LAKE FOREST – Warren sophomore Addison Stanciak stole the spotlight. It wasn’t the first time, or the second.
The forward with the unusually powerful and accurate right leg kept on her scoring tear and ascent in the Chicagoland soccer world.
No longer in the shadows of the stars from last season’s senior-heavy team with college-bound players, Stanciak is showcasing her immense talents. Each and every game, Stanciak is growing as a player and leader.
Thursday night was another example.
On a night where Lake Forest honored its seven seniors, Stanciak added to her growing and glowing reputation with two “banger” goals to carry Warren to a 2-0 win over Lake Forest in North Suburban Conference action.
Stanciak raised her season total to an impressive 18 goals to go with three assists. After her first hat-trick of the season (with two assists) in a 6-0 league win over Waukegan on Monday, she finished the week with five goals.
Stanciak is certainly hitting her stride, and the Blue Devils (8-4-3, 3-2-1) are following her lead with a late regular-season flourish. Stanciak said she’s never had her shots timed for speed but has always known she possesses a strong kick.
“It’s been one of my strengths since I was little,” Stanciak said. “Everyone has told me, even in Park District soccer, that I was always able to hit bangers. Even when I was four years old.”
Stanciak’s ability to quickly get off a shot combined with her strength, athleticism, speed and ball skills led to the brace. Those are rare gifts for an underclassman.
She drilled a shot into the left corner for a 1-0 lead in the fifth minute. Less than 20 minutes later, she belted a shot from distance past Lake Forest senior goalie Sarah Constantine, who had five saves in defeat.
The first goal started with thievery.
“I took the ball off the defender, took a couple of cuts and was able to find the opening in the bottom left corner,” she said.
Stanciak said the insurance goal was her favorite.
“On the second one, I got a throw-in from Ava Denapoli and was able to turn my defender and get a quick shot off,” she said. “I knew I wanted to get the ball on frame. I knew I could catch the goalie off-guard, because I wasn’t in a great shooting situation. It worked.”
Warren coach Ryan McCabe said Stanciak’s early goal sparked his team.
“The first half we played well and that was one of the things we focused on, because we knew Lake Forest was going to have a lot of emotion with it being Senior Night,” he said. “I wanted to make sure we were focused and ready to go, so getting that early goal was really big for us.”
McCabe said Stanciak is a special player at the early stages of a journey that should continue to feature plenty of highlights.
“Addison strikes the ball really well,” he said. “I don’t know miles per hour and how that would qualify. She can hit it on a rope. You don’t see that level of precision for a sophomore who has that kind of power and can hit the ball wherever she wants.
“We have a young team, so we’re going to have hiccups and take our lumps, and we did early on. Getting girls healthy is important, but the girls have been resilient to stick with the plan, which will help us out hopefully this year and the years to come.”
Megerle, who notched five saves in the shutout, helped steady the team during the transition period following the graduation of standout goalie Trish Georgiou.
Protecting the Blue Devils line along with fellow keeper Audrey Groth, Megerle has made several big saves in the last few weeks, McCabe said.
Megerle’s top stop was a diving stop with two minutes left until halftime. She notched another save off a bullet shot early in the second half and added a tap-out denial with 15 minutes left.
Lake Forest kept up the fight. In the final seconds, a long and powerful shot hit the football crossbar.
“We worked really hard in the first half and got alittle tired in the second half but still stayed strong and got the shutout,” Megerle said. “I just stayed on my toes and was ready for anything.”
Senior defender Paige Hogberg said the Blue Devils learned from humbling back-to-back conference losses to Libertyville (6-0, April 18) and Stevenson (2-0, April 21). They are undefeated (4-0-1) in their five matches since.
“We’ve had our ups and downs throughout the season. But since the Body Armor tournament (a bracket championship) we’ve been training hard and slowly progressing and moving the ball around the field well and connecting our passes,” Hogberg said. “We did a really nice job in the first half of connecting, finding feet and moving off the ball, and scoring and shifting as needed. We fell off a bit in the second half, but our keeper had some great saves to keep us in the game.
“We’ve got a lot of players back, but we also knew we didn’t play how we know we should have. Those were off games for us. Since then, we’ve been playing our game instead of resorting to different levels. We’re back to playing to our skills instead of praying and relying on luck. It’s a game-changer. We’re getting ready for playoffs and excited for what’s coming up.”
Warren junior midfielder Reese Mertens, a two-year varsity player, said the Blue Devils are coming together at the right time of the season.
