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‘E’-lectric Loyola tops Fenwick for 14th-straight league crown

By Patrick Z. McGavin , 05/08/23, 11:15AM CDT


Ramblers close out another perfect conference run with 2-0 win

RIVER FOREST — What’s in a name?  Shannon Hartinger has her own peculiar lexicon, and is used to rolling her “E.”

Imagine calling out a name, and multiple people turn their heads. Ten out of 25 players on her team, or 40 percent, have a name starting with the letter E.

Five of those players have a variation of French-accented “Elle.”

Keeper Ellie Bradley made several spectacular one-on-one stops and forward Ellie Vehovsky scored the game-winning goal in the Ramblers’ 2-0 victory over Fenwick in Girls Catholic Athletic Conference Red Division action Saturday at Priory Field.

The Ramblers (9-6-3, 5-0-0) conceded just one goal in league action and won their 14th-consecutive championship. Loyola is 40-0-3 in the conference over the past seven seasons.

Bradley’s quickness, athleticism and poise were a crucial factor in Saturday's victory.

“I think everyone stepped up, and I did what was expected of me,” said the senior and Chicagoland Soccer All-Stater. “The whole team defended well today, and it is always a team effort, so I couldn’t have done it without my teammates.”

Fenwick (4-9-4, 1-2-2) played well in defeat. The Friars created repeated chances and exerted pressure throughout the game.

Junior forward Grace Kapsch had several tantalizing opportunities at the start of each half.

In the fifth and 43rd-minute respectively, she broke free and found herself staring down Bradley in a classic shooter-against-keeper confrontation.

In the first showdown, Bradley charged hard off her line and made two remarkable kick stops, denying both the original touch by Kapsch and the rebound.

“When it comes to 1-v-1 stops like that, I just do my best,” Bradley said. 

“I work on cutting the angle and eliminating as much of the goal as I can. It’s really important to make your body as big as you can to take away as much of the goal as possible.”

During the fast-moving play, her split-second decisions were the difference.

Kapsch wondered if she overthought the matter.

“I definitely think when I am in that situation I possibly overthink it, because I also did this in a game we had against Hinsdale Central that we ended up losing on penalties,” Kapsch said.

“I had a bad habit today of shooting right at her, and she’s a really good keeper who made some really good saves. I knew it was going to be tough getting around her, but I probably should have taken one less touch. I guess I just felt the need to get closer to her.”

Fenwick showed skill and patience working the ball through the middle attack, finding open seams and working well in combination and overlapping play.

“We really wanted a good fight, and we really wanted to win this game,” midfielder Fiona Roche said. “I think we were a little intimidated in the first half, but even when we got down, we realized it was just a one-goal game, and we picked up the intensity.

“We had a couple of chances, and we unfortunately were not able to finish. We hustled really hard in the second half.”

Loyola’s backline stiffened at the point of attack.

“Ellie Bradley and our defense had a great game, and Ellie made many great saves that allowed the offense to get forward and create more opportunities,” defender Emily Pikarski said.

The Ramblers struck in the 20th minute.

Off a throw-in from the right edge from Caroline Southwell, midfielder Tess O’Bryan cut between two Fenwick players and flicked the ball to Vehovsky. She gained controlled in space about 16 yards out.

With Fenwick keeper Leah Hyland pulled out of the goal, Vehovsky drilled a half-volley for a perfect goal and the critical, first major action for the Ramblers.

Vehovsky is slowly reintegrating herself back into the flow after recovering from a concussion.

“I felt like the team, and I came out today to end the regular-season and close out conference play,” Vehovsky said. “On my goal, after the throw-in the ball got bobbled around a couple of headers and ended up being a perfect opportunity for the volley into the top-right corner.”

Fenwick responded with some sharp moments and compelling play through the balance of the first half. In the 25th minute, midfielder Alex Ballinger controlled a throw-in from Kiera Mullarkey and took a a shot from 17 yards that she pushed just wide off the mark.

Forward Susie Shank, who had been in conclusion protocol, returned to action and provided a fast threat at the top of the attack as a contrast to the more physical and relentless style of Kapsch.

“I think we did a really good job today countering a lot of their attacks,” saud Fenwick defender Emma Maria Bassett, who has toggled between the back and also played in the middle attack. She is one of the young talents who has taken on an expanded role.

“We came into this game knowing that Loyola was really good, and we were going to have to put up a tough fight. We knew they were going to push up their offense, and we’d be able to counter with our strong defense. We had so many chances to score. I thought we did a great job countering them.”

Bradley excelled under constantly changing circumstances. After stopping Kapsch again in the 43rd minute, she deflected a rocket ball by Shank a couple of minutes later.

She finished with eight saves, and earned the Chicagoland Soccer MVP of the Match honor for her ninth shutout of the year.

“I think I did my part to help us today, but I was very impressed overall with the team,” Bradley said.

The game-defining moment played out the 56th minute after Kapsch was fouled making a deep run inside the box.

Fenwick was awarded the penalty kick. With Bradley’s superb play unquestionably influencing her actions, Shank stepped up and watched her penalty attempt sail over the top of the bar.

“I wish I took more time before I actually took the shot,” Shank said. “I’d gotten hit previously with the ball, and I think there were a lot of emotions. I think, mentally, I was probably not quite in the right mode to take the shot.

“Generally I am pretty easy with taking them, and I have made several this season.”

The air escaped out of the sails of the Fenwick attack, and the Friars began to react to the run of play established by Loyola.

“These are some tough losses against some really good teams,” Roche said. “We have also had a winning streak against some really good teams. I just think this really hard schedule we have played is going to really prepare us for the state run.”

Loyola put the game out of reach with a gorgeous goal in the 75th minute. 

The Ramblers executed a deft wheel action with midfielder Claire Brady playing the ball to the right endline. Midfielder Lilianna Ciesla followed with a beautiful cross that Mim Fritzsche trapped before wheeling and firing a left-footed ball from nine yards that clinched the game and conference title.

“I always try to be an impact player no matter what the score is,” Fritzsche said. “I thought I played fairly well, and I had a few headers and good challenges in the first half.

“We have been working a lot on finishing in the final third. I saw my teammate driving towards the end line with the ball, and I just tried my best to get in position for the cross. Lilianna made a great pass, and I turned to create a shot on frame with my left foot.”

Starting lineups

GK: Ellie Bradley
D: Sadie Merriott
D: Maria Nikas
D: Emily Pikarski
D: Caroline Southwell
MF: Emma Shaffer
MF: Claire Brady
MF: Grace Lynch
F: Tess O’Bryan
F: Ella Couri
F: Ellie Vehovsky

GK: Leah Hyland
D: Kiera Mullarkey
D: Finley Dondlinger
D: Elle Dvorak
D: Emma Maria Bassett
MF: Alex Ballinger
MF: Maddie Rogowski
MF: Mary Brunick
MF: Fiona Roche
F: Susie Shank
F: Grace Kapsch

Chicagoland Soccer MVP of the Match: Ellie Bradley, sr., GK, Loyola

Scoring summary

First half
Loyola—Ellie Vehovsky (Tess O’Bryan), 20th minute

Second half
Loyola—Mim Fritzsche (Claire Brady/Lilianna Ciesla), 75th minute