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Benet shows scoring muscle at Sandburg

By Matt Le Cren, 03/16/23, 10:45PM CDT


Redwings roll 7-0 in Wheaton North tournament match

ORLAND PARK – Keira Petrucelli is playing a new position for Benet this season.

So is Rachel Burns.

The results, though, have been awfully familiar.

The Redwings have picked up right where they left off in 2022, when they went 22-5 and finished second at the Class AA state finals.

Burns registered two goals and an assist and Petrucelli added a goal and assist Thursday night as Benet knocked off host Sandburg 7-0 in a Wheaton North Kickoff Tournament match.

Petrucelli’s goal, which came on the second shot of the game, was the game-winner. The sophomore, who has switched to the midfield, got the ball at the top of the circle, dribbled to her left into the box and rolled a sharp shot inside the right post at the 28:35 mark of the first half.

“Last year I played on the wing,” Petrucelli said. “This year I’m playing more up-top as one of the two attacking mids.

“Our coaches are looking for us to play more connected passes. I’m playing as more of one of the eights to try to help connect and play through-balls to people like Rachel.”

That’s what Petrucelli did when she set up Burns’ first goal, though it came from her old position. She raced up the right wing, got in behind the defense and found Burns lurking in space at the top of the box.

Burns buried a 17-yarder into the upper right corner with 5:17 to go before intermission.

“I had almost a breakaway, so I just took the ball up the line,” Petrucelli said. “I had a weird angle to the goal, and I saw Rachel was just in a really good pocket of space and was in a good spot to shoot.

“I pulled the ball back for her and trusted her to take a shot and finish.”

Burns and her teammates have done a lot of finishing so far. The Redwings (2-0-0) have scored 10 goals -- Burns and Johnna Caliendo have netted two each and six others have scored one.

Burns assisted on Benet’s third goal of the game when her long pass from the midfield released Anna Casmere for a breakaway strike at the 38:04 mark of the second half.

Less than five minutes later, Burns made it 4-0 with an unassisted goal. This time she cranked up her powerful left leg and drilled a 28-yarder into the teeth of the wind for a top-shelf – and top-notch – finish.

“They actually told me before the game, ‘OK, when we’re going this way, we have the wind so just take the long-range shots,’” Burns said. “I was like, ‘OK, I’ll go for it.’ The opportunity presented itself.

“I think (on the second one), we were kind of going against the wind, but I think it helped it. It kind of just batted the ball down. When I originally hit it, I thought it was going to go over, but it flew right under the crossbar.”

Burns, a senior and three-year starter, was more of a facilitator from the central midfield the past two seasons. She had nine goals and six assists as a sophomore, and followed that with seven goals and eight assists as a junior.

Those totals could soar this spring. Burns has moved to center forward, taking over for graduated star and two-time Chicagoland Soccer All-Stater Mariana Pinto, who produced 25 goals and 14 assists in 2022, leading the team in both categories.

But it’s not an exact match.

“Her role is a little different than Mariana’s,” Benet coach Gerard Oconer said. “The thing we like about Rachel at that spot is she’s so good at holding the ball and is such a good distributor from that spot.

“Obviously, Mariana was a pure, natural goal-scorer, but in our system we need Rachel to serve a different role from Mariana. You can see that our attack is so much more multi-faceted this year than it has been over the last couple years, where we’ve relied too much on a couple players.

“If you look at our goal-scorers from our first two games, it could be anybody. We just keep rotating and rotating, and there’s no drop-off.”

Indeed, Burns sat out the final 30 minutes after suffering what she said was a minor ankle injury, but the Redwings continued to dominate.

Sophomore Caliendo scored her second goal in as many games off an assist from junior Ashley Donovan with 18:06 remaining. Freshman Ivana Vukas, who assisted Petrucelli’s game-winner, followed with her first varsity strike off a Casmere feed at the 13:51 mark.

Sophomore Rania Fikri finished the scoring with 6:37 to go off a pass from senior Gabi DiMatteo.

Vukas and fellow rookie Annie Fitzgerald are the youngest players on the roster but are expected to make an impact right away.

“I think we haven’t seen all that they can do yet, but they’ve shown us a lot. I’m really excited to see more of them,” Burns said. “I think Ivana just started her scoring career today, and it’s time for Annie (Fitzgerald). She’s going to get it soon.”

Oconer concurred.

“They’re going to be dynamite for us over the next four years,” Oconer said. “If you’re going to make this team as a freshman and play significant minutes, you better be really good.”

The Redwings figure to be really good this year, and Burns will not be the only significant offensive threat. That diversified attack is what Oconer hopes will put his team over the top.

“A lot of our kids could have really big years and at the end of the day, we’re all trying to pull in the same direction,” Oconer said. “Team-wise, I don’t think any of these girls care who scores the goals or who gets the assists. They just want to win.

“After experiencing what it’s like to go downstate to play in the state championship game. I think they want to get over that last hurdle and finish the job.”

Burns is one of eight seniors for whom this is their final chance to capture a state title. She believes the Redwings have the talent to do it.

“I think our depth has never been this good before, and we’ve got a lot of people coming in,” Burns said. “It doesn’t matter if you start on the bench or you start on the field, everyone makes a contribution. I think that is the best position that we can put ourselves in to try to finally finish and win a state championship this year. Obviously, that’s what we’re going for.”

Starting lineups

GK: Shannon Ryan
D: Nora Hanson
D: Sadie Sterbenz
D: Gabbie Hedden
D: Bailey Abbott
M: Reese MacDonald
M: Rania Fikri
M: Keira Petrucelli
F: Rachel Burns
F: Ivana Vukas
F: Anna Casmere
GK: Claire Hildebrand
D: Janelle Carroll
D: Natalia Chowaniec
D: Marissa Manning
D: Ella Riordan
M: Gabriella Dittmer
M: Moira Conway
M: Grace Pittacora
F: Morgan Gallagher
F: Maeve Durkin
F: Brianna Pacella
Chicagoland Soccer MVP of the Match: Rachel Burns, sr., F, Benet

Scoring summary
First half
Benet – Keira Petrucelli (Ivana Vukas)          28:35 remaining
Benet – Rachel Burns (Petrucelli)       5:17 remaining
Second half
Benet – Anna Casmere (Rachel Burns)          38:04 remaining
Benet – Burns             33:10 remaining
Benet – Johnna Caliendo (Ashley Donovan) 18:06 remaining
Benet – Vukas (Casmere)        13:51 remaining
Benet – Rania Fikri (Gabi DiMatteo) 6:37 remaining