DOWNERS GROVE -- Fenwick has designs to peak at the right time this season and maybe create more May magic this year.
The good fortune that came with Friar’s run from a 5-4-1 record in late April to the Class AA semifinals in 2022 hasn’t kicked in yet this spring, but the team’s 2023 edition has the same gumption. Thursday, Fenwick couldn’t overcome a well-located shot from Downers Grove South star striker Emily Petring in a 1-0 Naperville Invitational consolation pool loss.
Petring’s 14-yard free kick from right of the box with 35:29 left to play had precision aim, angling inside the left, lower corner of the net. That was be the difference as the Mustangs (10-3-1) earned a hard-fought win over Fenwick (2-8-3).
“I just try to get it on frame, don't hit it over,” Petring said of her approach to free kicks. “I looked for the little gap, and I used it.
“The second half we came out really strong. When we got that free kick, I knew how to use it. And we just kept that throughout the game: it was really good energy for us.”
The goal was the 62nd of Petring’s career for the Mustangs.
“She broke into the top five goal scorers (all time at the school) with that, and she's at 23 goals this year,” Mustangs coach Chris Hernandez said. “That’s a great free kick there. She noticed a gap and has that ability to see things and take advantage of those situations. We're very lucky to have her.”
Said Petring: “It (the success) has come through the coaches and teammates and the community. I think that's really helped me grow as a player and a person. Mentally and physically, I just use it all to get where I am.”
While there’s always a “What if?” aspect to any goal allowed, Fenwick defender/midfielder Maddie Rogowski just had to tip her hat to a perfect strike.
“On the goal we could have maybe been better organized and should have talked more, but there's really nothing you can do there,” Rogowski said. “It was bottom-left corner, really hard to get.”
And outside of that moment, Fenwick’s defense and goalkeeper Leah Hyland were up to every challenge,
Hyland began her night in the 3rd minute with a save at the left post on a Grace Rappel low 15-yard liner.
She later bookended her strong match with a save of a Petring 18-yard rocket in the final minute. In between those denials, Hyland’s biggest save came with 22:20 left when she made a great swat aside of a Petring eight-yard shot set up by Jordan Reynolds.
Challenged often by a top striker, Hyland took a basic but effective approach.
“I just really try to get in front of the ball,” Hyland said. “I normally have trouble getting to the sides, but I just made sure to stay in front when she (Petring) was about to shoot it, stay focused and on my toes.”
And she doled out plenty of credit to her teammates for going toe-to-toe with a Mustangs team that just tied defending Class 3A runnerup Barrington 0-0 on Saturday. That match was called after the first half due to icy conditions.
“I was really proud of how we played,” Hyland said. “Everyone came with full energy and everyone was hungry for a goal. We didn't end up getting one, but there were a lot of good shots and a lot of good teamwork up there. I was really proud of everyone.”
Fenwick’s offense produced two corner kicks in the first eight minutes of play, In the 9th minute, Grace Kapsch’s 20-yard shot went wide left after a send by freshman Mary Brunick.
Another good chance in the 23rd minute came off a throw-in from 20 yards out. That was thwarted when the Downers Grove South’s Ashley Molinari nicely blocked and cleared a crossing attempt to the box by Emma Maria Basset.
“We were a bit unlucky not to score and created a lot of quality goal scoring opportunities,” Fenwick coach Craig Blazer said, “And our defense and goalkeeper Leah Hyland all played well.”
More Fenwick scoring bids were to come, but the next quality threat came from the hosts. In the 29th minute, Petring’s strong dribble-drive up the middle produced a 12-yard, low liner. Hyland denied it on a kick save, and Alex Ballinger cleared away the rebound.
The teams traded half-chances on Downer Grove South’s Rappel’s low left-side shot saved by Hyland, and Kiera Kapsch’s right-side drive grabbed by Mustangs keeper Hannah Fedinec.
In the 37th minute, a block by Elle Dvorak of a Petring shot was followed by another Hyland kick save of Aubrey Molinari’s well-struck 25-yard rebound try.
Fenwick’s Fiona Roche’s shot wide-left off a Rogowski 55-yard free kick send in the 39th minute wrapped up a 0-0 first half tie.
“I thought we did a good job of sort of containing them,” Rogowski said. “Overall I think we did a good job of defending them.
“We drew fouls really well, and got some good services into the box. We just have to work a little on finishing those. Setting up our body position right and getting those into the back of the net.”
Downer Grove South’s defense had a lot to do with keeping Fenwick off the board.
“We had a great defensive display over the weekend against Barrington,” Hernandez said, “and we kind of got away from that Tuesday (a 3-1 win over Addison Trail). It was good to see it come back.
“We knew Fenwick was dangerous and looking to get players in the box, especially on the counter. We not only were in the right defensive spots but giving each other cover and not relying on 1-v-1 defending.”
Micah Olson was part of that defensive effort and noted a special factor to the matchup.
“We knew coming in that this game was going to be hard because Fenwick is a very good team,” Olson said, “And they were going to want revenge. Two years ago we played them for a regional championship, and we won here.
“The approach today for us was just to be a team, have positive attitudes and just recover from our mistakes.”
The effort vs. Barrington did wonders for the Mustangs’ confidence.
“It skyrocketed for sure,” Olson said. “We went into that game and played great defensively. We only played a half due to weather, but it definitely I think it set the tone for the rest of the season and really lifted our spirits.”
