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Grace Kapsch bobs Fenwick to forefront in win over Homewood-Flossmoor

By Patrick Z. McGavin , 04/16/23, 10:30PM CDT


Junior gives Friars momentum in 2-1 Body Armor win

SCHAUMBURG — Grace Kapsch is living a very particular and beautiful dream.

Every time the junior walks on the field for Fenwick, she has reasons for joy and wonder.

Her satisfaction touches on the familial and very personal. 

Her younger twin sisters Kiera and Clare Kapsch are sophomore midfielders in their first year on the Friars’ varsity.

The two have made steady progress and become crucial players off the bench.

“It’s so much fun playing with them,” Grace Kapsch said. “Kiera has almost scored a couple of times. She hit the crossbar today for the second time this year. 

“She also hit one against Deerfield. The third time is going to be the charm.”

Grace Kapsch is a connecting thread of the past and present, one of the returning players from the Friars’ Class AA fourth place state team last year.

This season she has moved to the top of the attack, and is tasked with creating and finishing her opportunities.

“I definitely feel I have to step up, because last year I played a lot of different positions,” she said. 

“I didn’t really have a set role. I got called up for this, and now I am finding my way and learning how to play forward and getting my shot.”

And she made one on a smashing header in the first half of the Friars’ 2-1 victory over Homewood-Flossmoor in the BodyArmor Sports Series on Saturday at Olympic Park,

Fenwick (2-4-2) ran its unbeaten streak to four games and won its second-consecutive game.

The Friars withstood a late rally by the Vikings (3-5-1), who narrowed the deficit on a beautiful goal by junior midfielder Dakota Dixon in the 62nd minute.

“The speed up-top of Homewood Flossmoor was exceptional, and we knew they were going to bring it in the second half,” Fenwick coach Craig Blazer said.

“Our third goal was hard to find, but we did have chances. When they made it on their quality, our players didn’t break. That was huge.”

Given the roster turnover and the new faces, change was inevitable by the Friars — as was a likely slow start.

“You have to get in the gym, and you have to get on the field and spend time together,” Blazer said.

“It’s a fun group, and they enjoy being together, but there is a learning curve that only comes about with training and games. We’re slowly getting there.”

Sophomore Kiera Mullarkey also exemplifies the changes and the fluidity of a team discovering itself on the go.

A Chicagoland Soccer All-State Watch List player last year, she was the third leading-scorer on the state team.

The game rarely stays the same. Change and circumstances flow and move off of each other.

“We had to adjust a lot this year, and everybody changed positions around,” Mullarkey said.

“It has taken some time to go out and get used to it, but I think we’re getting the hang of it and how everybody likes to play and what we like playing off to get our best chances on goal.”

With Grace Kapsch and Susie Shank working at the top, Mullarkey has shifted to outside midfielder.

That position takes advantage of her creativity, skill and shot creation.

The Mullarkey and Grace Kapsch connection changed the game in the first half.

The Friars’ pressure yielded a corner kick from the left edge.

Mullarkey stepped up and served a ball in the comfort zone of Kapsch, who used her body and size to get a first touch and header goal from in front in the 23rd minute.

“I think we do our best on our free kicks, corners and penalty kicks, and trying to get headers or back-post runs,” Mullarkey said.

“Grace is really good at doing that.”

Fenwick’s roles and responsibilities have solidified. That has led to a more concentrated and highly developed attack, creating chances Fenwick has increasingly learned to optimize.

“I think we are really good at set pieces,” midfielder Maggie Rogowski said.

“I think that’s why we like to get the ball down the line, and try our best to get corners, because that is our strong suit, because Grace almost always gets a head on it.”

For her excellent play, Grace Kapsch earned the Chicagoland Soccer MVP of the Match honor.

Fenwick was not satisfied with the one goal, realizing Homewood-Flossmoor was dangerous in the middle of their attack with Dixon, the free kicks of defender Ariel Rose and the up-top actions of forward Avery Radosta.

With Mullarkey as the primary orchestrator on the outside, Fenwick maintained its aggressive pressure.

That paid off in the 29th minute when Shank was fouled from behind as she made a sharp move to the goal.

Shank put the Friars up 2-0 with her penalty kick.

The pressure shifted to Homewood-Flossmoor..

“I just think after we fell behind in the first half, we knew we had to put in a little bit more effort in the second half,” Radosta said.

Like Fenwick, Homewood-Flossmoor is trying to locate the best version of itself.

The Vikings are working through the different permutations.

“At this point, we’re a little behind compared to what we expected,” Radosta said. 

“We’re coming off a pretty good season last year, so I think we were expecting to have a couple of more wins. We have a lot of games left, and we just have to keep building.”

Tall and mobile, Radosta created some matchup problems against the Friars. She used her size to get at the goal.

Fenwick also missed out on some credible scoring chances at the start of the second half.

Kiera Kapsch hit the crossbar, and midfielder Fiona Roche just missed connecting on a couple of other set piece chances on corner kicks.

“These girls are very coachable, and the ideas and themes we are able to train and discuss or watch video, they are learning at a quick level and executing,” Blazer said.

The two-goal cushion proved vitally important after Dixon got free on the left wing, and hammered home a ball from 17 yards in the 62nd minute.

She has scored a team-best 11 goals.

“We are more of a defensive team, so we have to work 10 times harder when it comes to offense,” Dixon said.

“I am not that skilled with the ball at my feet. I am more of a runner, so when the ball comes, I rely more on my speed than anything.”

Dixon and Radosta both proved dangerous in the closing minutes, and the Friars’ defense was pushed to the wall.

Sophomore defender Finley Donglinger came up with a big clearance inside the box. 

Junior keeper Leah Hyland, a converted midfielder, had six saves for the Friars.

“It was too bad,” Radosta said. “We got our goal close to the end, but we tried our best and put some of our best players in the midfield to try and make more things happen,

“We just did the best that we could.”

Time, opportunity and positive results are trending in the right direction for Fenwick.

“We struggled a bit at first this season, but once we got the chemistry down and learned how everybody likes to play, we are looking better,” Rogowski said.

Starting lineups

GK: Leah Hyland
D: Lola Martinez
D: Finley Dondlinger
D: Ellie Dvorak
D: Lizzie Brunick
MF: Kiera Mullarkey
MF: Maddie Rogowski
MF: Mary Brunick
MF: Fiona Roche
F: Grace Kapsch
F: Susie Shank

GK: Cristina Ramirez
D: Eva Marete
D: Ariel Rose
D: Emily Thompson
D: Sam Gordon
MF: Tai Jordan
MF: Eliya Hobson
MF: Kailah Brooks
MF: Evie Regas
F: Avery Radosta
F: Dakota Dixon

Chicagoland Soccer MVP of the Match: Grace Kapsch, jr., F, Fenwick

Scoring summary

First half
Fenwick—Grace Kapsch (Kiera Mullarkey), 23rd minute
Fenwick—Susie Shank (PK), 29th minute

Second half
H-F—Dakota Dixon (Evie Regas), 62nd minute