After not scoring last year, Lockport’s Emma Czech cashes in against Lincoln-Way East. ‘She’s that kind of kid.’

Emma Czech did not score a single goal for Lockport in her first high school season last year, but she knew she was ready to unleash a secret weapon this spring.

Bella Diorio, who scored a program-record 41 goals in 2023, took nearly all of the Porters’ free kicks. Now that Diorio’s playing at TCU, Czech is showing how good she is in those situations.

“I’ve done free kicks in my club career, but last year, Bella was nailing those,” Czech said. “This year, it feels good to get back to doing them again. It’s exciting after not scoring last season.

“Those are my specialty, so I feel like when I can nail them, I’m going to get a lot of goals.”

Czech, a senior defender and SIU Edwardsville recruit, already has two goals.

She scored her second on a 20-yard free kick Thursday, sparking the Porters to a 3-0 win over Lincoln-Way East in the championship game of the 32-team Windy City Ram Classic at Reavis in Burbank.

Cumberlands commit Meghan Mack and Marquette recruit Ava Kozak also scored goals for Lockport (5-0). Liz Rock made one save to record the shutout.

Mattea Arroyo had 13 saves for the Griffins (4-1).

It hasn’t taken Czech long to rediscover her groove on free kicks. She scored the winning goal in overtime against Glenbrook South in Saturday’s quarterfinal.

“It all kind of started with that goal against Glenbrook South,” Czech said. “That definitely gave me a lot of confidence that I can execute these shots.”

On Thursday, Czech scored in the ninth minute, ripping a shot into the right side of the net. It was the first goal Lincoln-Way East has allowed this season.

Lockport coach Todd Elkei knew Czech was ready to take on a new role this year.

“Emma’s very confident,” he said. “She just strikes the ball so well. She’s smart. She puts it in the right spot all the time. She’s such a hard-working kid and I’m so happy for her success.

“Even though she didn’t score last year, she was so happy for everyone else when they scored like she had just scored her own. She’s that kind of kid.”

Czech also teamed with Mack, Milwaukee recruit Brinlee McNabb and Green Bay commit Alyssa Flood to lead a dominant defensive effort.

Defense, after all, is Czech’s true passion.

“I love having the control, seeing the whole field and directing people,” Czech said. “I like being able to distribute balls and I’d say I have a pretty good kick, so being able to get the ball up and find those forwards and mids, I feel good about that.”

Mack likes it, too.

“Emma brings a lot of calmness in the back,” Mack said. “She plays very calm under pressure. She’s really good at distributing the ball.”

Leading 1-0 at halftime, Lockport took charge over the first 10 minutes of the second half.

Flood drew a penalty kick, which Mack converted to make it 2-0. Kozak, who had a hat trick in Tuesday’s semifinal win over Lincoln-Way West, added the third goal off an assist from Indiana State recruit Kaylin Klutcharch.

“That 20-minute stretch we had, like (assistant coach Chris Beal) said, that was the best Lockport’s ever played,” Elkei said. “Possessing, creating chances, denying their chances.

“These girls did it all.”

And for Czech, who did not play high school soccer her first two years, it sure was a blast.

“I love playing for my school,” Czech said. “I love club, too, but being able to represent my school for my last two years, it’s felt great. Everyone knows our name in school.

“We’re the team to watch, I think.”