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Preview story: Downers Grove South, Morton convene to decide another league title

By Bobby Narang, 05/09/23, 12:15PM CDT


It’s a sequel that never fails to entertain.

Morton (16-5-1, 5-0-0) hosts Downers Grove South (13-3-1, 5-0-0) at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

The visiting Mustangs have been the gold standard in the West Suburban Conference Gold Division. They ride a 24-game league winning streak into the match and have claimed the last two titles. The last time they lost was 1-0 at Morton on May 6, 2019; a year ago they beat Morton 2-1.

Downers Grove South hasn’t lost since a 3-1 defeat to Oak Park and River Forest on April 13. They enter the game on an 8-0-1 tear. The Mustangs’ other losses came against Lyons and York, who are now both ranked, in the first week of the regular-season.

Coach Chris Hernandez expects a typical match against Morton – thrilling and challenging.

“As a team, winning the conference has always been a priority and the same can be said for this season,” Hernandez said. “We want the title to stay in Downers Grove. 

“Morton is a solid team. They are a traditionally dynamic and well-organized side with some very dangerous players. We will need to focus on the details that will allow us to play quick and defend as a collective unit as we have done all season.”

Downers Grove South has relied on a stout defensive third. It’s highlighted by junior goalie Hannah Fedinec has 11 shutouts on the year and 20 blank-sheets for her career. That puts her in the top 10 in program history. 

On offense the Mustangs feature Chicagoland Soccer All-Stater Emily Petring. The senior forward has had a fantastic season with 28 goals and five assists. Senior defender Grace Rappel has played a crucial role with four goals and 12 assists. 

“Three components have led to our strong start this season,” Hernandez said. “Our defensive organization has been pretty excellent this season accounting for 11 shoutouts and only 10 goals against (three off set pieces/PKs). We also have players that are coming in and adapting to changes being made during games, which demonstrates a high level of tactical intelligence in understanding the needs of the game and opponent.

“I think our leadership has been outstanding this season. Our captains (Petring, Rappel and senior defender Aubrey Molinari) do a fantastic job of focusing and motivating the group. But it is the group, as a collective, that has truly invested themselves into the right mentality.”

Morton coach Jim Bageanis said his Mustangs know they are in for a battle.

‘Downers Grove South is a tough program year-in and -out,” he said. “We need to handle Petring and (Skylar) Swanson and get back in transition to find bodies and defend. We have had a great season. 

“We have had success offensively and also have improved defensively as the season has progressed. The girls have played tough all season. I feel we can defensively hold our own with any team, because we have several players who can score for us.”

Morton has relied on a solid attack to overpower opponents this season. The team has scored 68 times and has an impressive plus-45 goal-differential. Junior midfielder and Marquette recruit Carisma Rosales leads the way. The Chicagoland Soccer All-Stater has 23 goals and 12 assists.

“Carisma has been a force for us all season long,” Bageanis said. “Whether she is scoring, assisting or helping defensively, she has done it all. She is a special talent.”

Junior forward and all-state candidate Aaliyah Leanos has held a prominent presence in the Morton offense with 17 goals and nine assists.

Senior keeper Cindy Jiminez (1.18 goals-against average) will tend the net for the Mustangs. Regular starter Yaritza Padilla is out due to concussion protocol according to her coach.