The Fenwick High School girls soccer team is all smiles with the IHSA Class 2A De La Salle Sectional championship trophy May 27. The Friars defeated Payton Prep 4-1 to win their second consecutive sectional title. | Melvin Tate

With the loss of 11 players from last season, which ended with a fourth-place finish in the IHSA Class 2A state tournament, it stood to reason that the Fenwick High School girls soccer team would experience a few bumps as new players were introduced to the squad. 

But the early season trials are starting to pay dividends for the Friars, who claimed back-to-back sectional titles with a 4-1 victory over Payton Prep at De La Salle on May 27. 

“It feels really great, especially with losing all the seniors from last year,” said Fenwick sophomore Grace Kapsch, who scored a goal and had two assists. “We had something to prove, and I think we did a great job as a team.” 

Borrowing a moniker from the football team, Fenwick (8-9-5) started fast, scoring just 26 seconds into the match when sophomore Kiera Mullarkey took a feed from Kapsch and buried it past Payton goalkeeper Chloe Guzik for the first of her two goals. 

“It was really important and got our energy up,” Mullarkey said.  

About a minute later, Ajla Gradjan got the equalizer for the Grizzlies (11-9-1). But the Friars responded with two goals in the next six minutes, one by Susie Shank, the other by Mullarkey. 

“Unbelievable,” said Fenwick coach Craig Blazer. “To settle in and get more after that, it was a terrific start.” 

In the 35th minute, Kapsch took a pass from Alex Ballinger and, after breaking away from the Payton backline, rocketed a shot past Guzik for a 4-1 lead. 

From there, Fenwick relied on solid defense to thwart the Grizzlies the rest of the way.  

“We showed some maturity and played safety-first in the back,” Blazer said. “Leah [Hyland] did a great job as our goalkeeper, as did Ellie [Dvorak], Maddie [Rogowski], Kiera [Kapsch], Lola [Martinez], and Kiera [Mullarkey]. They were smart back there.” 

The victory advanced the Friars to the IHSA Class 2A De La Salle Supersectional on May 30, after Wednesday Journal’s print deadline. Fenwick meets the host Meteors in a rematch from last year, which saw the Friars prevail on penalty kicks. 

The two teams played to a 1-1 draw April 25 in what Kapsch described as a physical contest. She believes more of the same is likely to happen, especially with a trip downstate at stake. 

“We need to carry over the way we played today,” she said. “We were also missing Susie the last time we played, and she’s a big part of our team.” 

“We’re definitely going to have to play really hard,” Mullarkey said. “We know what [De La Salle’s] strengths are and we know how to break their defense. It’s a matter of us staying focused and playing together.” 

The winner moves on to the IHSA Class 2A semifinals on June 2 at North Central College in Naperville. 

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