HIGHLAND PARK – Did Deerfield's Emily Fox get in the zone twice or did she never leave it? Foregoing the conecture, the junior was/is in a place where few venture.
Call it her own dream state. Every shot feels alive to the moment.
“I am an attacking player,” Fox said. “I like to be a risk taker. It doesn’t always work, but when it does, it is really good.”
In the Warriors most consequential game of the season, the Deerfield junior delivered with her customary grace, style, athleticism and shot-making prowess.
Fox registered her second hat-trick in as many games and days as the Warriors defeated Highland Park 3-1 Wednesday night to clinch the Central Suburban League North Division title before a crowd of about 200.
Deerfield (12-3-2, 4-0-1) will play South Division champ and 10th-ranked Evanston in the conference title match May 9.
Fox lived up to the moments; she was the opening, middle and closing chapters for the Warriors.
The game marked the final conference clash between the neighboring rivals. With the start of the fall sports calendar, Deerfield will switch places with Niles West and move to the South Division of the Central Suburban League.
After scoring three goals in the Warriors’ 4-4 tie with Maine West Tuesday night, Fox shook off fatigue and emotional exhaustion to carry her team.
Despite her three first half goals Tuesday night, Deerfield needed a 75th-minute goal by Avery Kingsepp in what turned out to be a very important draw.
“We definitely did not get the result we wanted yesterday, and we did not play to our standard,” Fox said. “We just knew that we had to come out and bring it.
“It was a rough, quick turnaround, but we were ready. We took some time, slept it off, and woke up this morning. We were ready for this game.”
The solo point the Warriors earned for the tie was the difference over the Giants (6-8-2, 4-1-0) in the division standings.
The highly-anticipated game was previously postponed twice, most recently from Monday night.
Fox scored in the seventh and 11th minutes against Maine West. She scored her first goal quicker against Highland Park. The early Wednesday goals created an emotional tenor and structural advantage the Warriors orchestrated brilliantly.
In the third minute, working off a beautiful early action by freshman forward Bella Krummenacher, Fox blasted a 14-yard howitzer from the right edge for a fast and electric start.
She followed up in the 11th minute with another beautiful strike from about 12 yards off a terrific ball from defender Madeline Stevens.
She shattered the typical strategic grappling of the early going. Deerfield had command. The experience from the night before taught them not to take any moment for granted.
From Mallory Killoren, Riley Schimanski, Holly Deutsch, Fox and now Krummenacher, the Warriors have had a remarkable recent stretch of brilliant freshmen talent.
A forward who has shown creativity, speed at the point of attack and a great touch, Krummenacher is the team’s second-leading scorer with 14 goals.
“I feel like the team is really welcoming, and everyone brings each other up,” Krummenacher said. “If you mess up a play or make a mistake, everyone just tells you to pick your head up, and get back into everything.
“The coaches realize if you’re good enough to be on the team, you are going to get your chance, even if you are a freshman.”
If Krummenacher is the classic apprentice, Fox is the natural leader who provides shape and context for constructing the path forward. Confidence is the fruit of reassurance.
“Just like Emily said, I have learned to take risks,” Krummenacher said. “She has taught me to be creative and how to stretch the field, and also how to trust yourself with the ball.
“She dribbles and creates a lot, and I have learned from her.”
Highland Park weathered the fast Deerfield start and began to adjust to the Warriors’ pace and speed of play.
The Giants middle attack, keyed by Greta Ohlwein, Riley Waxman and Mia Evans, began to assert themselves more thoroughly, and countered the Warriors’ speed and athleticism.
In the 25th minute, Evans fought for control of the ball, evaded a defender, and smashed a ball from about 17 yards inside the near post.
It was a fitting goal on her 17th birthday.
“Mia getting that goal showed great character and strength,” Highland Park coach Kate Straka said.
“We've talked a lot about persistence this year, even after a setback. The girls have responded really well to that. Mia scoring on her birthday was wonderful, and it allowed us to shake off the nerves. She showed the leader that she has become.”
The Giants’ forward tandem of Kira Thomas and Emma Risko-Juarez also applied pressure, creating a more uptempo and open style that created some dangerous opportunities.
“This team has really taken ownership of its strengths,” Straka said. “They are each other’s pals, and they have each other’s backs. They challenge each other, and they compete.
“We can look at our record and define success in different ways. We got to the conference final, and a championship bracket at Body Armor by doing really great and wonderful things. Our girls have taken ownership of who they are.”
Deerfield countered with its own blend of toughness, speed, creativity with the ball and standing tall in the box.
Junior keeper Lauren Gottlieb finished the match with three saves.
Coach Rich Grady praised the play of Simone Criz, calling it her best game of the year. The midfielder displayed craft and a heady style, controlling and shaping possession that enabled Fox and Krummenacher to reach their own apex.
“I knew I had to work really hard tonight, because this game was for the conference. I have worked really hard on my consistency and bringing effort every game,” Criz said.
As a junior on the Class AA third place team, she flashed creativity and guile with the ball, underscored by her six assists.
Criz has taken full advantage of being a full-time starter and exerting her will on the rest of the team. The mix of the new, like Krummenacher, and the returning talent paid off.
“I think we have all meshed and grown together,” Criz said. “Regardless of who’s missing from last year, we brought in a lot of new players. I think, as the season has gone on, we just keep getting better and better.”
Highland Park stayed within the one-goal differential for nearly 40 minutes.
Fox crushed any chance of a late rally with a beautiful concluding touch, taking a feed from Kingsepp in the 63rd minute and delivering a coup de grace, a wicked one-touch from about nine yards.
Emily Fox earned the Chicagoland Soccer MVP of the Match honor. She raised her season total to 22 goals — marking the second-consecutive season she surpassed the magic 20-goal figure.
She scored 25 goals last season and has 66 goals in her glittering career not yet three quarters over.
“We have definitely struggled in some of our games with scoring first, and we’ve been coming back a lot,” Fox said. “It was really huge tonight for us to score early.
“It really brought the energy up, and we knew we had to get the next goal to secure it.”
GK: Lauren Gottlieb
D: Marissa Siciliano
D: Madeline Stevens
D: Sophia Peiser
MF: Simone Criz
MF: Emily Fox
MF: Avery Kingsepp
MF: Jessie Fisher
MF: Sara Goldstone
F: Bella Krummenacher
F: Ryane Emory
GK: Sage Morris
D: Klara Fussle
D: Jillian Maigue
D: Ava Gaddini
D: Sammie Huyler
MF: Greta Ohlwein
MF: Mia Evans
MF: Riley Waxman
MF: Noa Cooper
F: Kira Thomas
F: Emma Risko-Juarez
Chicagoland Soccer MVP of the Match: Emily Fox, jr., MF, Deerfield
Deerfield—Emily Fox (Bella Krummenacher), third minute
Deerfield—Fox (Madeline Stevens), 11th minute
Highland Park—Mia Evans (unassisted), 25th minute
Deerfield—Fox (Avery Kingsepp), 63rd minute