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Notebook: Deerfield

By Patrick Z. McGavin , 05/05/23, 2:00PM CDT


For the past decade, Deerfield has always been present and in the moment. That’s reflected in the seven regional championships the Warriors have won since 2012.

On the eve of the 2023 state tournament series, the Warriors are reflective and taking stock.

Six seniors graduated from last year’s magical team that led Benet at halftime of the Class AA state semifinal. On the verge of its first state title appearance since 2016, the Warriors could not hold the lead.

Despite the crushing loss, Deerfield cruised past Fenwick in the third place game and collected its second state trophy in a seven-year stretch.

Soccer, like time, is unrelenting, and the question that always arises is what have you done lately. Living up to past success is not easy.

This year’s iteration of the Warriors are driving to add to the school's legacy.

“I don't think it's a burden,” coach Rich Grady said. “I think we're a different team.

“We have a lot of players back, but we lost a lot of our offensive punch. Yeah. So we've had a lot of games this year where we've been successful, but we haven't been blowing people out. We have had a lot of close games. This is a group that knows how to win.”

The players are literally just coming up for air. The Warriors (12-4-2, 4-0-1) just completed a torrid stretch of playing seven games since April 24.

Deerfield captured the Central Suburban League North Division title, its 14th and 13th in the 2000s, with a 3-1 victory at Highland Park on Wednesday.

The following night the Warriors, ranked no. 25, fell to 21st-ranked visitors Glenbrook North. That ended a stretch of three games in three days.

Playing great teams is a natural part of the equation for the Warriors, who will travel to face no. 10 Evanston for the league championship May 9.

The end of the regular-season occasions its own memories and self-reflection. 

Junior midfielder and Chicagoland Soccer All-Stater Emily Fox led the Warriors in goals last year with 25. Her remarkable two-day run of consecutive conference hat-tricks against Maine West and Highland Park this week catapulted her 2023 season total to 22 goals. After the scoring bonanza, Fox ranks third in school history, trailing only Lisa Waltz, Class of '07 (64 goals), and Kirby Wells, '04 (75). Fox stands third in total points with 153, behind Waltz (159) and Wells (171).

She is the offensive anchor, a versatile and highly skilled talent who oscillates between the middle and top of the attack. She is dangerous from anywhere on the field and has made up for some of the Warriors substantial graduation losses.

Those six graduated players included the four captains: forward Riley Schimanski, defender Katie Morgan, and midfielders Holly Deutsch and Ally Linn.

Schimanski and Deutsch were All-State players. Morgan was a brilliant and highly athletic stopper and two-way threat. The versatile Linn provided key contributions at multiple positions.

Fox has stepped up in their absence.

“We lost a lot of players, but we still have a lot of great players on the team,” Fox said. “We have grown as the year has gone on.

“I knew I had to step it up, and be able to score for our team and help everybody out.”

Fox has been the centerpiece, but she is not alone. Thirteen different players have scored at least one goal.

Freshman forward Bella Krummenacher is the next generational offensive standout for the Warriors. Her 14 goals put her in elite company, a young player with quickness, toughness and a sense for the goal.

She is still learning, and getting better every day.

“I think this is very different compared with club, and I am still getting used to those differences,” Krummenacher said. “I think if you play your game, you can score.

“I think with every game that goes by, I get more comfortable with my teammates and high school soccer. Having a lot of games like this back-to-back is challenging physically, but it helps me because I am playing with the team more and more.”

Ryane Emory also fits the mold. She scored 11 goals as a freshman last season. Her scoring is down, but she has compensated with superb playmaking. Her eight assists lead the team.

Midfielders Simone Criz and Jessie Fisher have each scored three goals.

The Warriors are not a one-player operation. The balance and versatility carry the team.

Of all the players who could take pride in and exult about winning a conference championship Wednesday night, senior Marissa Siciliano had the best perspective.

The hard-luck defender's enthusiasm never wavered. She lost her freshman season to the pandemic and suffered season-ending injuries the next two years.

Playing outside back against Highland Park, she was stellar, playing physical and tough, and denying the Giants the ability to combine or create high pressure.

“I'm in a unique position,” she said. “I got hurt my sophomore year, and I've been riding the bench since then. Coming in this year, I didn't know what it was like to play with that team. 

“I watched them, and I knew how they communicated. Being able to watch it, I just picked up everything. As a leader of this team, I think I really tried to implement what last year’s captains did. We did lose a lot of great players, but we have had those hard conversations about what we need to be able to do. I think that has been very beneficial.”

The Warriors have a couple of days to rest and recover in advance of the league championship. Deerfield finishes out the regular-season with Grant and its annual end of the regular-season clash with Warren.

The Warriors are the no. 2 seed of their Class AA sectional. The team is approaching that special time of the year.

“They understand what the expectations are,” Grady said. “I think they've done a pretty good job of doing what we wanted to do.”