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Game story: Fast start propels Prospect past Grayslake North in tourney opener ​​​​​​​

By Bobby Narang, 04/21/24, 3:00PM CDT


Knights score twice in 1st 14 minutes en route to 3-0 1st round win

The Joe Welk Invitational arrived at the perfect time for Prospect.

Its two-day tournament allows six teams the opportunity to play three games in less than 24 hours.

Prospect entered Friday’s opener against Grayslake North in need of a momentum boost. The Welk represented a fresh start and perspective: a clean slate for the weekend event and a chance to relish in the previous two editions, when the Knights hoisted the championship trophies.

Coach Mike Andrews and his players hoped for the same outcome this weekend. The Knights wasted little time building some impetus with a goal in the 10th minute and carried on to a 3-0 victory over Grayslake North late Friday afternoon.

The Battle of the Knights went to the home team. 

“It felt really good to finish,” Andrews said. “We’ve been working really hard to generate end-line crossing opportunities, actually crossing with some accuracy and getting on the end of it. Our first two goals I think were a result of what we’ve been doing in training. It was a very physical game, so keeping my players healthy will be a challenge over the next few days.

“I’m proud of the effort and getting a win. Obviously, our goal is to seal the three-peat. You have to take it one game at a time. The competition is going to be really intense. There are some really talented teams in this tournament. This is a good experience for the girls; it’s great preparation for the postseason.

“It was nice to see us finish. The goal-scorers did a great job of getting at the end of those crosses. It’s nice to see when you do something in training come to fruition in games. I’m happy with the victory, but it wasn’t the most technical game we’ve played. Some games are going to be scrappy like today.”

The hosts showed a lot of hustle and fight from the opening whistle while battling a strong wind at George Gattas Memorial Stadium. Abby Davis woke up the large crowd with a goal off an assist from Ella Parisi in the 10th minute. Davis, the Chicagoland Soccer MVP of the Match, knocked in the cross for a 1-0 lead.

“I think I played a ball to a teammate, and the goalie kind of came out on her a bit, and Ella had a nice ball to me,” Davis said. “I think I was at the six, so since the goalie came out, I just had to tap it in with the goalie out of position. It was a nice find and a good placement shot. 

“It was fun to come out with a bang to start this tournament. It’s very taxing playing three games, but it’s fun. We have great team chemistry, so that makes it fun to be with our teammates for three games in under 24 hours.”

Prospect didn’t allow the visitors to recover. Parisi put her club up 2-0 in the 14th minute.

“We kept getting the crosses right in front of the goal. I made sure to crash each one, but their defense liked to stay high and try and get us offside,” Parisi said. “As we were running down on that (second goal), I noticed I was off a bit, so I had to drop back. I slowly kept going up with them. By the time they were ahead, all I had to do was run a bit right in front of the goal, because the ball was rolling slow. I just had to tap it in.

“It was good to give us momentum, definitely after the games we’ve been playing. We wanted to start this tournament strong and keep playing good and go for the win.”

Prospect added another goal to further distance itself from the visitors when Julia Valentini powered a PK inside the bottom of the right post to conclude the scoring in the 51st minute.

“We’ve been practicing PKs at the end of practice, especially this week because we knew in big tournaments that it always comes down to PKs at some point,” Valentini said. “Coach told me to take it, so I just stepped up and did what we’ve been doing in practice.”

Prospect keeper Sarah Bradbury earned the clean-sheet, but not without some second half fireworks. Grayslake North pressed hard in the second half, forcing Bradbury to step up to get the shutout. The junior notched three saves in the final half, including two in the last 14 minutes. She finished with four saves.

“Sarah Bradbury is an amazing keeper,” said Andrews. “She showed a lot of hustle and played great.” 

Bradbury appreciated those who came to her aid.

“We have a really good defensive line, so that helps a lot,” Bradbury said. “We had a lot of communication in this game. It’s something we always need to improve on, but we did a good job today. We’ve had struggles marking up in the past, especially in the last few games. I just tried to stay confident. They had a good amount of chances, and I stayed positive. It was good to get a clean-sheet.”

Grayslake North (1-8-2) upped its attack in the final 20 minutes but couldn’t break through.

Coach Adam DeCaluwe said it’s been one roadblock after another for his team this season.

“We’re struggling to play the game we want to play,” he said. “We gave up goals early on and chased. It was a frustrating game. We lost two players (to injury) on Thursday. Almost every day, we seem to lose somebody. They come back but aren’t fully back.

“We play a tough schedule, so we don’t have any opportunity to build that confidence or belief. It’s a struggle to get us going. The girls work hard and like each other and are staying positive. It’s a struggle to find our form and get results.”

A positive for Grayslake North has been the outstanding play and development of high-level midfielder Izzy Ceaser. The junior verbally committed to play soccer at West Virginia on Feb. 21.

DeCaluwe said Caeser can’t do it all for the hard-luck team.

“She’s a very good player,” DeCaluwe said. “We struggle because other players aren’t helping her in the battle. Everyone has good days and bad days. She’s had some really good moments and been able to shine. Teams know about her and sometimes double her up and play her very physically. She’s trying to carry us, but it can be a struggle to put that much weight on her shoulders. Unfortunately, this year has been a struggle. We haven’t had a fit team in a practice or a game.”

Lake Zurich ended Prospect’s title run in the semifinals Saturday morning. The final game for the Knights (3-6-2) against McHenry was canceled, so the teams can deal with injuries and add recovery time. Lake Zurich, ranked 18th in the Chicagoland Soccer Top 25, went on to beat defending Class A champion University (Normal) for the championship Saturday afternoon.

Starting lineups
Grayslake North
GK: Maria Khrystin
D: Elliana Sopiarz
D: Lindsay Ocampo
D: Olivia Tabbert
D: Madeline Porter
MF: Izzy Ceaser
MF: Ashley Hernandez
MF: Rylee Jaramillo
F: Victoria Rodell
F: Patrycja Potrzasaj
F: Leilyn Janneau
GK: Sarah Bradbury
D: Elena Katsogianos
D: Mia Whiteman
D: Sienna Murray
D: Addison Coval
MF: Abby Davis
MF: Ella Sommers
MF: Maeve Morris
F: Maddy Mann
F: Julia Valentini
F: Courtney Bradbury
Chicagoland Soccer MVP of the Match: Abby Davis, sr., MF, Prospect
Scoring summary
First half
Prospect: Davis (Parisi), 10’
Prospect: Parisi (Mann), 14’
Second half
Prospect: Valentini (penalty kick), 51’