Buffalo Grove native a standout on national youth team
Kalyssa "Kiki" Van Zanten of Buffalo Grove is one of the top youth soccer players in the Midwest and is currently competing as a member of the Under-15 Girls’ National Team at the 2016 CONCACAF Under-15 Girls Championship in Orlando, Florida.
Van Zanten, 14, a forward, is ranked 26th overall and sixth at her position in her age group in the Class of 2019, according to TopDrawerSoccer.com. She has played with the Oak Brook-based Eclipse Select Soccer Club since January 2015. Before joining Eclipse, she played with the Grove United Soccer Association.
Priscilla Van Zanten said her daughter began playing soccer at age 4 because she wanted to be like her older sister Briana, who played soccer.
“She wasn’t very strong,” Priscilla Van Zanten said. “She fell a lot, but gymnastics and ballet helped with her balance. Playing soccer helped build her confidence because she realized she can run really fast and kick the ball very hard and do well.”
Kiki Van Zanten played in the Illinois U.S. Youth Soccer Olympic Development Program (ODP), which identifies elite soccer players.
“The program moved her up a year, and she made the state team and regional team,” Priscilla Van Zanten said. “As soon as you make the regional team, national coaches start looking at you and narrowing down the pool of players at that elite level.”
After switching to Eclipse, Van Zanten was invited to play at an identification training camp, where national coaches scout talent.
“Coaches recognized that she had something special,” Priscilla Van Zanten said.
Kiki Van Zanten was invited to the identification camp three times over a 14-month period, then sent to her first national training camp while in eighth grade, but was not invited back.
“She continued to work hard and develop as a soccer player, and six months later, she played in the ODP national tournament, where she was the event’s top scorer, Priscilla Van Zanten said.
National coaches re-invited her to national training camp, where she was invited to six consecutive camps. She became one of 18 chosen to play on the U.S. Under-15 Girls’ National Team and compete in the 2016 CONCACAF Under-15 Girls Championship.