skip navigation

Game story: Konieczny nets brace under pressure, Stevenson downs Warren

By Bill McLean, 09/13/23, 5:45PM CDT


Junior leads Patriots to 2-0 North Suburban Conference win

GURNEE — Tuesday night’s North Suburban Conference match between visiting Stevenson and Warren unfolded as a tale of two braces.

One was injury related, the other heroic.

Minutes before kickoff, the referees notified starting Stevenson midfielder and senior co-captain Shu Aoyagi — sporting a black brace to support and protect his fractured left wrist — that he could not compete unless he produced medical clearance to do so.

That forced Stevenson coach PepeJon Chavez to scramble for his phone. He made a call or two and promised an assistant referee he’d show an image of the necessary paperwork to the official once it showed up on his phone.

Aoyagi eventually joined the fray, but not until the 20th minute.

Stevenson midfielder and apprentice captain Christopher Konieczny wound up with the other brace of the night. The junior scored both of the game’s goals in a span of six plus minutes at the end of the first half to lead the Patriots’ 2-0 victory.

As Konieczny and his mates walked toward the bench at the start of intermission, a smiling Chavez neared Konieczny and shouted, “Good stuff, good stuff,” and then embraced “Mr. Brace.”

Konieczny nearly recorded a hat-trick late in the second half, But his top-of-the-box, far-post blast skidded some three feet wide.

“Our goal scorer,” announced Stevenson senior midfielder Sebastian Pop moments after the Patriots, ranked no. 6 in the Chicagoland Soccer Top 25 and last season’s third place finisher at the Class 3A state tournament, improved to 9-0-0 overall and 2-0-0 in the conference.

Konieczny’s second career brace doubled his goal total to four this fall and made him an easy choice for Chicagoland Soccer Man of the Match.

On Tuesday he tallied his first goal, a three-yarder, off a perfect Pop corner kick in the 34th minute. Konieczny headed the near-post delivery past Blue Devils junior goalkeeper Colton Holmes (two saves).

With only 18 ticks left before halftime, Konieczny struck again, this time from about 16 yards. Patriots reserve sophomore defender Sebastian Palikot initiated a breathless scoring sequence via a rush and subsequent feed to junior forward Benjamin Inthisone, who then found Konieczny near a corner of the box.

Konieczny’s dazzling diagonal shot jostled twine near the far post.

“The first 15 minutes, Warren outpossessed us,” said Chavez, whose team had to battle without starters Cole Dirks (concussion) and Jack Bacher (concussion), and reserve Henry Chen (ankle).

“Had they scored then, it’s a different game. I’m proud of my boys. They took what was on our whiteboard and executed it on the pitch.

“I don’t have a natural scorer, a big-time 30-goal scorer. But I have a bunch of great kids, young and old, and we got a strong, collective effort from them tonight.”

Good teams rarely relax after notching the first goal of a game.

Great teams look at their 1-0 edge on the scoreboard and crave a 2-0 lead.

Count Stevenson among the latter set of teams.

“Our mindset after going up 1-0 was, ‘Let’s keep going,’” Konieczny said.

Stevenson’s Pop also provided plenty of snap and crackle vs. the Blue Devils (5-4-1, 0-1-1). Tireless and driven, the young man, who now has six assists in 2023, could complete a marathon shortly after hiking the Appalachian Trail and nobody would be surprised were he to wonder seconds later, “What’s next?”

“He’s our engine,” Konieczny said. “Sebastian is like a Honda Civic — never breaks down.”

Warren coach Jason Ahonen, in his 16th season at the helm, lauded Stevenson’s speed along the flanks. He’d seen significant growth from his crew in the last week-plus, and Tuesday’s loss didn’t dishearten him.

“That first goal, we needed to be tighter on our marks,” Ahonen said. “Good learning experience, and I’m still pleased with how we’ve been playing lately. Stevenson finished chances tonight; we didn’t. PepeJon has done a nice job since taking over the program.”

