LEMONT – Suzie Knutte took solace in the facts Lemont still has three regular-season home games left and is set to host a Class AA regional at its sports complex on Bell Road.
Still, celebrating her Senior Night with family, friends and teammates, Knutte felt many emotions, knowing her high school career is in its final stages.
“Normally I’d be really upset if it was the last game we played at Bell, but we still have some games here, so it’s not quite as sentimental,” Knutte said. “But still, seeing the posters and everything, it’s like, ‘Dang, it’s almost over.’”
Knutte and the rest of Lemont’s slim group of four seniors were able to enjoy their night with a big win as the hosts scored seven times in the first half and rolled to a 7-0 victory over Bremen in a South Suburban Conference Blue Division clash.
Knutte and her forward partner, junior Emma Amberg, each scored twice. Freshman midfielder Annabella DeMaio led the overall scoring parade with two goals and two assists. Freshman midfielder Chase Bergeson rounded out the offense with one goal for Lemont (11-4-1, 8-0-0).
Mia Cordova made four saves for Bremen (7-8-2, 4-4-1).
Knutte is closing out a long family story with Lemont soccer. Her older sisters, Katie and Maggie, were also a part of the program.
“My oldest sister, Katie, was here today taking pictures for Senior Night,” Knutte said. “I think it’s all cool and kind of cute that we all got to play for (Lemont coach Rick Prangen). He’s going to be done in a couple years, so I’m really glad we all got to have the same experience with him.”
Fellow seniors Paige Bingen and Nicole Bobcik turned in typically dominant performances in the midfield and defense, respectively, Tuesday night.
The fourth senior, Natalia Zalinski, was unable to play due to illness.
Assistant coach Mark Virtel, who led the team in the second half after Prangen had to depart early, said the departing quartet has made a huge impact on the program.
“The seniors have really dedicated themselves over the past four years,” Virtel said. “There was the COVID year when they started so there was an adjustment for everyone, but they’ve always worked hard. We build these relationships over the years, and they’ve been great. Hopefully they’ve set the program up for success in the future.”
The future looks to be in good hands with players like DeMaio, the Chicagoland Soccer MVP of the Match.
The freshman assisted on Amberg’s goal after just 68 seconds, then got into the scoring in the 27th minute, making it 4-0 by knocking in a rebound after Amberg’s shot was saved by Cordova.
“I’ve been very impressed with her this year,” Knutte said of DeMaio. “Her speed on the ball, her confidence, her crosses and her ability to adapt to our formation, it’s all impressive.
“Even in practices, she’s so energetic and has a nice, funny personality. She makes it more fun for everyone. She’s definitely going to help the team out a lot the next three seasons. She’s been great this year, so I can only imagine what she’s going to be like in the future.”
DeMaio has been playing soccer for nearly her whole life.
“I started when I was around 3 years old,” she said. “My parents threw me into it, and I just picked up on it pretty quickly. I’ve loved it ever since, and I’m so excited to be here playing with this team.”
DeMaio earned a starting spot immediately, and Virtel has continually been impressed by her.
“She’s a really talented and skilled player, and she’s willing to be coached, as well,” Virtel said. “Sometimes we ask for things from players that maybe they haven’t been asked to do before. She’s been taking it all in stride. She’s been a really good teammate, and she’s been really productive, like we saw (Tuesday).”
After Amberg’s initial goal, she looked to set up her teammates with a strong run down the right side of the field just two minutes later. Amberg’s cross was partially cleared by defenders, but Bergeson followed up and buried a shot from 20 yards to make it 2-0.
Knutte picked off a pass attempt from goalkeeper Cordova and fired in a quick shot for the third goal in the 18th minute.
After DeMaio scored, Knutte collected her second goal, volleying in Casey Kittridge’s corner kick in the 27th minute.
DeMaio capped her impressive half by assisting on another goal from Amberg then scoring the final goal in the 37th minute.
“I like that we got the win, especially for our seniors,” Virtel said. “All the work that Paige, Suzie, Nicole and Natalia have put in. Unfortunately, Natalia couldn’t play, she was a little under the weather, but it was a good night for them. They’re all great kids, and they’re all set up for bright futures.”
Bremen could not generate much offense but had a pair of near misses. Miranda Villanueva fired wide from 15 yards off a pass from Galilea Pimentel in the third minute. With just over 10 minutes left in the game, the Braves earned a free kick from 20 yards, but Villanueva’s shot was high.
Bobcik, Kittridge, Ava DeMaio and Daria Koslosky led a dominant defensive effort for Lemont, which kept fill-in goalkeeper Sarah Shields from having to make a save.
Shields, a sophomore who typically plays forward, has been in the net the last few games due to injuries.
“She played goalie in middle school for like two months, and that was it,” Bobcik said of Shields. “She played last week in two or three games. She’s been doing a good job. Of course, we want to help her and make sure there are no dangerous balls in the box and that we clear everything out.”
Virtel praised Shields for being willing to step into a challenging position.
“Unfortunately, our keeper Lauren Tracy is in concussion protocol,” Virtel said. “We had to throw Sarah to the wolves. She volunteered. She’s game for it. She’s been working with (assistant) coach (Mark) Tomczak and she’s putting in good work. She’s picking up on it pretty quickly. We’re really glad she’s stepped up for the team. It was very selfless of her.”
Bobcik made sure to soak in all the feelings from Senior Night.
“The four of us have been close throughout the years,” she said. “I’d say sophomore year, we all bonded together really well. We all play for the same club team, too, so we already had that foundation. Playing soccer with them is something I’ll never forget. I’m really glad I got to play with the three of them.”
Lemont, which earned the No. 2 seed in the Class AA Nazareth Sectional, is hoping to keep the seniors around longer for a deep playoff run. Virtel said the rest of the regular-season is about preparing for that.
“We’ve got to stay locked in and keep that longer view,” Virtel said. “Like we’re saying with these seniors, soon enough it’s going to be their last game. I remembered when I played, it was pretty devastating when it ended.
“When you look back on that, are you going to be proud of the effort you put in in that last game and how you fought for your teammates or are you going to look back with regrets? We know we’re going to end up playing good teams, and we have to keep that long view in mind through each training session and each game as we get ready for that.”
GK: Mia Cordova
D: Desiree Mendoza
D: Melanie Gomez
D: Abigail Loyola
D: Melanie Contreras
MF: Alessandra Lagunas
MF: Galilea Pimentel
MF: Rebecca Roper
MF: Paola Martinez Mejia
F: Anahi Caratachea
F: Miranda Villanueva
GK: Sarah Shields
D: Daria Koslosky
D: Ava DeMaio
D: Nicole Bobcik
D: Casey Kittridge
MF: Ella Simpson
MF: Chase Bergeson
MF: Paige Bingen
MF: Annabella DeMaio
F: Emma Amberg
F: Suzie Knutte
Chicagoland Soccer MVP of the Match: Annabella DeMaio, fr., MF, Lemont
LEMONT – Amberg (Annabella DeMaio), 2’
LEMONT – Bergeson (unassisted), 4’
LEMONT – Knutte (unassisted), 18’
LEMONT – Annabella DeMaio (Amberg), 27’
LEMONT – Knutte (Kittridge), 28’
LEMONT – Amberg (Annabella DeMaio), 34’
LEMONT – Annabella DeMaio (unassisted), 37’