Fenwick High School girls soccer coach Robert Watson called 2013 an "epic season" for the Friars and it was exactly that.
Fenwick advanced to the state semifinals for only the second time in school history last spring and took third place in the Class 2A state tournament with a 1-0 victory over Lemont. It was the highest finish ever for the Friars, who were denied a shot at the state title thanks to a 2-1 semifinal loss to eventual champion Chatham Glenwood.
Watson said 2014 promises to be a challenging year as the Friars graduated five seniors who are now playing in college. But 14 players return from last year's 20-6-4 squad, including six starters.
Seniors Caroline Murphy, Nora Madden, Momo Chapa, Jackie Mannion, Ashley Beth and Analisa Morales will lead the way for the Friars, who return 37 percent of their offensive production. Murphy, a forward, is the top returning scorer having found the back of the net nine times last year, while Madden had five goals and four assists.
Murphy and Madden have already combined for three game-winning goals this year as Fenwick is off to a 4-1 start, including three 1-0 victories. Murphy scored the only goal in a win over Bolingbrook, while Madden did the same to Lincoln-Way West. Newcomer Meredith Green tallied the only goal in a 1-0 season-opening defeat of Leyden.
Mannion, a midfielder, returns after notching five goals and five assists last year and she is joined by sophomore Colette Jaslowski, who is coming off a five-goal, three-assist rookie campaign.
"Jaslowski was a starter last year as a freshman and will rank as a top player in our area for the next three years," Watson said.
Sophomores Caitlin Josephs, Moira Hillsman and Maura Mullen, who was brought up for the state finals last year, are also expected to make an impact. Josephs already has as she and Murphy scored in Saturday's 2-0 win over Willowbrook in the third place game of the Windy City Classic at Toyota Park.
In the early going, however, it has been defense that has carried the Friars. They have yet to allow a goal in 420 minutes of action as the back line led by Chapa, senior Ashley Beth and juniors Sydney Jensen and Rylee Brennan has been superb.
Fenwick's only defeat was a 1-0 loss to Glenbard East on penalty kicks in the semifinals of the Windy City Classic. Watson said the cold weather, which has limited outdoor practice time, has prevented the Friars from perfecting their offense, but he has been pleased with his squad's effort.
"The team is playing well and responding well to the difficulties they have faced with the weather," Watson said. "We are very excited with our start, but the team knows there is a lot of work to be done."
The Friars, who travel to crosstown rival Oak Park-River Forest on April 2 for a 6 p.m. game, again have a tough schedule that includes the prestigious Pepsi Showdown, which begins April 12 at Olympic Park in Schaumburg, as well as the usual slate of games against East Suburban Catholic Conference foes. The toughest ESCC matches – against Benet, Carmel and Saint Viator, are all on the road
"Tough weather, tough schedule and we have some rebuilding from last year's epic season," Watson said. "We have a lot of work to do but we embrace the challenge and opportunity."