MUNDELEIN — Carmel coach Stephanie Kile feared the worst in the 51st minute of the East Suburban Catholic Conference game against visiting Marist on Thursday night.
“I had to look away,” she said after her Corsairs’ 3-0 victory. “I thought the ball kicked by their goalkeeper (Elissa Rizek) had hit Madison (Konen) right in the face, and that she was seriously hurt.”
Konen, a Carmel senior midfielder, was fine. The hard-struck ball had actually smacked the back of one of Rizek’s teammates after traveling only 10 yards. It then scooted past the keeper for an own-goal that put the hosts up 2-0.
“As I watched the ball head back toward their goalie, I went, ‘Oh, oh, oh,’” said Konen, whose shot on goal, thanks to a pass from junior defender Peyton Carney, had started the boom-boom-ricochet sequence.
“Then I raised my arms as the ball entered the goal.”
Normal action preceded and followed the unusual tally.
Corsairs senior forward Emily Fix bookended the own-goal with a goal in the 50th minute and a PK in the 54th minute. The 2022 Chicagoland Soccer All-State selectee now has 22 goals to go with four assists this spring.
“She’s super fast and talented,” said RedHawks coach Chris Roe, whose squad slipped to 8-11-2 overall and 1-4-1 in the ESCC.
“Emily,” added Marist senior midfielder Maddie Meehan, “is a great player. She’s so quick, with great speed, great technique, great everything. She and her teammates connected really well in the second half.”
Fix threatened often in the first half, but the visitors from Chicago owned the bulk of the run of play in the first 40 minutes. Meehan, senior forward Gina Czochara and freshman defender Julia Skol were major players during the RedHawks’ lengthy possessions.
“I complimented their coach after the game,” said Kile, a 2008 Carmel graduate. “That team has a couple of solid players. “We came out a little flat, like we did against Joliet Catholic (in a 7-0 Corsairs win on Tuesday),” she added. “We’re not going to be able to get away with that in a playoff game.”
Carmel (10-4-1, 5-1-0), which defeated Marist 5-1 in Chicago last year on the RedHawks’ Senior Night, played without junior forward Anna Hartman (eight goals, 11 assists), another 2022 CS All-State pick, on Thursday night. Kile chose to rest her. Starting sophomore forward Norah Belmonte, who
also competes for Carmel’s track and field team this spring, exited the Marist game shortly after the kickoff.
She appeared to have suffered a leg injury in the first minute.
“I don’t think it’s serious,” Kile said. “I took her out (for precautionary reasons). Norah has been through a lot as a two-sport athlete this spring.”
To Kile, the only thing more pleasant than the seasonable weather conditions Thursday was the collective play of her backline and goalkeeper Abby Tekampe (four saves). Carney, senior back Maddie Nikolai and junior defenders Jillian Miller and Mila Schachelmayer turned Marist forays into Carmel transitions time after time.
Miller is still listed as a midfielder on Carmel’s roster, but she’s been an invaluable center back since the season’s infancy. Capable of accurately booting the ball 35-40 yards when needed, Miller takes corner and free kicks but does her best work disrupting the intentions of potent forwards.
Countless RedHawks attacks died at or near the feet of Miller on Thursday. If walls could talk they would sound a lot like Miller, who earned the Chicagoland Soccer MVP of the Match honor.
“I needed another strong center back,” Kile said. “I remember asking Jillian about playing defense for us at the beginning of the season, and she was hesitant at first. But she has been outstanding in the new position while looking like a natural back there. Her physicality is one of her many strengths, right
up there with her high soccer IQ.”
Fix called Miller “Tank” after Thursday’s game. It’s a moniker alluding to her teammate’s toughness.
“Jillian is unstoppable,” Konen, standing between Miller and Fix, said.
Nikolai is a first-year outside back. She, too, has been playing with aplomb at a new spot.
“My defense has been good all season,” Kile said. “Defenses too often don’t get a lot of credit, but mine deserves a lot of it.”
Credit Fix for finding a way to finally break the 0-0 stalemate 11 minutes into the second half. About a minute after Rizek rushed off the line to foil her 10-yard shot on goal, Fix worked hard to control a loose ball in the box and unleash a 15-yard, near-post goal.
“We lacked energy in the first half. And we were scrambling too much. But we fixed that,” Fix said.
Konen noted that Carmel was too reactive in the first half.
“We didn’t go to the ball,” she said.
They clearly changed their approach after intermission. The mindset shift resulted in Carmel’s back-to-back-to-back goals — in a four-minute span — and allowed both coaches to deploy many of their reserves in the final 15-20 minutes.
“That’s been our forte this year, playing well for a while and then making a couple of mistakes,” said Roe, whose crew landed the no. 3 seed in the AA Kankakee Sectional despite its sub-.500 record. “We play decent, but we don’t get the results we want.”
Carmel, seeded no. 1 in the Class AA Deerfield Sectional and an honorable nention school in the Chicagoland Soccer Top 25, fell 2-0 at New Trier on Friday and hosts Glenbrook North on Monday at 6:30 p.m. New Trier and Glenbrook North are Class 3A schools ranked nos. 12 and 21 respectively.
“I scheduled tough games like those on purpose,” said Kile, who wants her Corsairs to be as battle-tested as possible before the start of the postseason.
Marist hosts Providence in a nonconference match at 10 p.m. Saturday.
Marist senior midfielder Maddie Meehan plans to study biology at Indiana University, where she might go out for club soccer. Her plan is to become an orthodontist like her father, Mike, who works in Palos Heights. The word “brace,” coincidentally, was a significant part of Thursday night’s Carmel-Marist
matchup, but it had nothing to do with teeth. Carmel's Fix notched one in the win. . … Moments after Marist goalkeeper Rizek (four saves) made a superb stop on a second-half shot off the right foot of Fix, Marist coach Roe commented, “That was her best save of the year,” near the RedHawks’ bench. “She showed great technique. Everything about that save was great.” … Six Carmel Corsairs earned spots on Chicagoland Soccer’s midseason Watch List released on April 21: Fix, Hartman, Miller, junior back Bella D’Amore, Konen and junior defender Peyton Carney. … Carmel sophomore midfielder Ema Delgado’s impressive work rate and dribbling skills were on display vs. Marist on Thursday. … Former Carmel JV coach Dan Riskind is serving as a first-year varsity assistant for the Corsairs this spring.
GK Elissa Rizek
D Roisin Murnin
D Claire Cotter
D Katy Cupp
D Julia Skol
D Nikki Young
MF Hanna McNeela
MF Maddie Meehan
MF Molly Boyle
MF Megan Flynn
F Gina Czochara
GK Abby Tekampe
D Maddie Nikolai
D Jillian Miller
D Mila Schachelmayer
D Peyton Carney
MF Madison Konen
MF Ema Delgado
MF Josie Hartman
MF Bella D’Amore
F Emily Fix
F Norah Belmonte
Chicagoland Soccer MVP of the Match: Jillian Miller, jr., D, Carmel
Carmel — Fix (UA), 50’
Carmel — own-goal, 51’
Carmel — Fix (PK), 54’