skip navigation

Swicionis holds line, Riverside-Brookfield holds off Lake Park

By Bill Stone, 03/22/23, 11:49PM CDT


Bulldogs survive late Lancers surge for 1-0 tourney win

GLEN ELLYN -- Senior Sophie Swicionis is part of another strong, veteran defensive line for Riverside-Brookfield.

She went above and beyond Wednesday to maintain the Bulldogs’ third shutout this season.

The outside defender’s acrobatics just in front of the goal line prevented the ball from crossing with less than five minutes remaining. It was among numerous late plays that secured Riverside-Brookfield’s 1-0 victory over Lake Park in the second round of the four-team Raider Invitational at Glenbard South.

“I was just trying to stay goal-side of my girl, and I was just in the right place at the right time,” said Swicionis, the Chicagoland Soccer MVP of the Match. “(The ending) was nerve-wracking. 

“I think all of us lose a little bit of composure at the end. Only one (goal ahead), we want to try and keep that, and they really brought their best right at the end. 

“We’ve just got to keep our heads in it and stay calm and play like we did the whole time and maybe we won’t be so stressed out at the end.”

The Bulldogs can clinch the title in the round-robin event Thursday with a win in the 4:30 p.m. game over the host Raiders (2-2-0), who are 1-1-0 in the competition. Glenbard South scored with two seconds left to topple Montini 3-2 in Wednesday’s nightcap.

Riverside-Brookfield (4-2-0) defeated Montini 2-0 Monday. Lake Park (3-2-0) plays Montini in Thursday’s second game; the Lancers beat Glenbard South 1-0 Monday.

Junior Niamh Larson was credited with the game’s only score. It was an own-goal with 28:50 left in the first half that occurred after her header hit the right post.

It’s been an exhilarating and exhausting stretch for the Bulldogs, who will play their seventh game in eight days Thursday. They are concurrently participating in Reavis’ Windy City Ram Classic. 

“We’ve been playing almost every day now,” Larson said. “We’re pretty exhausted, but it’s better to get these games started because throughout the season we’ll be better for conference.”

Late in the game a near-goal energized Lake Park. After pressuring but having few scoring chances, the Lancers rained several attempts on the Riverside-Brookfield goal in the final minutes as a steady drizzle began to wet the artificial surface field.

Both of the Lancers’ losses have been by shutout.

“We definitely had our opportunities. Now we just need to put them in the back of the net,” first-year Lake Park coach Caroline Kilrea said.

“Riverside-Brookfield, their defense, fought to the end. They kept it off of the line. We’ve got some work to do. That’s for sure.

“They had a couple of opportunities, and they did what we couldn’t do. They put one away, even if it was our error. At the end of the day, they outplayed us in the first half. We came back, though. We didn’t get down. I praise my girls for that, but we’ve got some work to do to avoid situations like this. 

“It’s definitely a tough one, especially because we know we could have won. We know we could have played better.”

The Lancers initiated their best scoring chance with senior central defender Gianna Kubica’s free kick from 25 yards to the right of the goal. After Kubica placed the ball into the crease, the service was knocked around in a battle for the ball. The last touch was about to go in until Swicionis intervened.

“I was kind of surprised (I stopped it),” Swicionis said. “It was really close, and I know it was past our goalie (Piper Blair). It was very nerve-wracking and I kind of feel like I wasn’t thinking about it. It just kind of happened, just instinct.”

It went down as a very near miss for Lake Park 

“I was hoping to get it in the net or at least a body on it. It bounced around back there for a little bit, but unfortunately it didn’t go in,” Kubica said. “I don’t know if it was off their team. I didn’t really have a good view. It bounced around. I was just hoping it would go in.”

Soon afterward, Lake Park junior Kira Holliday started with her back to the goal and put a shot just wide. With just more than a minute left, Lauren Malone fed Miliana Positano for a center-crease blast from the 20 that required Blair to make a great leg save. A follow-up by Malone in traffic was blocked before Blair pounced on the ball.

The Lancers rushed to take their sixth corner kick, and fifth of the second half, as time expired.

“(The end) was stressful for no reason. I feel like we were panicking. We had a lot of opportunities up-top (earlier). I honestly thought we should have won by more,” said Riverside-Brookfield senior stopper Lena Lembcke.

