Lincoln-Way Central senior team Grace Grundhofer is hard to keep track of on the football field.
She is constantly on the move, whether it’s running from the defender to the sideline to take a shot from the sideline, pushing up the center to get on offense, or running back to defend.
She has a seemingly endless amount of energy, but even Grundhofer has admitted that this is not the case.
“I definitely get tired, but I’ve always been told, ‘Don’t show that you’re tired,'” she said. “I’ve always been told that fitness is the most important thing, so I’ve always worked on keeping fit.”
Grundhofer, a rookie from Fort Hayes staff, would rather run a lot than just hang around the back line anyway.
“I liked having more to do because sometimes a centre-back gets boring,” she said. “I just had to be constantly informed. If I went up, I should have known that I had enough energy to come back.
“I always had to think about what could go wrong and be ready to come back because of it.”
Grundhofer, the 2022 Daily Southtown Girls Footballer of the Year, has been a consistent force at both ends of the field throughout the season for the Knights (25-2), who finished third in the 3A class.
An important part of a defense that conceded just eight goals all season, she showed a knack for setting up her teammates with 23 assists and five goals.
However, it was in the playoffs that Grundhofer really took off. It seemed that every goal scored by the Knights in their most important games had been set up by a reckless defender.
“Grace really hit the finish line,” Lincoln-Way Central coach Sean Fahey said. “She was clearly very motivated to help us have great success in the postseason.
“She was great all season, but what she did for us in the playoffs was on another level. It was really wonderful.”
Between the Knights’ 2-0 win over Sandburg in the group championship and the 2-1 win over Glenbard West in the supergroup, Grundhofer assisted on all four goals.
She also had an assist in a 2–1 win over Evanston in the 3A third-place game.
“Coach Fahey mentioned before the playoffs that he wants us to be more offensive so we have more opponents,” Grundhofer said. “The freedom to go upstairs definitely boosted my confidence.”
Grundhofer is best known for her face-offs where she flips before throwing the ball with great precision and accuracy.
Kicking the ball out of bounds and giving Grundhofer a chance to do his thing was a nightmarish scenario for opponents.
“The more shots I made, the more confident I got,” said Grundhofer. “Even though the teams knew that I could throw the ball far, they still often kicked the ball against us, and when they did, their body language just went down.
“It has made our team more confident in realizing these moments.”
Grundhofer also shared an amazing post-season run with her younger sister Chloe, a junior who also started in the Knights’ back row.
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Their older sister, Kayla, sparked a passion for football in the family.
“We have become very competitive,” Grundhofer said. “Of course there were fights. We pushed each other really hard, and then we said, “We’re sisters.” We would have gotten over it by now.”
Lincoln-Way Central entered the season with more question marks after graduating from a high-profile senior class and accepting a large group of new players.
Grundhofer helped turn it into an unforgettable source.
“At the beginning of the season, I honestly did not know how we would behave,” said Grundhofer. “We have lost so many good old people since last year. I didn’t have much confidence. But as soon as we started playing, I realized that we can be good.
“Seeing how far we’ve come, it’s amazing to me that all of this happened.”
Steve Millar is a freelance reporter for the Daily Southtown.