Ahonen’s son, senior midfielder and 2022 Chicagoland Soccer All-State pick Lucas Ahonen, was a threat all night, be it as a dangerous, left-footed set-piece taker or as a savvy, determined dribbler. Warren came close to scoring in the 66th minute, when sophomore midfielder Charlie Crowson nearly headed a lengthy Ahonen free kick past winning keeper Will Rokosh (two saves).

“His maturity as a player has impressed me more than anything
else has,” Ahonen said of his son, who made his varsity debut as
an outside back two years ago. “We were talking at home one day after a tough stretch, and Lucas said to me, ‘I’m not concerned at all about stats; all I care about is winning.’ He’s astute. I’m lucky and fortunate.

“Lucas,” he added, “wants to coach soccer eventually and will be involved in the sport for as long as possible.”

Warren senior midfielder Chris Crowson and sophomore forward Christian Albarran expressed their appreciation for Lucas Ahonen’s leadership qualities after Tuesday’s loss. Crowson also noted Ahonen’s commitment to soccer.

“In addition to getting us hyped up for games, he works hard on his game and keeps pushing,” Crowson said.

Each side displayed verve, particularly on defense, in the first few minutes Tuesday. Warren senior midfielder Diego Torres stole a pass, seconds before Konieczny did the same thing. Blue Devils keeper Holmes intercepted a cross that had “assist” written all over it and swatted away a Stevenson corner two minutes later.

Stevenson senior back Jack Shrout disrupted a promising Warren rush with a clear.

In the second half, Patriots senior midfielder Alex Huelsman headed away a couple of Blue Devils services, and Inthisone and Aoyagi wowed all with their speed and entertaining give-and-go shows.

“We knew Stevenson would be tough,” Chris Crowson said. “Their players are talented and crafty and fast.”

Each squad is scheduled to play another league game Thursday. Stevenson hosts Mundelein at 6:30 p.m., and Warren visits Lake Zurich at 6:45 p.m.


One of Warren’s four team managers is junior Addison Stanciak, a
standout forward and Chicagoland Soccer all-stater for the Blue Devils’ girls soccer team. She recently committed to Division I Saint Louis University, where she plans to major in medical sciences. She toils for the boys club alongside her teammates and fellow managers juniors Sofia Ogren and Maya Martinek, and senior Lorelli Barajas,. … Stevenson’s Konieczny notched his first career brace in a match vs. Waukegan last fall. … Stevenson took eight corner kicks to Warren’s two Tuesday night. … Chavez celebrated his 48th birthday on Sept. 10. … Jason Ahonen, a 1997 Zion-Benton graduate and former Zee-Bees forward, served his alma mater as an assistant coach for four seasons before beginning his coaching tenure at Warren 19 years ago. He also played soccer at College of Lake County and Carthage College. … Patriots sophomore midfielder Navaan Kistanna was informed he’d have to start in Aoyagi’s place minutes before Tuesday’s kickoff because of the latter’s issue related to his fractured left wrist. Chavez subbed in Palikot for Kistanna in the 14th minute. “Nice going on such short notice,” Chavez told Kistanna as the player came off.

Starting lineups

GK Will Rokosh
D Jack Shrout
D Mohit Damodaran
D Alex Huelsman
MF Christopher Konieczny
MF Sebastian Pop
MF Navaan Kistanna
MF Alexander Xie
MF William Boshold
F Benjamin Inthisone
F Advaith Ramanan

GK Colton Holmes
D Abraham Castrejon
D Angel Benitez
D Gunnar Zajac
MF Lucas Ahonen
MF Chris Crowson
MF Charlie Crowson
MF Diego Torres
F Michael Yang
F Christian Albarran
F Jack Elkinton

Chicagoland Soccer Man of the Match: Christopher Konieczny,
jr., MF, Stevenson

Scoring summary

First half
Stevenson — Konieczny (Pop), 34’
Stevenson — Konieczny (Sebastian Palikot, Inthisone), 40’ (18
seconds remaining)

Second half
No scoring