By Marty Farmer
Entering Saturday's showdown against Class 2A defending state champion St. Francis, the Fenwick girls soccer team was well aware that the Spartans had allowed only four goals this season.
That stingy goals allowed total increased to five, as Fenwick sent St. Francis spiraling out of the playoffs with a 1-0 win in the championship game of the Riverside-Brookfield Sectional. In a classic battle between state contenders, the No. 1 sectional seed ultimately trumped the defending state champs.
"St. Francis is a very good team," Fenwick coach Robert Watson said, "but in no way, shape or form did we feel like underdogs. It was a very good game to watch.
"I've said all year long that I really like my team, especially if we are healthy and playing unselfishly as a team. We weren't always at full strength and had some bumps [during the season], but I think we have great chemistry and energy now."
Cali Pyzdrowski sailed a free kick from midfield that bounced off the crossbar. Opportunistic teammate Sydney Jensen headed the loose ball right into the net with 5 minutes and 15 seconds left in the game. The Friars' goal, which came off a set piece, lifted them to their first sectional title since 2004. That season, Fenwick took fourth in state.
Defensively, Fenwick held the Spartans in check as goalie Jesse Cwik had seven saves. Both teams had three shots on goal in the opening half; however, the Friars picked their offensive pressure with significantly more shots on goal than the Spartans in the second half.
Fenwick (18-5-4) was scheduled to face Payton in the Romeoville Supersectional at Lewis University May 28 (after deadline) with a trip to state at stake.
"We're playing in the Elite Eight with a chance to go to state," Watson said. "I'm hoping the motivation [factor] obviously will take care of itself."
The Friars will miss the services of star striker Bridget Hillsman against the Grizzlies in the next round of the playoffs. Hillsman, who suffered a concussion earlier this season against Trinity, was injured during the St. Francis game.
"Bridget is a senior captain and our leader in goals, assists and points so it's a tough loss," Watson said. "We're not sure when she will be back, but everybody else is going to have step it up even more."
After closing out the regular season in disappointing fashion with consecutive home losses to Carmel and St. Viator, the Friars have caught fire in the postseason. En route to their regional and sectional titles, Fenwick has won four games in a row, outscoring the opposition 21-1.