Although the weather on April 4 was cloudy and cool, Fenwick and Riverside-Brookfield engaged in a high-spirited high school girls soccer game at the Dominican Priory in River Forest.
In the latest installment of the area rivalry, the Friars emerged with a 2-0 win over the Bulldogs. The victory was particularly impressive given that Fenwick (4-3) hadn't played since March 23 due to spring break.
"It was a pretty well-played game," Fenwick coach Rob Watson said. "These are two good local teams and a lot of the girls play club together. I thought in the first half we had a little bit of trouble communicating, but we sorted a couple of things out at halftime and settled down. We put on a good performance in the second half. Getting a 2-0 win against that team is really good."
"I'm excited to get this win," added senior co-captain/midfielder Anissa Nourse, a DePauw recruit. "In the first half, we really weren't into it mentally as a team, but we came together in the second half. We talked about the mistakes we made and came out hungrier."
Both teams displayed tremendous speed defensively in a scoreless first half. Fenwick had the best scoring opportunity in the closing minutes, but RBHS goalkeeper Moira Ford stopped a point-blank shot.
The Friars broke the ice about eight minutes into the second half when sophomore midfielder Emi Kapusta scored a goal off a set piece. On a free kick, Nourse passed the ball to Kapusta, who took a couple of steps and fired from about 20 yards out to beat Ford.
With just under 12 minutes left in the game, the Bulldogs (5-3-2) had a golden chance to even the score, but a shot was saved by Fenwick freshman goalkeeper Audrey Hinrichs. Then with just over five minutes remaining, the Friars put the game away on a goal by sophomore forward Juliana Giuffre, with Nourse notching her second assist of the game. Junior Mary Heneghan and Hinrichs combined for four saves in recording the shutout.
With 15 players back from last season's team which finished 14-4-4 and lost to eventual Class 2A champion St. Francis in a sectional final, Fenwick appears poised to have a highly successful 2019 campaign. According to Watson and Nourse, the elements needed in order to make such a season a reality are in place.
"We're focused on improving every day and staying healthy," Watson said. "We're off to a good start, but we just try to focus on getting better each day. We're not going to look ahead or behind. We've got good energy and hunger. I like the way they're approaching the games. I'm very happy with our kids because they're not only working hard, but they're smart. They're doing everything right on and off the field."
"We've had two tough losses (a pair of 1-0 decisions) that easily could've been wins," Nourse added. "Those were hard for us, but we're just getting started. We're just taking each game at a time."
Another reason for optimism regarding Fenwick is depth. Nourse is the Friars' top returning scorer having tallied 16 goals and 11 assists in 2018 while meriting all-Girls Catholic Athletic Conference and all-sectional honors. Senior co-captain and defender Regan Hultquist was also named to the all-GCAC team. Senior co-captain and defender Margaux Shearer, along with juniors Sheila Hogan and Lily Reardon (3 goals, 4 assists in just seven games in 2018), lend additional veteran leadership.
"The discipline of our team is very intense," Shearer said. "I think our team's strengths are communicating and making decisions as one unit. The coaches have installed a love for the game within us. They make us want to win, but more importantly wear the (Fenwick) shield while doing so.
"We had a lot of individual potential last season," she added. "I think one of our faults was not executing this gift enough, and therefore failing to reach our potential. This year we are presented with the same circumstance, although with a stronger mindset installed by (Coach) Watson, I think we are going to achieve much more."
There are also several promising players on the roster. In addition to aforementioned sophomores Giuffre and Kapusta, other potential contributors include junior defender Jacqueline McMahon, sophomore defender Courtney Youngerman, sophomore forward Grace McCann, freshman midfielder Kate Henige and freshman midfielder/defender Emily Ortiz.
"Our strength is depth," Watson said. "We have 28 players on the roster. What we will work on is maintaining our health, improving our fitness level, coming together as a team and improving each day. Chemistry and communication are vital to our success."
Fenwick will need all hands on deck to deal with its challenging schedule. After finishing fifth in the Windy City Challenge earlier this season, the Friars began defense of their PepsiCo Invitational championship over the weekend. Considered to be the premier in-season tournament in Illinois, many of the state's top players and teams will take part.
"It was great to win it last year, and if we're lucky enough to get in that position again, great," said Watson, in his ninth season as the Friars' coach. "We enjoy playing (in the PepsiCo); it's a great tournament. (Tournament Director) Joe Trost does a great job putting on not only a good soccer tournament but also an experience for our kids. They do a lot in the community and there's a lot of charity work."
In addition to the PepsiCo Invitational, the Friars will face serious challengers in the GCAC Red. Loyola, Mother McAuley and St. Ignatius are all perennially strong teams that will vie for the title along with Fenwick.
The Friars also have their annual game against crosstown rival OPRF on May 4.
"The start of our season comes insanely quick, especially with tournaments like The Windy City and PepsiCo," Shearer said. "Despite the rushed feeling, I think this type of schedule pushes us to come together as a team. The charge of the season truly never stops until our last game.
"The rivalry between Fenwick and OPRF is one I live for," she added. "I am proud to say that I have a set playlist strictly titled 'beat OP' that we play on the way over to OPRF stadium."
Answer Book 2019
To view the full print edition of the Wednesday Journal 2019 Answer Book, please click here.
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