“I think we came into this knowing what we had to do, just knowing it was their Senior Night and an exciting night for them, we managed to shut them down,” Mertens said. “We’ve overcome a lot this season with injuries and unnecessary losses. We definitely came out to play, especially in the first half.
“I think we’re shooting up in skill. We play well together and know each other’s talents. I feel good about everything.”
The tough loss did nothing to dampen Lake Forest postgame celebration of its seniors. A professional photographer captured the memories. The seven seniors – Sophie Benjakul, Riley Hoskins, Maeve Bradley, Amelia Fontana, Anna Marquis, Alexandra Fontana and Lily Cran – got together to take a group photo.
Lake Forest coach Ty Stuckslager joined in on the fun, dropping to the turf to take a memorable picture of his seniors all huddled together looking down at him.
The Scouts (5-6-3, 2-4-1) have battled through injuries and availability issues, and have needed players to grow into enhanced roles.
Worries about wins, losses and records were replaced by taking moments to smile, laugh and remember.
All seven seniors talked about their enjoyment playing for Stuckslager and the Scouts’ program.
Alexandra Fontana, who is slated to attend Michigan, was happy to step on the field one last time. After suffering a season-ending knee injury against Waukegan, she was a ceremonial starter. She kicked the ball to her twin sister Amelia to begin the match before exiting the pitch for the final time of her career after nine seconds had elapsed.
“Coach told me that I was playing, and I wasn’t sure if it was like last year what we did for another (injured) senior,” Alexandra said. “It was really special, because it was my last time probably ever putting on a uniform. It was special to pass it to my sister. I’m proud of how my team played, and so happy that I’m included coming to all the team events. They support me a lot.”
Amelia, who is one of two seniors attending Miami, cherished Thursday’s experience.
“It was a really special game,” Amelia said. “The first half was really rocky, because none of us really stretched, but we competed in the second half. It was super special that they found a way to integrate my sister in the game at the beginning. We’ve played soccer for 14 years together. It was really nice to be included with her at the start.”
Bradley, who is set to attend Tulane, came close to a goal with 15 minutes left, but her shot was saved by Megerle.
“It was really nice to see everyone coming out and supporting us,” Bradley said. “I loved seeing it in past years for the other seniors. It was bittersweet, but we worked really hard tonight. I built so many special relationships here, even from my sophomore year with those seniors. It really sticks with you. It’s really sad, but time flies.”
Hoskins, a three-year varsity player who plans on attending South Carolina, joked that “she wants to cry” before regaining her emotions.
“Obviously, it wasn’t the result we wanted, but knowing that the amount of people that came to support us made all of us feel great. They wanted to celebrate the seniors and all of the years we’ve spent at this high school,” Hoskins said.
Benjakul, who will attend Illinois this fall, said she couldn’t wait to celebrate Senior Night.
“We’ve all been playing soccer since we were super little, so this was a special day,” Benjakul said. “I’ve built like a second family.”
Marquis, a future Colorado student, said the Scouts are a very close team.
“I think the one thing that stood out to me was the support of our fans and our team,” Marquis said. “That support is not something you find on every team. That’s really special about our team. Also, I think some of the girls on this team have been playing together since we were really little. It was special to share this moment with everybody.”
Cran, a captain who also is planning to go to Miami, said the team has a unique bond.
“I think it comes down to our sense of community,” Cran said. “I want to emphasize about being one team, one unit that works together. We get over things together, and we do things together as a team, like going to getting dinner and breakfast together. We sing karaoke, just all these fun things together. You can really feel the energy of the team and how it connects people and you are not alone.
“We’ve had so many great memories together, like our win against New Trier (3-0 on May 7, 2022) was amazing. That was so exciting, but it’s also the little things like caring for someone or screaming someone’s name on the sidelines or singing karaoke on the bus. It’s all been good.”
GK: Emma Megerle
D: Ava Denapoli
D: Anjelica Amezquita
D: Paige Hogberg
D: Maya Martinek
MF: Reese Mertens
MF: Kate Mondejar
MF: Alex Brock
MF: Arly Melchor
MF: Sophia Ogren
F: Addison Stanciak
GK: Sarah Constantine
D: Sophie Benjakul
D: Hanna Sands
D: Ava Walsh
D: Riley Hoskins
MF: Sophie Gauthier
MF: Amelia Fontana
MF: Anna Fontana
MF: Alexandra Fontana
F: Maeve Bradley
F: Lily Cran
Chicagoland MVP of the Match: Addison Stanciak, so., F, Warren
Warren: Stanciak (unassisted), 5’
Warren: Stanciak (Denapoli), 22’