off the field, rushed me to a hospital and they said I had a hematoma, which is blood built up in your eye, so I was basically looking through blood.”

The blood soon cleared up and Lazzerini realized she had to wear the shades. Soccer is a contact sport and she still gets hit occasionally; a ball hit her in the face during last Saturday’s 4-1 loss to Hinsdale Central, causing a small cut on the bridge of her nose, but she went right back in.

The goggles now are a source of amusement for the Wildcats, who can’t resist teasing Lazzerini.

“They always pull at my left side and try to sneak up behind me and try to scare me,” Lazzerini said. “They call me “goggles” and make fun of my goggles, but it’s all in good fun.”

Not everyone knows about Lazzerini’s eye and she doesn’t publicize it, but she gets the goggles question frequently.

“It’s like a joke on the team. They needle me about it, but it’s not something where I’m, ‘oh, hi, I’m Andie Lazzerini, I’m blind in one eye,’” Lazzerini said with a laugh. “But sometimes people ask me, ‘why do you wear goggles when you play soccer?’ So I have to tell them.”

Lazzerini’s ability to take the good-natured ribbing endears her to her teammates.

“We’re constantly harassing her about it,” Gomez said. “It’s funny because she always says, ‘well I can play with one eye.’ She kind of makes fun of it; ‘look, I can do this with only one eye.’

“She’s a fun, fun girl to have on the team and she’s probably one of the [few] girls that you can tell exactly how it is. She does not need to be sugar-coated. She will take [instruction or criticism] exactly how it is. It’s very rare.”

Lazzerini has been a starter since her freshman year and has improved each season. Last year she tallied nine goals, second on the team behind All-State striker Meagan Radloff, and earned honorable mention All-DuPage Valley Conference and honorable mention All-Sectional honors

With Radloff now playing for Eastern Illinois, Lazzerini has drawn more attention from opponents, who know if they shut her down they can severely limit West Chicago’s attack. Lazzerini has three goals and five assists while playing both forward and some center midfield for the 4-7-1 Wildcats.

“I just feel I just have more responsibility as a leader and I’m not just part of the team,” Lazzerini said. “I have to be a leader and pump up the girls and definitely score goals, which has been kind of rough the past couple games. We’re definitely trying to work on that. [Replacing Radloff] is big shoes to fill but I’m trying my hardest.”

Though Lazzerini knows she has a lot of room for improvement, she still has another year to prepare for collegiate soccer.

“I really like her. She doesn’t have all the [ball skills] that s some people have, that ability to control the ball, to step, to draw the defender, but whatever you tell Andie she’s going to try to do it and do it with perfection,” Gomez said. “She is very, very competitive, so those are good qualities to have at the higher level.”

At the high school level, Lazzerini’s attitude and leadership skills are what make her stand out.

“I love her attitude. Every now and then, somebody will say, ‘you can replace me,’ and she will take them aside and say, ‘you know what, there’s only one you, you are a good player, we want you on the field,’” Gomez noted. “I’m supposed to say that, but when a player is saying that, it is good. Every now and then Andie will get in somebody’s face and not be afraid [of her] saying she hates me.”

Gomez remembers two years ago, when he brought Lazzerini and two other freshman up to the varsity team.

“I told them that they were going to eat the icing first and get ready to eat the cake next year once you learn something,” Gomez said. “Andie really thrived on that playing next to Meagan. Everybody marked Meagan and she was set free and made a name for herself. Last year she played better and this year she’s very strong.

“So far she doesn’t have all the technical skills, but she’s very fast. If somebody gives her the ball she’s going to score because she’s faster than everybody else. She’s going to be okay.”

Having dealt with a disability, Lazzerini knows she will be okay.

“My dad especially has always taught me not to use anything as an excuse,” Lazzerini said, “So I basically try to do the best that I can and hope that it works out in the end.”

Therein lies the important lesson that Lazzerini’s example sets for young kids who may have similar challenges.

“Just don’t use it as an excuse, just live with it,” she said. “It’s something I’ve had to live with my entire life.

“There’s nothing you can do about it and don’t worry about the things you can’t control. Instead push that behind and just do the best that you can.”

Lazzerini does that every day, which Gomez says is a source of inspiration.

“I think so in the sense of, hey, this girl can play with one [eye] and still be happy,” he said. “I have two and I can’t be complaining too much.”



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