By Bobby Narang
LAKE FOREST – Warren and Lake Forest are set to meet for a memorable night of soccer Thursday.
The 6:45 p.m. game, which honors Lake Forest’s seniors, will feature energized play between two talented and highly competitive programs.
Warren has won the past two meetings: a 2-1 home win in 2022; and a 3-0 road victory in 2021. The teams dueled to a scoreless draw in 2019.
Lake Forset (5-5-3, 2-3-0) would love to notch a win in the annual series on its Senior Night. It will be a challenging task on an emotional night.
“One of the keys will be to acclimate to a new lineup featuring all of our seniors on the field at the start of the game,” Lake Forest coach Ty Stuckslager said.
Warren (7-4-3, 2-2-1) aims to continue to build momentum after overcoming a tough stretch with consecutive conference defeats to Libertyville and Stevenson in the third week of April. Since then, they managed to rebuild their confidence with three wins and a draw.
Coach Ryan McCabe said his team learned from those tough league losses and attributed the team’s recent growth to maturity and newcomers adapting to the varsity level after a heavy roster turnover from the previous year.
“I think the games against Libertyville and Stevenson helped us focus on areas that we need to improve,” he said. “We have a young team with several key players experiencing varsity soccer for the first time. This group has done a great job of trying to implement the style and strategies that the coaching staff has been teaching. We’re also starting to get players healthy again, which brings up our level of play.”
Stuckslager praised players who helped his team overcome early season adversity that limited their success.
“Seniors Riley Hoskins and Sophie Benjakul have been stepping up,” he said. “Freshman Maddie Cummins has shown that she’s a competitor. We’re trying to improve each and every game. While we want results, we continue to strive for 80 minutes of quality soccer.
“Lily Cran is back after a month off. Amelia Fontana is back after missing a little over a week. Finding the best lineups that work in a variety of situations before the playoffs is our ultimate goal.”
McCabe expects a typical Warren-Lake Forest game.
“Lake Forest has been competitive in all of their games this season,” McCabe said. “Their defense is difficult to break down, so our ability to possess and find the openings in the final third will be important to our success.”
The Blue Devils have relied on several players to lift the program up this season. A year ago, the Blue Devils had an immensely talented team full of college-bound players. This spring, sophomore forward Addison Stanciak leads the team with 16 goals to go with three assists. Kate Mondejar has three goals and two assists; Reese Mertens has a team-high six assists.
“Addison continues to improve each game,” McCabe said. “She has a very bright future, because she works hard at improving her individual skills to help make the team better. Maya Martinek has played an important role as our holding midfielder.
“Reese Mertens has shown her versatility playing as an attacking winger and as an outside back. She has a high work-rate no matter where she is playing. Freshman Kate Mondejar has played bigger than her size all season. Our goalkeeper Emma Megerle has put in the work to get stronger and more confident each game. … Emma has earned the number one spot and has made some key saves the last few weeks.”