LAKE FOREST – Carmel played for payback on Wednesday afternoon.
The moment was intensified because host Lake Forest also entered the early season nonconference game without a loss.
The Corsairs are looking to establish themselves as a team to beat in Class AA. The Scouts were an ideal test after reaching the AA sectional finals last season in part at Carmel's expense.
The visitors made a not-so-grand entrance. Bus issues led to a 25-minute delay of the game's start.
The Corsairs might have been tardy but they were loaded with motivation.
Lake Forest provided a painful remainder of last season’s missed opportunity. Lake Forest defeated Carmel 2-0 in the Class AA Lake Forest Regional championship game.
The Corsairs wanted to show the Scouts their 2023 version was a vastly different team.
“This was a big game because we lost to them in regionals,” Carmel junior defender Peyton Carney said. “We really wanted to win this game. We love playing Lake Forest every year. They’re a really good team.”
So is Carmel, which is ranked 18th in the Chicagoland Soccer Top 25.
Near the end of a hard-fought match, the Corsairs kept their unblemished record intact when Emily Fix scored the decisive goal in the 76th minute for the 2-1 win.
“Lake Forest is always well-coached,” Carmel coach Stephanie Kile said. “We knew we were in for it. Plus we had a little bit of a personal vendetta, because they beat us last year. This was a big win for us. We made some adjustments in the last 15 minutes that changed the game for us in a positive way. I’m really proud of them. They played their hearts out.”
Carmel senior goalie Abby Tekampe had another stellar game in the net with three saves. Overall, the Corsairs (4-0-0) have allowed just three goals in four games.
With one of the those an own-goal in their opener against Grayslake Central, and another Lake Forest’s PK goal early in the second half, Carmel has only surrendered one goal in the run of play.
Kile said Tekampe and her new backline is working well in the first few weeks of the season.
“Abby did a great job,” Kile said. “She’s very composed, even when you play the ball to her feet, she’s very comfortable with it. She’s worked really hard the last few years to earn her spot on the varsity.
“I told the team at the end of the game that the defense never gets any credit, including Abby. The girls are all new to the position, and they’ve adjusted and learned.”
Carney said allowing a goal via penalty kick was frustrating, considering how strong the backline played in the physical game.
“It was a good game,” Carney said. “Our defense has played really well this year. We’ve been working very hard. Every time we have a mistake, we work on it in practice and adjust, so everything has been working in our favor.”
Lake Forest coach Ty Stuckslager said his team struggled keeping pace with Carmel, but he liked how his players rebounded to almost force a draw in regulation.
“We played with desire but definitely weren’t as fit as they were,” he said. “Carmel is very skillful team and can run all day. We had our hands full. We talked about that at halftime, and I thought we played a much better second half.
“We ran out of steam at the very end. You can only give a team like that so many chances.”
The Scouts (2-1-0) played without starting goalie Sarah Constantine, and they missed her length and athleticism against the highly talented Corsairs. Reserve goalie Alexandra Fontana, who is normally a defender, delivered a fine effort. She collected nine saves.
“Alexandra is not a goalie, but does whatever is needed for the team,” Stuckslager said. “She’s selfless, which is great. She played very well. In a couple of situations, she handled them like she’s been a keeper all of her life.
“They got that goal late, on a mix-up. I thought our backline did a great job. Our midfield is new, but they are playing together. We’re growing.”
Fix saved the day with an inspiring goal that required some sacrifice. The Marquette recruit slightly tapped in a shot from a few yards out, while sliding to the ground and running into Fontana.
Fix laid on the ground for a few seconds, collecting her thoughts and letting her body recover.
“The whole time I was looking for through-balls, and finally saw a ball go through,” Fix said. “I knew their keeper could’ve gotten to it, but I sprinted extra hard and toe-tapped it past her and ran into her. I got the wind knocked out of me, but it felt good.”
Fix said the early-season victory took some of the pain away from last season’s season-ending defeat to the Scouts. Fix nearly added another goal, smacking a ball off the crossbar with six seconds left in the game.
“This win felt amazing, because last year was rough because I felt I had so many chances,” Fix said. “This year I was happy to at least put one away. But it was a whole team effort for 80 minutes. I thought we played our hearts out.”
The Corsairs showed their motivation was at a high level by striking first on a goal from Ema Delgado in the sixth minute. She received a great cross, left to right, from Carney to set her up for a close finish.
“I knew Peyton was doing down the line and that Anna was cutting in front, and I stayed back post,” Delgado said of her first varsity goal. “There the ball was. I slotted it inside the back post, and I just scored.”
Less than a minute later, Delgado just missed a shot to notch her second goal.
“I was really pushing it and tried to make the lead 2-0,” Delgado said. “The second half was tough, but we fought through it and thankfully Emily scored that second goal.”
The Corsairs had two really good chances to take on a goal right before halftime. One was missed after Fix hit a shot wide right. The misfire caused her to throw her head back in frustration.
The Scouts thrilled most of the grandstand when Sands drilled her penalty kick into the upper corner to tie the game at 1-1 with 27:03 left in the game. Sands said she stuck to her normal game plan on PKs to record her second goal of the season.
“I’ve taken a bunch of PKs,” Sands said. “What I always do is not make eye contact with the goalie and don’t look where I’m shooting. I always go to the same spot, look up for a second and kick the ball as hard as I can.
“I think we definitely came with a different intensity in the second half, but fell apart in the end. We had good energy, and we really brought it.”
Lake Forest senior defender Riley Hoskins said her team can learn from the tough defeat to a highly ranked opponent.
“There was definitely some good and bad,” Hoskins said. “We came ready to play. Our first half was a little bit shaky, but our second half we came back out and communicated and stepped back for each other.
“We had tons of chances. I think we played great. All the new girls played great, and we showed up today.”
GK: Abby Tekampe
D: Mila Schachelmayer
D: Peyton Carney
D: Elena Wach
D: Bella D’Amore
MF: Jillian Miller
MF: Ema Delgado
MF: Madison Konen
MF: Noarah Belmonte
F: Emily Fix
F: Anna Hartman
GK: Alexandra Fontana
D: Riley Hoskins
D: Sophie Benjakul
D: Hanna Sands
D: Sophie Gauthier
MF: Ava Walsh
MF: Lainey Tabor
MF: Amelia Fontana
MF: Kendall Snodgrass
F: Maeve Bradley
F: Lily Cran
Chicagoland Soccer MVP of the Match: Emily Fix, sr., F, Carmel
Carmel: Delgado (Carney), 6’
Lake Forest: Sands (penalty kick), 53’
Carmel: Fix (Hartman) 76’