Mundelein High grad excels on Northwestern soccer team
Michele Chernesky's dreams of becoming the next Shawn Johnson were put aside when she had to make a tough choice.
Chernesky, a Mundelein High graduate and Wauconda native, told the Lake County Gazette that she participated in soccer and gymnastics while growing up. However, to have a future in one of them, she said she had to give up one sport. She chose to stay with soccer, and it has led to a successful career at Northwestern as part of the school's Big Ten championship squad.
“I still attribute much of my strength and mental toughness today to gymnastics, but the sport was missing something for me, something that I was able to find in soccer, and that was being a part of a team,” Chernesky said. “There’s nothing I love more than battling 90 minutes alongside my teammates who have become some of my best friends today.”
Along the way to Evanston, Chernesky, a midfielder/defender, collected All-State, All-Academic and All-Conference honors in her high school career, according to www.nusports.com. Right before her sophomore year at Mundelein, Chernesky attended a soccer camp at Northwestern and “was in awe” of the Wildcats' home venue, Lakeside Field.
“Leaving the last day of camp, I was determined to make sure that wasn’t my last time stepping foot on that turf,” she said.
After the Northwestern coaches expressed interest in her, Chernesky verbally committed to the Wildcats program a few days after the camp. Her transition to Big Ten play has been a learning experience.
“Compared to high school, the opponents I face in college are quicker, stronger and smarter, but I love the competitive environment that the Big Ten is home to,” she said. “There are fewer gaps in talent, so every game we play is a battle. On any given day, any team can rise up above another.”
Chernesky said she has grown tremendously in her time at Northwestern.
“My coaches are great mentors both on and off the field, so it is hard not to learn from them every day,” she said. “On top of that, I am lucky to have some very talented teammates who push me to become a better player every practice and game.”
The program's success has grown with her. Two years prior to her arrival, the Wildcats went 4-14-2. However, in her first year, Northwestern made the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1998, she said. This season, the Wildcats won a share of the Big Ten regular-season title for the first time and also advanced to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA tourney.
In her first season as a Wildcat, Chernesky played in 15 games and started five. This season, she started in all of Northwestern's games. She even notched her first goal at Northwestern this season when she scored in the Wildcats' 2-1 win over Michigan on Oct. 9 at home.
Chernesky said she wants to grow as a leader and build on her relationships with her teammates and coaches during the rest of her time at Northwestern.
“I only have about two years left playing the sport I’ve dedicated my whole life to, so I most importantly want to continue to have fun and make the most out of the opportunities I am given here at Northwestern as a student-athlete,” she said.