Fenwick junior midfielder Grace Kapsch is one of the few returning players from last year’s soccer team that finished fourth in IHSA Class 2A for the program’s second state trophy.
Having lost 11 players from that squad, the Friars figured to be in for some bumpy times and they dropped their first four matches. But Fenwick seems to be slowly rounding into form, if a convincing 5-2 victory over Girls Catholic Athletic Conference rival Providence Catholic on May 4 at the Fenwick Priory in River Forest is any indication.
“I definitely think we’re starting to jell at the right time,” said Kapsch, who had a natural hat trick in the second half to break things open. “We started off a little slow, but we’re picking it up. We’ve tied some really good teams lately, and I think we’re going to make a good state run.”
Despite missing a few players due to injuries, Fenwick (4-9-4) largely controlled the play, particularly in the first half when the Friars kept Providence (6-14-1) hemmed in on its side of the pitch. Celtics goalkeeper Janet Vinci stood tall early on and made a pair of nice saves.
But Fenwick finally broke through with the first goal of the match coming in the 16th minute when junior defender and co-captain Maddie Rogowski fed a streaking Mia Cello over the middle. The senior midfielder’s shot beat Vinci and gave the Friars a 1-0 lead.
Almost nine minutes later, Fenwick doubled its advantage when junior midfielder Susy Shank picked up a loose ball and shot past Vinci’s right side.
“I had a breakaway in the middle, and I just decided to take it down because I saw some open space,” Shank said. “I did a few moves around some defenders, and it was just me and the goalie. I knew that I could just kick it to one of the corners, and I just took the shot.”
Shank, who played her freshman season at Oak Park and River Forest High School, has felt welcome by the crosstown rival Friars. But she also appreciates spending time with both schools.
“Both programs are super strong and have great teams,” she said. “I have nothing bad to say about OPRF, and it was to see them again when we played earlier this year. It was nice to see familiar faces, and it was a good game.”
After deferring to the six seniors who started on Senior Day, Kapsch took over in the second half. In the 44th minute, junior midfielder Fiona Roche streaked down the right side and fed Kapsch in the middle of the box. Kapsch easily beat Vinci for a 3-0 Fenwick lead.
Just over five minutes later, Kapsch found a loose ball, danced around a couple of Providence defenders, and rocketed the ball in for a 4-0 Friars advantage.
Kapsch completed her hat trick in the 62nd minute when she took a feed from senior midfielder Katie Buckley and scored into the left side of the net. It was her second hat trick of the season as she scored all of Fenwick’s goals in a 3-0 victory March 30 at Chicago University High.
“It felt really good,” said Kapsch, who has a team-leading 12 goals this spring. “I thought in the first half I was a little slow. I was taking some bad touches, trying to get my senior teammates to score. Then in the second half, I took my own shots, and it worked out.”
Shank feels Fenwick is prepared to have a good finish to the regular season and carry the momentum into the playoffs.
“The thing we need to work on is holding it defensively while also building our offense,” she said. “We have a real good back line, but we need to work on getting those goals in and getting wins instead of ties.”
Fenwick has its regular season finale against visiting Nazareth Academy on May 11.