WHEATON – Paige Chrustowski didn’t wait long to start the 2023 season off on the right foot.
The St. Francis junior scored 11 seconds into Tuesday’s season-opener against Montini. It was merely the first blow of a 7-0 rout at frigid Kuhn Memorial Stadium.
Fans were still walking to their seats when Chrustowski made a steal and then a beeline to the Montini net.
“They played a ball back and the kid just kind of mistouched it,” St. Francis coach Jim Winslow said. “Paige was right there, recognized it, poached it right away and then walked in with the keeper and scored.”
Montini kicked off and decided to pass the ball back, a move which Chrustowski anticipated.
“Oh, yeah,” Chrustowski said. “I guess we just pushed up fast, and they weren’t expecting us to come up as fast.
“We were all there. (The defender) just back-passed it and stumbled over it, so I got it and was able to score.”
It was the first of two goals for Chrustowski, the Chicagoland Soccer MVP of the Match, but she wasn’t the only Spartan who played well. Six players scored for St. Francis. Goalkeeper Hannah Blaha, one of two seniors in the starting lineup, made four saves.
Blaha missed all of last season with a torn ACL. She was one of many players to miss significant time with injuries, which severely hampered the Spartans in 2022.
“Last year, we took our lumps,” Winslow said. “Hannah was out. Paige played the first two games and then was out. Sophia (Roszkowski) played the first two games and then was out.
“When you coach long enough, you’re going to have one of those (seasons) where things go against you.
“The perk was all the kids who were sophomores last year got a ton of time and the kids who were freshmen, all those guys got a ton of time. It made a big difference for those kids.”
Chrustowski and Roszkowski both missed several weeks while injured, but they are healthy and raring to go now. They spent the time on the bench wisely.
“I think it was really big that we were able to build last year,” Chrustowski said. “With Soph and I both being hurt, we were able to really focus on getting to know everyone, so I think that helped when we got back on the field.”
Chrustowski is a Division I prospect who is in her third season on varsity. She is the Spartans’ go-to offensive threat but far from their only one.
Fellow junior Roszkowski can rack up goals and assists. She had the prettiest goal of the night when she got the ball with her back to the net just inside the top of the 18, turned and fired a liner inside the right post with 2:21 left in the first half.
That completed a sequence that saw the Spartans score on three-consecutive shots in a span of five minutes to open up a 4-0 lead.
“She’s very good,” Winslow said. “When she keeps it simple and does things like that, she can be brilliant. She’s just got to keep that in mind and not get frustrated.”
Roszkowski didn’t expect to score on the play.
“I surprised myself with that one,” Roszkowski said. “I wasn’t really sure where I was going with that, but it worked out.”
The late flurry in the first half saw Olivia Basel and Clare Andrzejewski find the back of the net 57 seconds apart. It broke open what had been a close game.
Montini, which finished third in Class A last spring, mustered only six shots for the match, but five were on frame, including all three attempts in the first half.
Blaha stopped a 28-yard free kick from St. Mary’s recruit Maren Hoovel at the 21:30 mark. She made a smart diving save on Avery Lucatorto’s 27-yard drive two minutes later to preserve a 1-0 lead.
“I think that when it was 1-0 for a while, we just kind of fumbled a lot of easy things,” Chrustowski said. “Once we regained control, we were just able to find each other’s feet, and I think we work best when we just pass it around.”
The Spartans did a lot of that in the second half. Montini goalkeepers Lauren Mellish and Honor Snell combined to make seven saves, but it wasn’t enough to fend off St. Francis.
Allie Bielenda and Chrustowski scored four minutes apart early in the second half, before freshman Sasha Roszkowski capped the scoring off a pass from senior Elise Ward at the 21:20 mark, which cut the remaining time in half.
Winslow warned that the Spartans will take their lumps in the next few weeks as the competition ramps up. The span includes games against Naperville Central, Libertyville, Evanston and Naperville North, but the players are excited about the possibilities.
Sophia Roszkowski is looking to reprise her role from last season while hoping to remain injury-free.
“I obviously distribute a lot more with just getting up, helping connect in the attacking third and finishing or helping people finish their opportunities,” she said. “I think we have more success when we do that.
“We’re reenergized, and we’re ready to go.”
GK: Lauren Mellish
D: Marin Ferris
D: Lucy Pacelli
D: Ashlinn O’Brien
M: Annalee DeFeo
M: Naomy Gonzalez
M: Peyton Farrell
M: Avery Lucatorto
M: Jillian Parrilli
F: Sophia Cetrone
F: Maren Hoovel
GK: Hannah Blaha
D: Alyssa Suriano
D: Stephanie Sullivan
D: Ada Suriano
M: Olivia Basel
M: Shannon Brown
M: Sophia Roszkowski
M: Clare Andrzejewski
F: Ellie Bielenda
F: Ella Wosniak
F: Paige Chrutowski
Chicagoland Soccer MVP of the Match: Paige Chrustowski, jr., F, St. Francis
SF: Paige Chrustowski (unassisted), 39:49 remaining
SF: Olivia Basel (unassisted), 7:18 remaining
SF: Clare Andrzejewski (unassisted), 6:21 remaining
SF: Sophia Roszkowski (unassisted), 2:13 remaining
SF: Ellie Bielenda (unassisted), 37:28 remaining
SF: Chrustowski (unassisted), 33:27 remaining
SF: Rose Chrustowski (Elise Ward) 21:20 remaining