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Game story: Fremd topples Palatine in Kinsella Cup

By Bobby Narang, 04/21/24, 9:00PM CDT


Pirates retain traveling trophy with 7-0 win

PALATINE – No matter the final result of the match, the Kinsella Cup always stays in Palatine.

The Vikings, who are ranked 19th in the Chicagoland Soccer Top 25, just wanted to make sure the travelling trophy, which is named after Palatine Celtic Soccer Club co-founder Jimmy Kinsella, didn’t leave its current location – at Fremd High School.

The home team maintained its streak in the annual event, scoring three goals in the first half before downing Palatine 7-0 Saturday night at Fremd.

Sami Serpico was the star of the game, registering a hat-trick to earn the Chicagoland Soccer MVP of the Match honor.

Five different Vikings scored a goal and the entire roster received playing time. 

In front of a large and enthusiastic crowd on a cold night, Palatine gave everyone a jolt in the first 10 seconds. Pirates sophomore forward Jolee Waddington put the hosts on their heels by drilling a shot from 25-plus yards that smacked off the crossbar. Unfortunately for the Pirates (5-5-1, 3-4-0), who defeated Hoffman Estates 6-0 Friday night, the shot was an exception and not the rule.

Despite the outcome, Fremd (8-3-2, 7-1-0) had a major question coming into the match.

“I was pleased for a couple of reasons,” Keller said. “This is our fourth game in four days, so I was a little nervous about fatigue, but we came out and allowed that shot off the crossbar and came right back down and put it away. I was very pleased with the effort, focus and mentality of the team. This is how (we) can play. We haven’t been doing it, so this was good to get a result like this. 

“We got a lot of different people minutes and got to see different people in different situations. I feel like even when I bring some of our second-string players on, that the level stays similar. That’s good and shows that we’re deep, and hopefully we can continue on this path that we are on now.”

Waddington’s shot was like an alarm clock, it woke up Fremd and the crowd.

Vikings sophomore all-state forward Gwen Zimmerman answered the bell. She immediately got the ball after the shot and sprinted up the field before feeding Lily Mayer, who slotted her try inside the far post for a 1-0 lead 42 seconds into the match.

The back-to-back shots represented a massive shift in momentum.

“We were like, ‘Wow they are here to play,’’ Mayer said of the Pirates’ opening shot. “We were able to answer right away. We got up the field in like 30 seconds, and Gwen played me a perfect ball. I just had to put it in basically. We all knew we had to go and get one early. We played it up really fast, Gwen had three girls all trapping her, and she laid if off.”

Palatine coach Aaron Morris said his team was aiming to end their Kinsella Cup championship drought. But he said the Pirates were hampered from the opening whistle due to an injury suffered by starting goalie Kate Latek on Friday. Lila Hanson started the game, and Amanda Johnson took over the duties in the final 40 minutes. Hanson made five saves and Johnson earned four stops. 

“I liked the fast start there, because it has been a struggle in the past to get off on the front foot,” Morris said. “But we had a little mistake on the back, and that’s been an issue all year, and their (first shot) ended up the back of the net. We have not seen the trophy, probably in seven or eight years. 

“We had a little momentum coming into tonight, but we lost our starting keeper. I think some of the girls didn’t come into the game with the right mindset, but give credit to (Fremd). They took advantage of all of our mistakes and worked harder than us and were also in better spots than us. We didn’t take care of the ball very well. I think we played scared today.”

The emergence of Serpico is a key reason for the sudden surge Fremd, which lost tough games to top-ranked Barrington and former no. 1 and currently seventh-ranked Lyons earlier in the week. Serpico admitted she doesn’t know her goal tally for the season, though one of her teammates chimed in and stated “It’s a lot.”

Serpico said she’s happy to contribute to the Vikings after playing on the junior varsity team last season. She scored her three goals in succession for her first high school hat-trick.

“My favorite was the first one, when I dribbled up the field,” Serpico said. “This win feels good. I have a lot of friends on Palatine, so it was nice to beat them. We had to collect ourselves, make sure everyone is at their positions. We came back harder and wanted it more. I’ve come to this (Kinsella Cup) two years ago and last year.”

Serpico, a player with incredible ball skills and blazing speed, is emerging into a high-level talent. She credited her fast development to working hard in the offseason.

“I’ve just played a lot better this year,” she said. “My footwork is a lot better, and I learned where I should be more and learned how to play with my team.”

