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Game story: Henige makes impressive return, Fenwick topples St. Francis

By Bill Esbrook, 03/13/24, 10:30AM CDT


After a year away, senior stands out with hat-trick, assist in 5-1 triumph

RIVER FOREST -- It was the first varsity game Tuesday night for Fenwick freshman midfielder Natalie Kapusta.

It was also her birthday. After the Friars’ game against visiting St. Francis had concluded, her teammates serenaded her with a spirited rendition of ‘Happy Birthday.’

And the emphasis was definitely on happy.

The Friars were thrilled with their performance after a season-opening 5-1 Girls Catholic Athletic Conference Red Division victory over the Spartans, and especially the play of senior Caroline Henige.

Henige scored three times and tacked on an assist for Fenwick.

“This was a lot of fun,” said Henige. “It feels great because we have a good group of girls, and it’s nice to start out the season this way.”

Henige said that it was the second time she had produced three goals in a prep game – the first came in a regional playoff matchup her sophomore season.

She took a break from high school competition in her junior year to help secure a college scholarship, but now has returned to the Friars for her senior campaign.

“It’s the group of girls (her teammates) and the environment,” said the Marquette-bound senior of her reasoning to return to high school play. “It’s really good soccer and very competitive.”

St. Francis answered the bell and almost took an early lead several times, the first coming right after kickoff.

Senior forward Ellie Bielenda drove down the right wing and sent a perfect cross to the front of the net, but the Spartans couldn’t convert the pass into a goal.

St. Francis had several more opportunities in the opening minutes but came away empty.

Then Fenwick found its footing and slowly but surely, the contest began to turn.

“In the first 10 minutes we were pretty good,” said Spartans coach Jim Winslow. “Too fast, but pretty good.

“But then they (Fenwick) got into it, and we have a lot of new kids. I got it in my mind that I wanted to play everybody today.  

“I wanted to see what they looked like. When we did that, we kind of lost the game.”

St. Francis was still playing well late into the first half. A long ball from Elle Wainscott in the 28th minute settled onto the foot of teammate Sophia Roszkowski 20 yards from the Friar’s net.

Roszkowski’s ensuing attempt flew just over the crossbar.

The Spartans kept on the attack and a give-and-go from Molly Marks to Clare Andrezejewski resulted in a shot on goal from sophomore forward Megan Maertens.

But Fenwick keeper Mimi Camille Carvalho, who recorded six saves, was up to the challenge.

Then Henige changed everything with her first goal. The 38-yard rocket in the 32nd minute from the dead center of the park zipped just over the outstretched hand of the Spartans keeper Kennedy Karl and nestled into the upper left corner of the net.

“Getting that first goal (in a match) is huge,” said Henige. “It’s a big momentum shift.”

The senior tacked on another bomb, an even farther one, just before halftime. The 42-yard blast gave the Friars a 2-0 halftime lead.

“The first goal, we didn’t have any pressure at all on the shot,” said Winslow. “It was a nice shot, but we should have had pressure in the middle of the field. Then the second goal was wind-aided. It did all kinds of weird things as it was going in.

“I (actually) thought the first two goals were self-inflicted because we gave up balls in bad spots.”

Fenwick midfielder Susie Shank was enthusiastic about her team’s halftime advantage, but it was a bittersweet day for the senior.

She expected to be out on the pitch competing with her teammates, but suffered an injury in practice Monday and had to sit out the match.

An elbow to the face caused a laceration to her lip and resulted in a few stitches.

Shank hopes to return to action “in a few days.”

“It’s very tough,” Shank said, “not be able to play in my last ‘first’ game. It’s very sad, because there was a lot of excitement around this game. But it just makes me more eager to get out there.”

Fenwick went on the attack from the get-go in the second half.

In the 44th minute, Henige drove the ball into Spartans’ territory and sent a nice chip-pass over to senior forward Grace Kapsch.

Kapsch, a Chicagoland Soccer All-Stater in 2023 (17 goals and 5 assists), calmly sent the ball to the back of the net from 12 yards to increase the Fenwick advantage to 3-0.

Just a few minutes later, Henige completed her hat-trick. The goal came on a shorter long-range blast, this time from only 28 yards, from the the center of the field.

