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Walsh’s all-out late hustle protects Lake Forest win at Mundelein

By Bill McLean, 05/09/23, 6:45PM CDT


Soph MF also provides assist in 1-0 North Suburban victory

MUNDELEIN — With less than a minute to play and her team trailing visiting Lake Forest 1-0 Monday night, speedy Mundelein junior forward Ashley Strachn had nothing but an open field and Scouts junior goalkeeper Sarah Constantine in front of her.

Then, suddenly, Lake Forest sophomore midfielder Ava Walsh entered the picture to disrupt the rush near the top of the 18 with only 27 seconds remaining.

“Ava found fifth gear in a hurry,” said Scouts coach Ty Stuckslager, who estimated Walsh had sprinted 30 yards to catch up to the Mustang and made the play of the game in the 1-0 triumph.

“Her speed saved the game for us,” said Lake Forest senior forward Maeve Bradley, whose first goal of the season — off a pass from Walsh in the 17th minute — was the difference in the North Suburban Conference finale for both sides.

The win in chilly, soggy conditions halted Lake Forest’s losing streak at three games and improved its record to 6-6-3, 3-4-0. Bradley’s goal was the Scouts’ first since a 5-0 win at Zion-Benton on April 25.

“Exciting game,” Stuckslager said after Monday’s game. “Close game. It had a playoff feel to it. And Ava’s play there at the end is the kind of play you need to make in order to be successful in a playoff game.”

Walsh had been in the running for the Chicagoland Soccer MVP of the Match honor through 79 minutes. Her clutch effort in the final minute clinched the accolade.

Walsh’s assist to Bradley traveled about 20 yards before Bradley, who had found space amid heavy traffic in the goal mouth, poked a three-yard, far-post shot past Mustangs junior keeper Abby Rounds.

Rounds made four saves on her 17th birthday Monday night.

“She has such a strong leg,” Stuckslager said of Rounds, who thumped the bulk of Mundelein’s free kicks and launched punts that nearly grazed nimbus clouds.

“Mundelein,” he added, “moves the ball well, is quick and disciplined, and it’s a well-coached team.”

Mundelein (14-8-1, 2-4-1) and its second-year coach Seong Ha, were hoping to jumpstart a stagnant attack against the Scouts or at least resemble the squad that defeated Deerfield 2-1 on April 3.

Deerfield (12-4-2) sits at no. 25 in the Chicagoland Soccer Top 25 poll and faces no. 8 Evanston (16-2-1) on Tuesday night in the Central Suburban League title match.

“We just can’t find that finishing piece in the final third,” Ha said. “One of my assistants told our girls that scoring is contagious. That’s so true. We’ve reached the point where we need to find the back of the net and then add some more goals.

“We’re still dangerous, but we haven’t scored a run-of-play goal in about two weeks. We are not controlling our destiny. We have to finish better.

“I appreciate that our girls are tired of losing. I also credit them for wanting to get better before the start of the playoffs.”

Ha’s crew, which hosts a regional and is seeded ninth in the rugged 3A Fremd Sectional, drew a tough Hersey in their May 17 semifinal match. The sixth-seeded Huskies host Barrington — ranked no. 2 in the Chicagoland Soccer Top 25— in the Mid-Suburban League Soccer Cup championship on Wednesday night.

The top distributor in Monday’s Lake Forest-Mundelein game was Lake Forest freshman midfielder Maddie Cummins, who’s adept at delivering lead passes in mid-turn. She and junior midfielder Lainey Tabor connected several times during promising sequences in each half.

“Maddie has done a nice job transitioning from playing U-15 soccer only a year ago to playing varsity soccer this spring,” Stuckslager said. “She’s good at finding teammates with her passes, and she’s grown as a player.”

Scouts senior co-captain Riley Hoskins and classmate Sophie Benjakul had a busy and productive night as backliners. Strachn and Mundelein junior midfielder Nayeli Abrego were constant threats via their speed and savvy.

Lake Forest’s brand of tough, clean defense had as much to do with the win as Bradley’s goal.

“Lake Forest is a physical team,” Abrego said.

But her praise for the visitors didn’t end with that observation. 

“It’s also a team that connects well,” she added.

Winning keeper Constantine finished her shutout with six saves. Her best stop occurred in the 16th minute, when she leapt to her right to deny a breakaway shot by the tireless Strachn.

Mundelein created its best second half scoring-chance in minute 53. Freshman midfielder Bridget Russ scooted a pass to Strachn, whose dangerous cross wound up in Constantine’s capable hands.

Eleven minutes later a Mundelein goal was nullified because of an offside call. A smattering of Mundelein fans applauded  before realizing the 1-0 Lake Forest lead was unchanged.

Walsh later gave Lake Forest backers and players a reason to cheer with her memorable sprint-and-squelch play in the 80th minute.

“Lake Forest’s players work hard for Ty,” Ha said.

Lake Forest visits New Trier in Northfield on Wednesday at 7 p.m. and then travels to Lake Forest Academy on Thursday for a 4:45 p.m. game. New Triter (16-3-1) is ranked no. 11. Lake Forest  is an honorable mention team in the poll.

Mundelein visits Northern Lake County Conference co- champion Lakes on Wednesday at 4:45 p.m.


Lake Forest senior back Hoskins and Mundelein senior midfielder Almora were recognized as North Suburban Conference Sportsmanship Award honorees before Monday night’s kickoff. The pair collided in the 38th minute while vying for a free ball near the top of Lake Forest’s box. Both popped right back up and, no surprise, neither displayed a shred of anger. “I slipped on her cleat,” Hoskins said. “I then told her, ‘I’m sorry.’” … Hoskins and teammates Walsh (sophomore midfielder), Constantine (junior goalkeeper), Lily Cran (senior forward), Hanna Sands (junior defender) and Kendall Snodgrass (junior forward) earned spots on Chicagoland Soccer’s midseason Watch List, which was released on April 21. … Mundelein soccer coach Seong Ha, on Mustangs junior keeper Rounds: “She probably has the strongest leg of any goalkeeper I’ve ever coached.”

Starting lineups

Lake Forest
GK Sarah Constantine
D Riley Hoskins
D Sophie Benjakul
D Hanna Sands
MF Ava Walsh
MF Lainey Tabor
MF Maddie Cummins
MF Sophie Gauthier
MF Elizabeth Flynn
F Maeve Bradley
F Lily Cran

GK Abby Rounds
D Ailani Zires
D Mikaela Sosa
D Lauren Coup
D Hannah Boone
MF Bridget Russ
MF Gladdie Greenfield
MF Nayeli Abrego
MF Phoebe Almora
F Ashley Strachn
F Sam Biesterfeld

Chicagoland Soccer MVP of the Match: Ava Walsh, so., MF, Lake


Scoring summary

First half
Lake Forest — Bradley (Walsh), 17’

Second half
No scoring