“(The Swicionis save) was insane. I thought that for sure was going to be a goal. She scooped it out of the back. (On Blair’s save), she just put her whole body out there and didn’t care. She was going straight for the ball.”

Lembcke agreed most of the first half belonged to her Bulldogs.

They had the lone three shots on goal besides the decisive play.

The game-winner came after junior midfielder Hazel Hall made a diagonal cross into the crease to find Larson. She hit a solid header that struck the right post and then angled toward the crease. As a Lake Park defender rushed to clear, she inadvertently knocked the ball into the net.

“Technically an own-goal, but I’ll take the credit for that,” said Larson as she laughed.

“For sure, I was in the right spot at the right time so it worked my way. It kind of happens, not a lot in soccer, but there’s … times the defender kicks it in. But it’s never happened to me before.”

The Bulldogs graduated only four players from last season’s 11-10-3 that shared the Metro Suburban Conference Blue Division title with a 5-1 record (there are no ties in league play) with St. Francis and Wheaton Academy.

As the no. 10 seed, they gave an inspired performance on their home field before losing to Hinsdale Central on penalty kicks in the Class 3A regional semifinals.

But the graduations were significant. Goalie Reagan Perschke earned all-sectional honors and Carmen Guerrero was all-conference.

Amanda DiForti also would have been a key component but was lost to a knee injury.

However, there are accomplished players who remain. Jessica Sharenow was all-sectional honorable mention, and Lembcke served as a team captain as a junior. They, Hall and senior midfielder Nina Bretz were all-conference.

That leadership helped the Bulldogs survive the Lancers – and weather the storm – Wednesday.

“It was definitely hard to communicate back there, because everyone was doing their own thing. (Sharenow and I) were trying to calm everyone down and saying it was going to be fine,” Lembcke said.

“(Thursday) will be the seventh game in two weeks. It’s a lot on our bodies but we’re pushing through.”

Fortunately after their rash of tournament matches, the Bulldogs will have a buffer period of 11 days before they travel to St. Francis for the conference opener April 4.

Larson, who was one of the top players for the basketball team this past season, nearly scored additional goals. She was at the forefront of most of the Bulldogs’ best chances, taking three of their six shots. 

Moments after taking a corner kick, Bretz also had a nice left-footed blast in the 15th minute secured by goalie Ava Garcia.

In the second half, Larson three times broke free along right wing on counterattacks or quick transitions. In the 46th minute, she got a great lead from Hall but put her ground shot just wide of the left post.

Another Larson attempt from a Hall pass hit off the right side of the net out of bounds in the 52nd minute.

Lake Park had an opportunity when Holliday broke free down the center of the field in the 65th minute from a lead pass by Positano.

The shot went wide left but it seemed to invigorate the Lancers for their final push.

“We didn’t take all of our opportunities in the beginning but toward the end we were definitely charging the goal, trying as hard as we could to get it in. We’ve got to recover for next game,” Kubica said.

“I think (one lesson for us is) keeping the energy higher. When the game gets tough, our energy picks up. In the beginning, I think when the pressure is not very high, we stay flat with our energy. It’s just keeping each other’s spirits up and really just uniting as a team to try and get it into the back of the net.”

Starting lineups 

GK: Piper Blair
D: Lucy Drenth
D: Jessica Sharenow
D: Lena Lembcke
D: Sophie Swicionis
MF: Niamh Larson
MF: Hazel Hall
MF: Madison Bisiules
MF: Nina Bretz
MF: Katherine Newberry
F: Natalie Rubi

Lake Park
GK: Ava Garcia
D: Juliana Selvaggio
D: Madi Mintrup
D: Gianna Kubica
D: Peyton Sarubbi
MF: Teagan Locus
MF: Lauren Malone
MF: Brynn Ellenbecker|
MF: Cora Riter
MF: Milana Positano
F: Francesca Cali
Chicagoland Soccer MVP of the Match: Sophie Swicionis, sr. D, Riverside-Brookfield

Scoring summary

First half
Riverside-Brookfield: Larson (own-goal) 11:10/12’

Second half
No scoring