Influenced by her dad, Bella Kreydich takes care of the back line for Andrew. ‘I was born to play defense.’

Andrew senior Bella Kreydich has long been coached by her dad, Alex, who still plays soccer in a men’s league.

Kreydich has followed in her father’s footsteps, right down to her choice to play defender.

“Honestly everything I do is because of my dad,” Kreydich said. “He’s been a big influence in my play. We play the same position and we connect there.

“I was born to play defense.”

And Kreydich is now the leader for the stingy Thunderbolts on defense.

She helped them shut out host Lincoln-Way Central for 100 minutes Friday night before they prevailed 4-2 in the penalty-kick shootout for a 1-0 SouthWest Suburban Red win in New Lenox.

Kadence Jones made two saves in the shootout to go along with two during regulation for Andrew (10-4-1, 1-0). Kreydich, Emily Crotty, Layla Martino and Kaitlyn Gudyka converted penalty kicks as the Thunderbolts went 4-for-4 in the shootout.

Madi Watt and Ruby Hillegass scored in the shootout for Lincoln-Way Central (5-5-1, 0-1), while Flynn Meyer made two saves in regulation.

The win capped a big week for Kreydich. On Wednesday, she signed to play soccer at St. Mary’s in Indiana. That was sandwiched between shutouts of Lincoln-Way East and Central, two of the area’s top teams.

“It’s been very exciting,” Kreydich said. “Signing with St. Mary’s, I’m looking forward to next season there. But right now, I’m locked in here and making sure we’re getting through all the hard competition.

“East and Central are both good teams, and I’m happy we were able to compete and come through with the wins in the end.”

Kreydich considers herself a “big talker.” She feels that makes defense the perfect place for her to play.

“Communication is key with me at all times,” Kreydich said. “If you watch me play, I’m never quiet. I’m talking at all times, making sure the mids are marking, making sure people are getting back, making sure everyone knows where the open plays are.”

Andrew coach Loren Zolk knows how vital it is to have someone like Kreydich controlling the defense.

“She commands the back,” Zolk said. “She has a really good grasp of where people need to be and where the threat is. She’s aggressive, which I love.

“She demands, and sometimes it can come off as harsh, but at the end of the day, it’s up to her to make sure things are organized in the back and that we’re neutralizing threats. She’s a great leader.”

Kreydich, Gudyka, Grace Gerhardstein and Annie Lloyd led a dominant defensive effort Friday for Andrew. Sophia Ryan also stepped up big after Gerhardstein went out with an injury.

“Bella and Kaitlyn do a great job holding everyone together back there,” Jones said. “The two of them are really good partners, and I give all the credit to my defense because they hold up everything for me.”

Jones came through when she needed to, making two big saves in the shootout.

After Gudyka scored to give Andrew the 4-2 lead in the fourth round, Jones’ save on the Knights’ fourth shooter sealed the victory and set off a big celebration for the Thunderbolts, who avenged a 1-0 loss to Lincoln-Way Central on March 16 in a Windy City Ram Classic quarterfinal.

“I just kept it cool in my head,” Jones said. “As a goalie, you know goals are going to happen in the shootout. You just have to let it go, move to the next one, learn from the one that goes in and change it up. I was able to do that twice and stop two.”

Kreydich helped do the rest by doing what she loves best.

“I found my place in the back,” Kreydich said. “Where I can command and take charge.”