Naperville North's Tom Welch scores major recognition on and off the basketball court
Tom Welch’s 2017-18 season left lasting impressions on the high school soccer community.
Though he hasn’t publicly talked much about the second straight state soccer championship he led Naperville North to this season, the junior all-state goalkeeper’s performance has remained foremost in the minds of many.
The 6-foot-6, 215-pound star, who also stars on the school’s basketball team and reportedly has as many as 20 Division 1 scholarship offers to show for it, was recently tabbed as the Gatorade Illinois Boys Soccer Player of the Year for 2017-18.
Only Welch seemed the least bit surprised by the honor.
“During basketball season, I kind of forgot about soccer,” Welch told the Chicago Tribune. “Then (Coach Jim) Konrad told me I was up for the award and I was like, ‘Oh, sweet.’”
The award leaves Welch in honored company, putting him among the storied ranks of Jay Rensink (1988-89), Jay Konrad (1990-91), Jake Fullerton (2005-06) and Chris Sullivan (2016-17) as former Huskies who have also been so honored.
“I was kind of blown away because it’s an incredible honor,” Welch said. “It’s a cool feeling.”
And for Welch, it’s a deserving distinction. The two-time all-stater choice highlighted a storybook season by recording a record-setting 14 saves in the North’s 1-0, Nov. 4 state championship game win over Libertyville.
On the year, he finished with 19 shutouts, including seven in the playoffs, and a staggering 0.38 goals-against average. He now has 29 shutouts over his two-year varsity career and did not allow a goal in the postseason.
“Winning state definitely solidified our team as the best, so that helped,” he told the Tribune. “Getting the shutout in the state title game and going up against another great player like (Ryan) Wittenbrink showed people we are legit.”
Welch made several outstanding saves on the Indiana-bound Wittenbrink, who scored 39 goals last season.
Ironically, next season could be Welch’s swan song on the soccer field.
He considers basketball to be his best sport and has not pursued any of the interest shown to him by soccer coaches across the country. Still, Konrad knows he and the school will always have the memories.
“I’m just so thrilled that he decided to play soccer,” he said. “He will graduate as the most decorated soccer player in Naperville North history.”