Loyola tops Young
in long-awaited return to pitch
Junior class sparks Ramblers 2-1 victory
By Michael Wojtychiw
GLENVIEW -- Six hundred and ninety eight days.
That's how long it had been since Loyola had taken to the pitch. That changed Thursday evening, however, when the Ramblers welcomed Young to their Munz Campus in Glenview.
"It's unbelievable, such a great feeling to be back on the field," Loyola's Kendall Beil said. "Playing for your school, playing for your teammates, there was undoubtedly great energy. You could feel it in the crowd and everybody on the bench."
The wait to take the pitch following the Loyola boys 3-0 win over St. Ignatius was well worth it for the girls version of the Ramblers soccer program. A goal with 26 minutes, 47 seconds remaining from junior forward Beil gave Loyola, ranked 13th in the Chicagoland Soccer First 50 state-wide preseason poll, the 2-1 win over the no. 16 visitors.
"It's all kind of a blur," she said. "We played a great ball. I got a great pass from Kaitlyn Kurtz, and I just tapped it in. My team did the rest for me. I just had to get it done -- it was a perfectly placed ball. The goalie had a great initial save, but I was there to tap it in."
The two schools have some huge differences between them, the biggest is that Young is a public school in Chicago and Loyola is a private school in the suburbs. One thing that the two definitely have in common is their roster makeup.
The Ramblers lineup is made up of all juniors and sophomores except for lone senior Eleanor Jackson. The Dolphins are made up of 10 juniors, three freshman, a sophomore and six seniors. Five of the 16 Loyola juniors and three of the 10 Dolphin juniors played up at the varsity level as freshmen for valuable experience in their first high school seasons.
"The girls have recognized that they're providing the core leadership, along with our one senior, Eleanor Jackson," Loyola manager Shannon Hartinger said. "Both on and off the field, they've really embraced the new players, last year virtually and now this year in person.
"They've definitely understood that their role is more leadership now. And they've all stepped up in different ways. Some are more vocal leaders, some with their hard work and some with a combination of the two. But they all bring something different to the group and have done a really nice job of stepping in."
A melding is also occuring for Young.
"On any team I've played on and now that I'm coaching, what I find is that roles change," Dolphins manager Ross LaBeaux said. "Maybe when you're a freshman, people doubt you a little bit, but roles change. For our freshmen, they had to learn real quick and early.
"But they've now become the leaders of our team, the ones the other girls are looking to."
Even though the juniors have only played on the varsity level for a year thanks to the coronavirus pandemic wiping out the 2020 season, that experience helped them grow from wide-eyed freshmen to veteran leaders
"It's been kind of crazy how it's changed," Young's Ella Koleno said. "My twin sister Sydney, Alexis (Sassower) and I, we were the three freshmen and to go an entire year without playing any games to now suddenly being the leaders, a captain, a junior, it's been pretty crazy.
"It's been easy to adjust though. It's a great team. It's crazy, because we lose like half our players from 2019 so you have to adjust, but it's a great feeling to be back with a great team."
Ehlert, in a way, echoed Koleno's sentiments.
"Coming in freshman year, we were more shy and timid," she said. "Now that we're upperclassmen, even though we've only played a year, we've grown into those leadership roles. I think that's because we have some experience, we're able to help the sophomores, because they haven't even had a season yet.
"It's good that we have that, and we can lead them with energy and kind of teach them the ropes if we need to."
Loyola midfielder Grace Ehlert, who along with Jackson serve as the Loyola captains, got the home team on the board early when she snuck in to head home a corner from Emily Pikarski past Young keeper Zoe Adelstein with just under 10 minutes left in the half.
"We had a corner and Emily (Pikarski) played a great ball," Ehlert said. "It was kind of between the PK spot and goal line, a great spot. I was able to get away from my defender and head it in with the side of my head. I saw it go past the goalie and knew we were off to a good start.
"It just felt good to get the first goal of the year and get that momentum."
Young's best chance in the first half came with about three minutes remaining when Ella Koleno went toward the goal but came away empty.
Koleno, who led the Dolphins in goals as a freshman with 21, knocked in the Dolphins' first tally about six-and-a-half minutes into the second half, clearing up a ball in the box.
"The ball deflected off of a defender to me and really all I did was put it in the upper corner with my right foot," Koleno said. "It was a great original free kick by Alexis (Sassower), the perfect spot and I was there."
Koleno's goal made Beil's heroics possible nearly seven minutes later.
"I think you saw a little bit of jitters at first, nervousness," Beil said. "Young has a tough team, really scrappy. But once we settled down, started playing the way we play, it was all we could ask for."
Even though his squad came up on the short side, LaBeaux was happy with his squad.
"It was a good game between two good teams," he said. "I thought we had a little bit of the game; they had a bit of the game. Overall, I'm proud of the girls.
"It's never going to be perfect, but as long as we can progress and learn from our mistakes and keep it moving ahead, what's nice is we've got another game to keep it moving and improving."
Hartinger was equally pleased, especially after playing on the faster surface at the Munz Campus. During the 2019 season, the team played at the football stadium on the school's campus in Wilmette, but luckily for the Ramblers, turf practice makes perfect.
"It's awesome to be back," Hartinger said. "From day one, when we were able to get the girls together, it was just an excitement of being able to play.
"The biggest difference between the field here and the stadium is how fast this turf is. In training, we try to replicate game conditions as much as possible so we can deal with the turf and how the turf plays. We're lucky we can train here when we do host games so we can be prepared."
This weekend the Dolphins take part in the PepsiCo Showdown and open with a game against Plainfield South on Saturday. The Ramblers face off with Evanston in a nonconference match that same day.
GK: Zoe Adelstein
D: Elena Nevins
D: Chloe Garton
D: Elizabeth Martinez
D: Celeste Garton
MF: Sydney Koleno
MF: Alexis Sassower
MF: Annelise Kelner
F: Maisy Connolly
F: Ella Koleno
F: Lauren Roche
GK: Clare Sanders
D: Molly Sipe
D: Emily Pikarski
D: Maya Basan
D: Eleanor Jackson
MF: Grace Ehlert
MF: Isabella Guzman
MF: Eva Pattison
F: Kathryn Diblik
F: Kaitlyn Kurtz
F: Emmy Christopher
Chicagoland Soccer MVP of the Match: Kendall Beil, junior, F, Loyola
Loyola - Grace Ehlert (Emily Pikarski), 31st minute
Young - Ella Koleno (unassisted), 47th minute
Loyola - Kendall Beil, 53rd minute