BARRINGTON -- Fremd scored three first half goals to take control against Bartlett in the Naperville Invitational opener for both teams. The Vikings went on to take a convincing 4-1 victory Thursday night at Barrington Community Stadium.
Leah Saxe's teed-up a neat, left-footed finish from 22 yards in the seventh minute to help manager Steve Keller’s crew get the bright start it hoped for. Then Maddie McMillan added another at 15 minutes for Fremd, which is ranked 13th in the Chicagoland Soccer Top 25, Bartlett (2-6-1) was in trouble.
"We had only 13 dressed tonight: four out due to illness and two others with injuries," said Hawks manager Vince Revak, whose club now has the uneviable task of facing no. 3 Lyons on Saturday as pool play continues. “But I was so impressed with the girls fight, heart and energy for the entire 80 minutes against an opponent that we came in against as a major underdog."
Fremd was pleased with its performance.
"I thought we came out with a lot of energy and really tried to play with a purpose," said Vikings manager Steve Keller. “We created pressure and opportunities but need to do a better job with our final touch.
"We haven't been at our best in our last two games," began Saxe, who referenced the Fremd's efforts against Hersey (a 2-1 win) and Palatine (3-0 win) last week.
"Tonight we came out with much more effort, and energy. We attacked wide, put some very good crosses into the box, and we connecting our passes so much better."
Saxe shared the Chicagoland Soccer MVP of the Match honor with teammate Kaitlyn Roti for their strong play.
In Fremd’s seventh-straight win and ninth-straight match without a loss, Roti played the no. six role with a work-rate second to none. She was the ultimate disruptor, who led her club in tackles and interceptions with a tenacity needed to win the middle of the park.
"Nobody gets past Kaitlyn. She is so tough with and without the ball, and just seems to win every ball that comes her way," said Saxe, who led the team's training session Monday along with Roti at the request of Keller. Both agreed, with tongues in cheeks, it was the best practice of the season thus far.
Fremd's early pressure came up-top from freshman Gwen Zimmerman, who is the club's co-leader in goals with 10, Gemma Gillespie and Saxe, who helped their teammates record a trio of deep throws before the opener and two more leading up to the McMillan strike.
With their attack up and running at full speed, the Vikings saw a handful of chances on frame turned away by Bartlett keeper Megan Kron, who turned in a marvelous performance all night to the thrill of Revak and center back Brenna Baumann.
"Kron has been a major bright spot for us this season,” said Revak. “She takes her role seriously and constantly tries to find ways to improve each game."
"Megan was great for us tonight," added Baumann. “She made some great saves."
Kron punched a well-aimed corner from Ava Catherall out of harm’s way, then without hesitation ventured far off her line to win a dangerous 50/50 challenge from freshman Lily Mayer. Right before intermission, the sophomore saved a Mayer blast after a Saxe free kick.
"When our backs were against the wall (Kron) came through for us," Revak said. "Brooke (Baumann) and Macy Medendorp helped clean things up and bail us out.”
Kron had no chance on the McMillan goal after Roti helped keep the ball alive inside the box in the 15th minute.
Cwik pulled Bartlett back within one goal with a divine finish. The freshman made Fremd pay for a misplayed ball deep in its defensive third in the 20th minute.
"I saw their keeper having some trouble with the ball, so I never gave up on the play, which helped me score my goal," Cwik said.
"Nora always plays with so much energy and purpose,” Revak said. “It always gives us a spark, and it was her relentless pressure that led to her scoring opportunity."
After a scoreless span, Gillespie direct her free kick smash through the Bartlett four-man wall for a goal during the 36th minute.
Fremd was back at it after the break. Cami Tofilon and Mayer were the architects of two quality chances on frame. The first came when Tofilon provided a wonderful diagonal early ball to Zimmerman, who had her close-range attempt stopped cold by Kron.
Moments later, Lia DiGirolamo, Saxe and Zimmerman combined with some probing passing that allowed Mayer a try that went just over the bar.
Kron was called into action again at 49 minutes, and the Hawks keeper was up to the task by making a superb save of a wicked smash from Zimmerman. But in the aftermath the ball spilled freely to an awaiting Saxe, who touched home one last goal.
Saxe's 10th goal of the season signaled substitutions that allowed the reserves to get valuable time for Fremd (8-1-1).
"This was a good way to start the tournament,” said Saxe. “We played with more speed and quickness, and created a lot more chances than we have recently."
"Leah is so confident with the ball,” said Roti. “She creates so much for her teammates, is a great dribbler. She is the type of player who can go box-to-box for us when we really need her to.”
Bartlett’s best opportunity of the second half came just after the hour when Medendorp thumped a powerful header just over the bar.
"(Fremd) was obviously a very good team, but I was real proud of the effort everyone gave," said Baumann. “We've come a long way this season despite having so many young players, and I know we'll continue to improve as we go along."
"We never gave up," added Cwik. “Even when we gave up that early goal in the second half, and that's something we should be proud of.”
"This tournament tests our meddle more than anything else,” said Revak. “We learn more from our mistakes during these losses than we do from our wins."
Collectively, Roti and Saxe were happy with the 80 minutes Fremd provided. They felt the team was headed in the right direction entering their final match of group play against third-ranked and undefeated Lyons. They were right.
The Vikings scored two goals against the Lions, who had only given up one entering the game. After regulation ended 2-2, Fremd prevailed 6-5 in PKs to win Group F and advance to the quarterfinals April 27.
G- Megan Kron
D- Macy Medendorp
D- Brooke Baumann
D- Ariss Kroeger
D- Breanna Baumann
M- Mia Lamz
M- Norah Cwik
M- Gianna Imperatric
M- Sophie Meloche
M- Daisy Sarmiento
F- Viviana Alba
G- Riley Goettsche
D- Hanah Rosen
D- Bella Scesniak
D- Maddie McMillan
D- Lia DiGirolamo
M- Gemma Gillespie
M- Kaitlyn Roti
M- Leah Saxe
F- Cami Tofilon
F- Gwen Zimmerman
F- Ava Catherall
Chicagoland Soccer MVPs of the Match:
Kaitlyn Roti, sr., DMF, Fremd;
Leah Saxe, sr., MF, Fremd
Referee: Peter Malek
Fremd: Saxe (Zimmerman), 7'
Fremd: McMillan (Roti), 15'
Bartlett: Cwik (U/A), 20’
Fremd: Gillespie (FK), 36'
Saxe (Zimmerman), 49'