RBHS senior sweeper Caroline Waas anchors the Bulldogs' defense. She also played a key role on the RBHS basketball team, which went 25-7 and advanced to a regional final. (David Pierini/Staff Photographer)

Considering their competitive natures, it’s understandable that Riverside-Brookfield High School girls soccer coach Danny Makaric and his stellar senior sweeper Caroline Waas didn’t always see eye to eye in the past.

To put it bluntly, Waas was less than thrilled when Makaric decided to switch her from her familiar midfield position to defense during her sophomore year.

“When he took over as the head coach [in 2012], we didn’t get along at first,” Waas said. “I played midfielder and offense my entire life so I was like, ‘What are you doing, Danny?’ But I gave it a try. I saw that I had a knack for playing defense, and I’ve enjoyed playing sweeper more than any other position. I owe it all to him; Danny knows best.”

While that compliment will certainly make the affable Makaric smile, the Croatian native offers reciprocal praise for Waas.

“Caroline really anchors our defense, and she’s a great communicator on the field,” Makaric said. “I switched her to defense, because I knew that was the best fit for her. We have so many young players on our team, having a player of Caroline’s ability and experience really helps us.”

RBHS senior midfielder Amy Zyck remembers a practice when Makaric and Waas actually provided a few laughs for the entire team.

“Coach Danny asked Caroline to help him demonstrate a drill. When he passed her the ball she tripped over it and fell,” Zyck said. “We were all laughing, it was pretty funny. But Caroline is our leader and a really strong player on the field. Caroline is our key defender and she has a lot of speed and she’s really aggressive. She’s not afraid to take a girl down either.”

The versatile Waas played both guard positions in coach Dallas Till’s up tempo system during the basketball season. She also ran cross country her first two years of high school. Her older siblings, Matt and Emily, both played soccer for Makaric as well at RBHS.

While Waas has dabbled in various sports, she prefers the intensity, action and speed associated with soccer and basketball. She’s also developed as a leader, serving as a mentor of sorts for the cadre of talented freshmen on both the basketball and soccer squads this school year.

During the winter, RBHS highly touted freshmen guards Samantha Bloom and Lyndsay Hoyd, along with 6-foot-5-inch freshman center Dana Rettke, essentially took over the starting lineup and powered the basketball team to a 25-7 record.

In soccer, freshmen Kathryn Sessler, Esther Annoreno, Ivy Marcucci and Briana Sanchez also have received substantial playing time.

While many seniors, particularly someone with Waas’ pedigree of playing multiple years on both varsity teams might not roll with such drastic roster changes, she’s been the quintessential teammate.

“They have learned from me and I’ve learned from them,” said Waas about the influx of contributing freshmen. “I’m actually glad that both coaches feel strongly about giving younger players chances to play. They are all so talented for such a young age. It’s truly amazing to see how far they have come in such a short time.”

After an 0-3 start, the RBHS soccer team has started to turn it around. The Bulldogs now stand at 4-6-1 overall and 2-1 within the Metro Suburban Conference race.

“I hope we can win conference this year,” Waas said. “That’s something we haven’t done around here in a while. It would be a perfect final chapter in my high school career.”

While she’ll be remembered as a ball-hawking defensive guard and skilled sweeper with the Bulldogs, Waas is also one of the genuinely nicest kids walking around the RBHS campus.

“Caroline is one of my best friends and she serves as a great role model for me and the other younger players on our team,” RBHS junior midfielder Ashley Ferguson said. “She has a very witty humor and a great personality.”

As one of seven of children to Christopher and Mary Lu Waas, Caroline learned at an early age the value of sharing and getting along with others, which she has carried into sports.

The North Riverside resident plans on attending Purdue next year to study engineering. She is currently ranked ninth in her class and carries a 4.73 weighted grade-point average.

At Purdue, Waas still plans on playing basketball and soccer, even if it’s on the intramural level.

“I’ll keep playing sports, because they are a big part of who I am,” Waas said. “Some days I think about Purdue and I can’t wait to get there. Other days, I’ll think about how much I love RB and that I am going to really miss this place.

“I guess I have moments of senioritis like anybody, but soccer is keeping me pretty focused.”