Petring’s usual offensive excellence added another lift early in the second half Thursday, but Fenwick was undeterred.
“I think we all are a strong team together,” Hyland said. “We know each other really well. A lot of the team is juniors who've been on the same team for a while. I think that boosts our confidence in a way, because we all know we have each other's backs. We're ready to fight when we need to.”
Fenwick had to also fight back without four players (Lizzie Brunick, Gabi Kapusta, Susie Shank and Clare Kapsch) out Thursday due to injury.
“A lot of people are injured right now,” Hyland said, “but I think that's all making us push harder and want it more. We know we're down a few players, but I think everyone came with a good attitude and ready to play. Everyone wants a win.”
After a shot by the Mustangs’ Ashley Molinari (set up by a pass from older sister Aubrey) was partially blocked and saved by Hyland with 30:40 left, Fenwick’s push to come back produced a series of good chances.
A corner kick with 27:50 to play ended with a Kiera Mullarkey 8-yard chip over the net. Grace Kapsch followed 30 seconds later with a low, skipping shot saved by Fedinec.
“Their center backs did well to deny Grace Kapsch,” Blazer said. “And their goalkeeper played well.”
Fedinec’s 18th-career shutout moved her into a tie for 10th with Angel Biondo (2017-19) and Jenaya Matiya (1990-91) on the Downer Grove South all-time list.
Another threat followed with 26:55 left, when a Fenwick free kick left of the box led to Rogowski’s 16-yard tough angle try over the net.
Downers Grove South followed with the next two chances, capped by Hyland’s high catch of a Reynolds 10-yarder off a Lena Baker pass with 17:05 left.
That combination is part of an emerging sophomore group for the Mustangs.
“We have 10 seniors on this team, and also two freshmen and eight sophomores,” Hernandez said.
“Lena Baker and Jordan Reynolds coming off the bench have been giving us nice minutes, Ashley (Molinari) is a returning player from last year and a starter, and Marifer Duran is another sophomore giving us big minutes.
“We're seeing growth in these younger players, and it bodes well for the future. This is a game where we saw continued improvement, and now we want to keep it rolling.”
Fenwick also has needed to rely on a younger nucleus after its magic state run of last spring was followed by the impact of graduation.
“We lost a lot of good seniors, my sister (Abbie) being one of them,” Rogowski said. “So I really felt the need to step up and sort of get the team together.
“We have a lot of good freshmen that can really be helpful now and in the future. It's all about taking initiative, stepping up and telling the team 'We've got this.' We lost good players, but we gained good new ones too. I think it's all about the mentality.”
The winning mentality produced memorable results just 11 momths ago.
“I loved that time,” Hyland said of the 2022 state run. “I wasn't really playing much yet (as a sophomore), but I was really proud. The energy was incredible.”
Rogowski also has continued to build on that and other great experiences in her third year on varsity.
“I feel like I've gained more confidence with the ball,” she said. “Freshman year I had to start at center back and had never played that in my life. So going from there to here, I've gained a lot of confidence. Leadership is a big part of it, and communication, all those skills.”
Those skills were on display late Thursday, when Rogowski nicely cleared a Mustangs threat in the box with 12:55 to go. Then with 11:30 left, Olson’s send produced a Skylar Swanson 10-yard liner just over the net for Downer Grove South.
Olson followed with two more strong plays to cement the 1-0 final. With 4:50 to play, from the top of the box she cleared Rogowski’s 56-yard free kick send. Then with 1:05 to go, her block and send of a Fenwick throw-in repelled the last offensive end bid.
“I keep my composure pretty good I think,” Olson said, “and I'm always trying to complement everyone out here, because I know you can get down on yourself really easily.
“I like picking up my teammates, and to always give my best and play really aggressively to get that ball out of there (the defensive end).”
Aubrey Molinari followed that cue with a strong-legged send from midfield all the way over the end line with 30 seconds left, providing the defensive finishing touch to the 1-0 Mustangs win.
As for Fenwick, a strong showing despite injuries vs. a talented Mustangs side could bode well for better days.
“We just need to build on our fight and how we were ready to play,” Hyland said. “I think we just made a few mistakes at points but they can be fixed easily. I'm excited to work on that.”
Blazer echoed that optimism.
“It was a good game for us against another 3A team,” he said. “We are very young with a lot of injuries, but improving with every half.
“We will again use this experience to keep improving and prepare for the tournament.”
For the Mustangs, a week that began with a great showing vs. Barrington continued on the upside.
“We want to keep moving,” Petring said. “We're not done yet. There’s a lot of games to come, and we're trying to get a good record.”
Said Hernandez: “(Barrington) was a real nice performance by us. Now we want to keep that mentality and positive momentum going.”
GK: Leah Hyland
D: Finley Dondlinger
D: Jillian Pavalon
D: Ella Dvorak
D: Maddie Rogowski
F: Kiera Kapsch
M: Emma Maria Bassett
M: Mary Brunick
M: Fiona Roche
M: Grace Kapsch
F: Kiara Mullarkey
F: Lola Martinez
Downer Grove South
GK: Hannah Fedinec
D: Aubrey Molinari
D: Micah Olson
D: Teyani Sharkey
D: Ashley Molinari
M: Grace Rappel
M: Krystal Flores
M: Gabby Okuku
M: Marifer Duran
F: Emily Petring
F: Skylar Swanson
Chicagoland Soccer MVP of the Match: Emily Petring, sr. F, Downer Grove South
DGS- Emily Petring (free kick), 45’