The Oak Park and River Forest High School Huskie Invitational, hosted by the field hockey team, Sept. 17 and 18, is one of the premier events in Illinois. This year’s event included Chicagoland powers Glenbard West, Lake Forest, and New Trier, in addition to schools from Michigan and Wisconsin.
The host Huskies posted a respectable 3-2 record, and head coach Kristin Wirtz feels her players improved by facing the elite competition.
“There are a lot of positive takeaways from this weekend,” she said. “We learned we can score on any team. We may not have won every game, but we did some really nice things.”
OPRF started Friday with a 3-1 loss to Pioneer (Michigan) followed by a 7-0 victory over Glenbard West.
On Saturday, the Huskies went 2-1 for the day, recording wins over Divine Savior Holy Angels (DSHA) of Wisconsin and Huron (Michigan), 2-0 and 2-1 respectively, then a hard-fought 2-1 loss to Lake Forest. In the match with DSHA, senior forward Audrey Glore tallied the only goals while senior goalkeeper Julia Maldonado secured the shutout.
“We definitely improved from the last invite,” said OPRF senior defender Shealy Callahan. “We like playing super-competitive teams; it gets us ready for the better teams in our conference.”
“There was a lot of playing time,” added sophomore forward Eva O’Keefe, who scored twice during the invitational. “Considering that we’ve been playing a lot of the same teams, it was nice to play [against] new girls.”
OPRF has a very experienced team, with 16 seniors on the roster. Glore is the Huskies’ leading goal-scorer with nine for the season. Senior forward Hailey Nowak (4 goals, 3 assists) and Tiala Ortega have been a strong attacking group in Wirtz’s estimation.
Callahan headlines a solid defensive group, along with classmates Halle Ridgen and Cate Barkdoll, who is the starting goalkeeper. The midfielders, including junior Katie Golla and seniors Greta McNulty and Ella Kuenster have also played a role in OPRF’s success this season.
“We have a lot of depth, which is really good for us,” Wirtz said. “We have a lot of tough games coming up in the next couple of weeks, and this was good preparation for them. I’m looking forward to what happens with the rest of the season because I think we’re going to get some big wins.”
Scoring can be hard to come by when two highly-talented teams meet, making those opportunities to put points on the board critically important. Wirtz feels the Huskies can do a better job of maximizing their chances, and it’s an area they’ll focus on in the next few weeks.
“We need to work on finishing inside the circle,” she said. “We’re creating opportunities for ourselves, but I’d like to see more goals come off of them. We’re also still working on using more of the outside lanes and being intentional with them.”
Callahan is also optimistic about OPRF’s chances the rest of the season if the Huskies bear down late in close contests.
“I think we can compete with any team, and it all comes down to that last push, whether it’s getting that final goal or saving the last shot,” Callahan said.