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BLOOMINGTON — Lauren Shanks' actions speak for themselves.

Now, however, Central Catholic High School soccer coach Reza Ghasemi wants her to actually speak.

Up to this point, the veteran mentor has had to be satisfied with her 36 goals, which are 22 more than the next best Pantagraph area scorer. 

The junior forward has played in 14 games for the 7-7-1 Saints and only Dunlap was able to shut her out.

The way Ghasemi sees it, Shanks needs to use the respect she has among teammates to help them improve and a few words from her would go a long way.

"Everybody looks up to her as the player," Ghasemi said. "If she says, 'OK girls, we need to do better,' I think they will follow."

When the stoic Shanks was a freshman, her senior sister Sydney stepped up as a vocal leader to help the Saints reach the Sweet 16.

"I think that's what it's going to take for this young team, someone like Lauren to be the next Syd and set the tone and pace for us," Ghasemi said. 

This season, the Saints opened 0-4, but have since gone 7-3-1. 

"We are getting closer and closer to where I want them to be," said Ghasemi, whose goal has been a long post-season run. "I think we are on pace to be peaking at the right time."

Central, the top seed in its sub-sectional, opens regional play at 4:30 p.m. May 8 at home against No. 9 seed Peoria Manual. No matter what Manual does, odds are Shanks will find the net.

"I think it's a combination of her skill, speed and strength," said Ghasemi, who has seen opponents use as many as five defenders simultaneously against her. "Somehow she finds a way to go through the defense and score."

Shanks can also pass. Her nine assists rank fourth in the area. The area leader with 13 is senior teammate Caroline O'Connor, who got most of those by passing to Shanks.

"She finds the gaps and just plays you the ball where it's easy to get it," said Shanks, who will face a stern test at 4:30 p.m. Monday at Bill Hundman Field against Normal Community, which has only allowed two goals all season.

"I really don't think she'll have difficulty (scoring) if we play well against them," Ghasemi said. 

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For her career, Shanks has 95 goals and 31 assists. She'd have more of both if Ghasemi didn't demonstrate sportsmanship during blowouts.

"If I let her, she could probably score 75 goals this year, but I won't," said Ghasemi, who feels Shanks is a threat to score from anywhere. "If anyone puts one or two against her, she will beat them."

Statistics hold little meaning for Shanks.

"She is really so unselfish, she doesn't want to see the stats," her coach said.

Shanks appreciates Ghasemi's philosophy.

"He's a great coach," she said. "If you don't understand something, he helps you. He's always positive."

Ghasemi ranks her among the three best players he's coached. It helps that she is the fastest player on the team.

"The key with her is not just how fast she runs, but how fast she takes off," Ghasemi said. "On her first step, she's at 90 mph."

Ghasemi calls Shanks a Division I soccer prospect, but she's been good enough as a 5-foot-4 guard in basketball to twice make the Pantagraph All-Area first team. Last winter, she averaged 18.1 points, 5.3 rebounds, 5.2 steals and 3.4 assists for a 22-6 conference championship team.  

In the summers, Shanks devotes June to basketball and July to soccer with her club team, the Illinois Fire. She can't decide which sport she enjoys more nor which she might pursue in college. 

Her sister plays basketball for Illinois Wesleyan.

The family of Chris and Elisa Shanks also includes sports-minded daughters, Sammie and Logan, who are in eighth and fifth grades, respectively.  

Unlike some siblings, the Shanks sisters skipped being rivals to focus on supporting each other. 

"Sydney has helped me a lot," Lauren says. "She's always been there for me to look up to in sports."

Ghasemi hopes Lauren follows Sydney's example to become a leader physically and verbally.

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Follow Randy Sharer on Twitter: @PG_sharer

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