skip navigation

Preview story: Lake Forest seeks sharp conference start vs. Waukegan

By Bobby Narang, 04/18/23, 8:30AM CDT


This spring, Lake Forest girls soccer coach Ty Stuckslager is experiencing something new in his illustrious career.

Since starting his girls soccer coaching stint at Lake Forest in 1993-94, Stuckslager has won 14 regional titles, three sectional crowns and a state championship in 2014.

He also had a short tenure coaching the boys soccer team at Lake Forest.

In essence, one would figure Stuckslager has experienced everything in his long tenure.

Yet, 2023 has brought a new wrinkle for the veteran coach.

The Scouts (3-2-2) have been beset with players missing games at a high rate for varied reasons.

Asked if he had a team with so many missed games at this point of the season, Stuckslager paused for a brief second before, in typical fashion, he replied with a quick, succinct description. 


“This is the greatest number for me, with so many hits at the same time,” he said. “Whether it’s girls deciding on colleges, making college visits, sibling visits, sicknesses or injuries, we’ve had a lot of people missing various games. I think it’s been a great opportunity for a lot of different girls to play, especially at different positions.
“It’s interesting because we took 25 girls to start the year, but on Friday we only had 18 or 19 and had to bring up a freshman.”

Lake Forest has maintained a winning record despite it girl-power issues.

The hosts expect an aggressive attack in their North Suburban Conference opener from youthful Waukegan (3-4-3, 1-0-0) at 4:45 p.m. Tuesday (April 18) at the Scouts’ West Campus.

The team gained valuable experience in a three-game winless stretch earlier this season. The Scouts lost 2-1 to Carmel on the last game before spring break March 22, then tied Loyola 0-0 and fell 3-0 to Lyons to start the recent Lou Malnati’s Deep Dish Classic. All three teams were ranked; no. 3 Lyon won the tournament.

Lake Forest benefitted from the tests and came back to finish the tournament with a 3-0 win over Glenbrook South and 1-1 draw vs. Lane. The 12-team event concluded Saturday.

“Last year we started, at least from the outside, what looked to be slow (3-6-0 at the same juncture),” Stuckslager said. “We played a lot of quality teams before our regular conference play. 

“We were on our back foot, but it was a great learning experience for a lot of people. We try to go by the mantra of wanting to get better every game. 

“The goal is to play 80 minutes of quality soccer. The girls understand there will be some positives along the way mixed in with some negatives.”

Waukegan has played a little erratic in the first five weeks of the season, but a victory over Lake Forest would be the ideal tonic to build momentum heading into the thick of conference play.

“The biggest positive that I’ve seen from my team is their drive to get stronger by working together and developing team chemistry,” Waukegan coach Rachel Bravo. “We know Lake Forest is very skillful and a strong team that plays with a lot of intensity. We will need to match their energy and play as a team to be successful.”

The Bulldogs are a young, hungry team led by forwards Jocelyn Lopez and Xiaoxu “Blue” Mejia, and defender Celia Ramirez. All are freshman.

Lopez tops the team with three goals, and Mejia has two goals and an assist. 

Sophomore midfielder Ashley Melgoza is playing at a high level, netting two goals and two assists, and Jocelyn Rogel, also a sophomore midfielder, has scored one goal to go with three assists.

“Ashley and Jocelyn are both second-year players,” Bravo said. “They do a great job working together to control the middle of the field and are able to assist in both the attack and defense.”

Stuckslager said he anticipates an 80-minute battle with the Bulldogs. The Scouts won the matchup 4-0 last season.

“Waukegan has been tough the last couple of years,” he said. “They are well-organized and their quality has increased every season under Rachel. She’s really developing the program. It’s not the same situation it was a few years ago. That’s a testament to Rachel. We’re happy to have them at home, which is an advantage for us.”

Stuckslager said senior Sophia Benjakul is playing at a high level for his team.

“Sophia has been very consistent at center back,” he said. “She’s been a rock in the back. She’s had to play with a variety of girls, but been outstanding.”