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Game story: Libertyville gets in a groove against Lake Forest

By Patrick Z. McGavin , 04/20/24, 7:45AM CDT


Wildcats erupt for 6 goals in North Suburban shutout win

LIBERTYVILLE — The speed and volatility of the game creates a high variance of possibilities, sometimes in a flash, a moment-to-moment whirl of events that feels seismic.

Lake Forest had seemingly all the early momentum through the first stage of its conference game against Libertyville.

“One of our forwards got tired, and I turned around to tell another girl to go in. All of a sudden they scored,” Scouts’ coach Ty Stuckslager said. “I saw none of it.”

Libertyville midfielder Molly Koch had disruptive ideas.

“We always try to come out every game really strong,” she said. “Lake Forest is never an easy win to get through, so I think we came out with the mentality of having a strong start and getting that first goal.”

Koch scored the 11th-minute opening goal that turned the tide decisively in the host Wildcats’ impressive 6-0 victory in North Suburban Conference play Thursday night.

Libertyville (5-3-0, 2-0-0) registered its second-consecutive conference shutout; starting keeper Kate Hopma combined with Brianna Valdez for six saves.

The bulk of the first half was played in a steady downpour. With the skies clear by intermission, Libertyville erupted for five second half goals.

Libertyville’s six goals came from different players. 

Koch earned the Chicagoland Soccer MVP of the Match for breaking the ice and registering a goal and assist. 

Forward Lilly Frantz also had a goal and assist.

Lake Forest (2-5-0, 1-1-0) was dazed by the volley and action. It marked a stunning reversal from the opening 10 minutes that saw the Scouts generate several strong actions.

Midfielders Chloe Hvostik and Lainey Tabor each broke free in space and had shots from about 20 yards just clip the top of the bar. 

Coming off its best offensive performance of the season in a 3-0 victory over Waukegan on Tuesday, the Scouts appeared primed to sharpen their playmaking and offensive capabilities.

“I thought Hanna Sands, our defender, even though she was one of the smaller players on the field, was outstanding and won a lot of the early balls,” Stuckslager said.

“My halftime speech was based on everything I saw, and I told the girls I thought they were playing great.”

Libertyville returns seven key players from last year’s team that defeated Lincoln-Way East in the Class 3A third place game. The team graduated crucial offensive pieces forward Ellie Rebman and midfielder Jenna Krakowski.

Koch scored 12 goals and had 10 assists last year. She is still getting settled into her new role as primary playmaker and shot-creator.

“It has been an adjustment for sure,” Koch said. “Ellie and Jenna were both really strong players, especially leading the midfield and leading our offensive line.

“It was a little bit of a struggle in those first few games trying to figure out how we are going to play the game. We have started to click the last couple of games, against Warren and now tonight. We are making that adjustment.”

Midfielder Shea Krakowski continues to impress and make up for the departures of her older sister and Rebman. She came into the game as the team’s leading scorer with nine goals and two assists.

She was the leading scorer on the state team last year with 16 goals and five assists.

Shea Krakowski initiated the stunning change of events off the counter by controlling the ball, and slotting a perfect through-ball to Koch in the middle.

Koch broke through and hammered home a ball from about 17 yards from outside the near post in the 11th minute.

“I think that the chemistry is building with each game,” Krakowski said. “At each practice we work harder and harder on our offense and defense, correcting the mistakes that we made earlier so that when it comes to game time, we are prepared and ready.

“Another big thing is that we have learned how to make the adjustments throughout the game, with our ability to take criticism and coaching. We’re just now putting all the pieces together.”

Krakowski was also at the foreground of the second half explosion. In the 45th minute, off a free kick from the left wing about 30 yards, she blasted a near-perfect ball that clipped off the post.

Defender Maddy Kopala was perfectly positioned for the putaway.

“We have been focusing a lot more in practice about finishing, and just from getting from point A to point B, and just really trusting each other,” Kopola said.

“The offense is doing a super job of making creative runs, and trusting everybody. It’s almost as if we know where we’re going to be before we even go there.”

Kopala is another talented veteran and two-way threat who was crucial in limiting the offensive thrusts of the Scouts, and helping build the attack out of the back.

Libertyville’s three losses, each by shutout, played out in the Lou Malnati’s Deep Dish Classic. All three losses came against top 10 teams: no. 3 Evanston, no. 5 Naperville North and no. 8 Glenbrook South.

“That was a super great tournament for us to figure out what we needed to work on,” Kopala said. “I think it’s always better in the beginning to figure that stuff out. We can definitely build off of it the entire season.

“It definitely showed our weaknesses, and the things we needed to work on. We also realized we needed to capitalize on our strengths to make the field bigger, and we also had to trust each other, play more as a team and not as individuals. We realized we can’t win unless we play all together.”

Libertyville turned the game into a rout with a three-goal flurry, two coming less than a minute apart.

Dynamic and skilled forward Lilly Frantz slotted a ball near the top of the box that midfielder Tess McGormley buried in the 53rd minute. Koch and Frantz collaborated on the fourth goal in the 62nd minute from virtually the identical location, center right some 19 yards out.

Defender Erin Kelly took advantage of a miscommunication with Lake Forest keeper Sarah Constantine for the fifth goal in the 63rd minute.

Reserve Natalie Schmidt closed out the scoring in the 75th minute.

Lake Forest battled, and showed desire and a willingness to engage the Wildcats. Tavor was able to generate several corner kicks in each half.

Ava Walsh, switching from the back and the middle, had a couple of decent looks.

Libertyville had all the right answers. The early advantage of Lake Forest was a memory by the second half.

“Honestly, I think they scored on almost every shot they had,” Stuckslager said. “Sarah made some nice saves, and they had one shot that was off the side netting.

“I think it was one of those games where the final score in a way reflects the actual game. That’s soccer sometimes. We’ve also been in 1-0 games that probably should have been six or seven. It was a little disappointing how we let it get away from us. We’re still not an 80-minute team. The girls have been working hard toward that.”

Starting lineups

Lake Forest
GK: Sarah Constantine
D: Ava Walsh
D: Ryan Rice
D: Caroline Kaiser
D: Hanna Sands
M: Maddy Cummins
M: Chloe Hvostik
M: Lainey Tabor
F: Lily Remus
F: Taylor Gaston
F: Kendall Snodgrass

GK: Kate Hopma
D: Maddy Kopala
D: Lainey Chung
D: Shannon Phillips
D: Erin Kelly
MF: Molly Koch
MF: Shea Krakowski
MF: Sydney Dulak
MF: Tess McGormley 
MF: Meg O’Donnel
F: Lilly Frantz

Chicagoland Soccer MVP of the Match: Molly Koch, sr., MF,  Libertyville

Scoring summary

First half
Libertyville—Molly Koch (Shea Krakowski), 11’

Second half
Libertyville—Maddy Kopala Krakowski), 45’
Libertyville—Tess McGormley (Lily Frantz), 53’
Libertyville—Frantz (Koch), 62’
Libertyville—Erin Kelly (unassisted), 63’
Libertyville—Natalie Schmidt (Bella Yare), 75’