At that point, to its credit, St. Francis didn’t give in. Instead, the Spartans kept attacking, and it resulted in a highlight-reel goal by senior forward Ella Wozniak.

In the 64th minute, St. Francis senior forward and Austin Peay recruit Paige Chrustowski dribbled through traffic and sent the ball to the left flank.

It skittered past the feet of a Spartans teammate, but Wozniak was able to settle it before it could roll over the end line.

The senior’s shot eluded a diving Carvalho and became the first Spartans goal of the new season.

Wozniak said that despite the lopsided opening-game score, she felt that her team has a bright future ahead.

“It was kind of a shock (the 5-1 final),” she said, “but I think we did a good job of not getting down on ourselves.

“It’s only the first game of the season, we’re working to get better. We have a lot more games to go.

“We have eight or nine seniors, and we’re only going to grow as a team. It’s going to be very exciting.”

Kapsch completed the scoring and her brace in the 71st minute from 17 yards after an assist from Bella Gray.

The victory was especially encouraging for Fenwick. The Friars will compete in the Class 3A state tournament this season after falling in the Class AA supersectional round last season and taking the fourth place prize in 2022.

“We’ve been trying to update our schedule,” said Fenwick assistant coach Daniel Hussey. “We’ll be playing a very tough schedule, so we’ll see what happens.

“We’ve got a solid group here with great attitudes.”

The Friars, as a seven-seed, made an electric run in the Class AA state playoffs last year despite entering the postseason with a 4-9-5 mark.

Fenwick defeated Lake View 1-0, then higher seeds Westinghouse (no. 3), Elmwood Park (two) and Payton (no. 1) to win their sectional.

The run ended in the Elite 8 when DeLaSalle exacted revenge for a defeat in the same spot a year earlier. Sophomore defender Lola Martinez said the Friars are using that end-of-the-year push as motivation for this season.

“Our season had been tough,” said Martinez, “but by the time the playoffs arrived we really came together as a team.”

Teammate Shank couldn’t help but agree.

“We didn’t get (the regular-season) record that we had hoped for, and we didn’t come out of the gate as strong as we would have liked.

“But it’s great that we proved ourselves in the playoffs. We weren’t the team that our record showed, and it made me so proud of how our team came together.”

And let’s not forget about birthday girl Kapusta. The frosh took her first step on her varsity soccer journey when she was inserted into the lineup at the 20-minute mark of the first half.

“It was kind of scary, because I’m playing with a completely new team,” said Kapusta. “It was less scary, because I have my older sister (senior Gabi Kapusta, a starting defender) on the team, and the rest of my teammates have been so welcoming.

“I was nervous throughout the first half, but my new teammates really helped me (boost) my self-confidence.”

Martinez added that it’s always a good thing to come away with a win in your first match of the season.

“Those (initial wins) are sometimes really hard to get,” said the sophomore, “but it starts the season off on a good note.”

Last season, Fenwick didn’t pick up its first win until the sixth match.

Martinez added that it’s a big leap from competing as a freshman as she did last year, to coming out and playing as an experienced sophomore.

“I’m more comfortable,” she said. “I’ve been with this team a year now, and I understand more how they play.”

Starting lineups

St. Francis
GK: Kennedy Karl
D: Alyssa Suriano
D: Maicie Schweimer
D: Maeve McGinn
D: Elle Wainscott
M: Olivia Basel
M: Shannon Brown
M: Sophia Roszkowski
M: Caroline Kiesler
F: Paige Chrustowski
F: Ellie Bielenda

GK: Mimi Camille Carvalho
D: Gabi Kapusta
D: Lola Martinez
D: Kiera Mullarkey
M: Mary Brunick
M: Fiona Roche
M: Coco Braithwaite
M: Finley Dondlinger
M: Caroline Henige
M: Lizzie Brunick
F: Grace Kapsch

Chicagoland Soccer MVP of the Match: Caroline Henige, sr., MF, Fenwick

Scoring summary

First half
Fenwick: Henige (unassisted), 32'
Fenwick: Henige (unassisted), 38'

Second half
Fenwick: Kapsch (Henige), 44'
Fenwick: Henige (unassisted), 51'
St. Francis: Wozniak (Chrustowski), 64'
Fenwick: Kapsch (Gray), 71'