VERNON HILLS -- Generally speaking, Deerfield is off to a fine start.
However the Warriors are still putting some pieces together. A draw against Fenwick and the first loss of the season to Mundelein on April 3 showed a few chinks in the armor of the returning Class AA third place finisher.
Deerfield rebounded from the defeat and showcased its depth and versatility with a 2-0 victory over host Vernon Hills in the Central Suburban League North Division opener for both teams on Saturday afternoon. The match, which was originally set for Thursday, was rescheduled because of Passover.
Deerfield (5-1-1, 1-0-0), ranked eighth in the Chicagoland Soccer Top 25, expected and got a good game Saturday.
"Vernon Hills is always a good challenge to play," Deerfield coach Rich Grady said. "We know (Vernon Hills) likes to get the ball wide and like to play out of the back. We like to do some of the same stuff. It was kind of a track meet.
“I do like how we defended when they got behind us. We recovered well, and Lauren (Gottlieb) had some good saves. Our backs were able to win some tackles. It's a conference game, and we'll take the win."
Warriors' keeper Gottlieb earned her third clean-sheet of the season thanks to four saves and the help of defenders Sophia Peiser, Maurissa Siciliano and Madeline Stevens.
"We're still learning who we are," Grady said. "We still haven't had every player on the roster healthy and available at the same time.
“It certainly helps to get a win in a conference game. With the schedule we play, we know that we're not going to go undefeated. It’s how you learn from that, and how you manage it. It's a big part of what we're working to do by the end of the season."
Deerfield delivered a team effort against Vernon Hills.
"We did get all of our healthy players in the game and everybody that stepped on the field did something to contribute," Grady said. "We do have a big roster and have a deep team. It's nice when everybody can step up and help out."
Emily Fox earned the Chicagoland Soccer MVP of the Match honor for scoring the game-winner, her fifth goal in seven matches.
The Chicagoland Soccer All-Stater fired her shot from the top, right side of the box and found the corner of the goal after taking a throw-in from Katie Denison in the 31st minute. It was the only offense Deerfield would need.
The junior had other shots stopped by Vernon Hills keeper Candy sides in the opening minute and at the 10-minute mark.
"I got the ball on the throw-in, then turned on the girl, and saw the goalie was out of position," Fox said. "So, I shot it, and it curled off the post. I knew that we had a lot of chances (earlier), and I knew that I had to keep shooting, and one would come soon.
“I just like to contribute to my team and have an attacking mindset. To win games you have to score goals."
Fox plans to use the experiences of the Warriors Class AA third place run last season to propel a hoped for repeat Final Four finish.
"There were definitely a number of good players that were older," Fox said. "We did lose a lot of them, but we know that now being older we have to step up and fill that void. I think we're doing a good job of it."
The Warriors couldn’t breathe a sigh of relief until the 77th minute, when Jessie Fisher delivered an insurance goal off a pass from Ruby Levy.
“As a defensive midfielder, i always find the path to space, and they did a nice job of sending it up to me," said Fisher, who scored her second goal of the season. "I just felt really confident with the space that I had. My best option was to go straight to the goal.
“I play more defensive for sure and like to win as many tackles as possible. But I do like to go forward, since I came from an attacking position previously. If I have the space, I do like to dribble and get the ball out wide usually. I like to loft the ball in the middle and get into the attack as much as I can."
Fisher likes what she sees in her club.
"This team is very different, and it’s a great team," Fisher said. "We have a way to work together and really do well. That's definitely one of our strengths. As the season is going on we've been progressing.
“We've done a great job working together and communicating. With each game we're getting better and better. We just have that chemistry on the field."
Vernon Hills (1-3-1, 0-1-0) has a new coach this season in Cory Smith, who took over the head spot from longtime coach Mike McCaulou. Smith has been with the program for about 10 years.
"It was our first game in the conference," Smith said. "Frankly, we had a lot of good things right out there. We had great ball movement, the ability to play out of small spaces and get into an attack mode.
“But we can be dangerously one-dimensional. We're focusing on getting the ball forward and got into a kickball game. It's not the style we want to play. We want to possess, work that ball and be dangerous."
Vernon Hills had a tough time with the Deerfield midfield after the break.
"In the second half, we got outworked a bit," Smith said. "(Deerfield's) midfield took over athletically, and we lost a lot of the 50/50 balls. They were relentless and give them a lot of credit. We just couldn't build out of that.
“A 2-0 loss isn't what we can do against a team like that. That will be a team that will be on the top of our side of the conference, and we want to be in the middle of a match like that. Our expectations are high with these girls, and we want to keep pushing forward."
Chicagoland Soccer MVP of the Match: Emily Fox, jr., MF, Deerfield
Rerferees: Marek Zacios, center; Rick Naatz; Christopher Janczk
Deerfield: Emily Fox (Katie Denison), 31
Deerfield: Jessie Fisher (Ruby Levy), 77