By Marty Farmer
Any concerns of a soccer "hangover" for the Fenwick girls soccer team after their disappointing 2-1 loss to eventual state champion Glenwood in the Class 2A State semifinals didn't surface in the Friars' third-place match against Lemont on Saturday.
Instead, the rejuvenated Friars performed to rave reviews in their 1-0 win over the Indians en route to the best finish (boys or girls) in Fenwick soccer history. The Friars finished 20-6-4 on the spring.
"There were a lot of tears but we knew we had to bounce back," said midfielder Cali Pyzdrowski about the Friars' semifinal loss. "No boys or girls team in Fenwick history has ever finished third in the state so we knew we had to bring it [today]."
Pyzdrowski scored the game's lone goal against Lemont with 34:18 remaining when the senior kicked in a rebound shot off Maddie Stupinksi's header which hit the right post.
"I literally feel like I run around [the field] all the time," Pyzdrowski said, "so when you're right in front of the goal, you've just got to put it away."
Freshman Colette Jaslowski initiated the game-winning play on a well-placed corner kick.
"We just wanted to win so much and we played with a lot of heart," Jaslowski said. "We're a great team with a lot of strong players. I think everybody felt we came too far [this season] not to place at state."
The goal, Pyzdrowski's eighth of the season, capped off a stellar senior campaign after opting to play club soccer the previous three seasons. She will play college soccer at Marquette next season.
"I'm so happy that I made the decision to play high school," she said. "It was really fun and a great way to end my senior year."
Defensively, Fenwick goalie Jesse Cwik had five saves against Lemont.
"Jesse was phenomenal all year for us," Fenwick coach Robert Watson said. "This was Jesse and Cali's first year playing high school soccer, so they were both huge additions. Aside from being very athletic, Jesse is as tough as nails."
The Friars will lose 13 seniors to graduation, notably Bridget Hillsman who missed the state finals due to a couple of concussions she suffered over the past month. Hillsman, who will play college soccer at Providence, finished with a team-high 14 goals and dished out eight assists this season.
"It's been an amazing year," Hillsman said. "Honestly, I couldn't have dreamed a better end to my high school career. The girls on our team are like my family and our soccer kept getting better. [Today] is a bittersweet ending to a perfect year."
In addition to Hillsman's offensive firepower, Lauren Frank (10 goals, six assists), Caroline Murphy (nine goals), Pyzdrowksi (eight goals, four assists), and Emily McGann (six goals, 10 assists) sparked the Friars' diversified attack.
Cwik only allowed 22 goals in 23 games. Momo Chapa, Lizzie Cusick, Sydney Jensen, Kelly Collins, Ashley Beth, and Mimi Payne anchored the Friars' stingy defense, which collaborated with Cwik and fellow goalie Caroline Knight to record 12 saves this season.
"It's a nice way to finish the season," Watson said. "I've coached eight seasons with the [Fenwick] boys and three seasons with the [Fenwick] girls teams. This is the first time we didn't end the season with a loss so it's nice to go out smiling.
While Watson raved about his team's character and chemistry, the third-year head coach couldn't help but wonder "what if" the Friars had Hillsman in the lineup against Glenwood.
"I would like to play that semifinal again at full strength," Watson said, "but we tip our cap to Glenwood which is a great team. You never want to see kids get hurt and losing a player of Bridgett's caliber is tough. I think it says a lot about the character of our team that we played so well without our first-team all-state striker and primary goal scorer.
Looking ahead to next spring, the Friars return several key varsity players, notably Jaslowski, Chapa, Jensen, Murphy and forward Nora Madden.
"Our sophomore girls team won the East Suburban Catholic Conference title and our freshmen girls team went undefeated," Watson said. "Our boys team made it to a supersectional and we finished third in the state. We've been talking for several years on how to raise the bar for Fenwick soccer, and I think we've accomplished that goal."