Keller, who played collegiately at Indiana, knows a thing or two about next-level players. He called Serpico a player with a high upside.

“Sami if she plays assertive and tries to be a little selfish at times, you can see how dangerous she can be,” Keller said. “It’s not in her personality to be selfish. She’s fast and good on the ball, is smart and the sky is the limit. She has all the tools for a bright future.”

Zimmerman, who scored the second goal of the game, said Serpico gives the Vikings another dimension on offense.

“She has so much speed that we get to end line it every single time,” Zimmerman said. “We can cut it across and her shot is amazing. She’s been incredible.”

Zimmerman added she cherished her goal in the victory and earned some praise from her coach.

“Keller is always yelling at me to turn and shoot more, but typically, that’s not my first instinct,” she said. “But he told me a few seconds before that goal, so I tried it. I’m not typically a shooter, but I was praying. I’ve only got three or four goals.”

The Vikings ended the game just like they started – waking up the crowd with a score. Freshman midfielder Josie Thomas had a goal to remember, sending in a laser shot from distance into the back of the net with 1.7 seconds left for the final goal of the game.

The Vikings have a tough week ahead, playing three games in three days starting at Elk Grove for a conference tilt Wednesday. Then Fremd finishes up its Naperville Invitational games in the consolation bracket against no. 6 York and a game Loyola side on Thursday and Friday respectively.

“This is always good to get this win, always a tough game because of the rivalry,” Keller said. “I have a front four in Sami, Gwen, Lily and Natalia Wala that if they are on their game, they are a tough foursome to handle for an opponent, like they were today. Lily was really dangerous on the right side in the first half. Natalia played really well, in the first half. All four of them played great in the first half and were working hard.

“I was pleased with Bella Scesniak and Gemma Gillespie in the back. They were steady for most of the game. Molly Rodino got the start today. She hadn’t played as much. She really played well last night against Fenwick and continued that today.”

Several Palatine players talked about regrouping following the tough road loss.

Junior midfielder Ava Millan said the Pirates have to get better at playing aggressively for 80 minutes.

“We wanted to come out and prove that we had nothing to lose,” Millan said. “I think coming into the game, we knew they were the favorites, so we wanted to come in on fire and strong. We knew it was going to be a battle. We wanted to battle them for 80 minutes or more if we went into overtime. 

“It was tough to see (our keeper) go down. I think we adjusted pretty well and we knew we were going to have two new keepers coming in to play for us. Our message (to the new keepers) was just confidence and trusting your backline, your midfielders and forwards and to be vocal with us.”

An emotional Waddington glanced at the scoreboard, noting that’s her motivation for the upcoming Elk Grove match Monday. Waddington said she was fired up at the start of the game.

“I wanted it,” she said. “Fremd has been winning for many years now. I wanted that first goal, to come out with a bang and catch them off-guard so they didn’t know what was coming. I thought it was going in. I felt good. I felt I had a good foot on it.”

Palatine meets Rolling Meadows on Wednesday to end its competitions for the week.

Fremd’s Zimmerman made a point to end the three-player interview by tossing praise at her conference foe Waddington.

“Jolee has such amazing speed,” Zimmerman said. “Her first shot was (amazing) and really through us for a loop. She was a tough challenge all game.

To learn more about the Kinsella Cup, click here

Starting lineups
GK: Lila Hanson
D: Kaitlyn Kania
D: Gretchen Kiesler
D: Claire Zach
D: Madeline Rams
MF: Allie Sobel
MF: Jocelyn Bonilla
MF: Maya Virgin
MF: Alex Millan
F: Autumn Johnson
F: Jolee Waddington
GK: Riley Goettsche
D: Lia Digirolamo
D: Bella Scesniak
D: Maddie McMillan
MF: Gemma Gillespie
MF: Ava Catherall
MF: Molly Rodino
MF: Natalia Wala
MF: Sami Serpico
F: Lily Mayer
F: Gwen Zimmerman
Chicagoland Soccer MVP of the Match: Sami Serpico, so., MF, Fremd

Scoring summary

First half
Fremd: Mayer (Zimmerman), 1’
Fremd: Zimmerman (unassisted), 16’
Fremd: Serpico (unassisted), 23’
Second half
Fremd: Serpico (unassisted), 49’
Fremd: Serpico (unassisted), 53’
Fremd: Gillespie (Serpico), 57’
Fremd: Thomas (unassisted), 80’