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Game story: Late goals distance Saint Viator from pesky Carmel

By Mike Sandrolini, 05/02/24, 1:15PM CDT


Lions seek to regain winning momentum for postseason

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS — Comparing Saint Viator and Carmel, one would have expected the host Lions to be heavily favored prior to Tuesday evening’s East Suburban Catholic Conference match with the Corsairs.

Saint Viator was ranked third in the Chicagoland Soccer Class AA Super 7 poll. The Lions’ high-octane offense had produced 78 goals through 15 games while surrendering only 20 goals.

The Corsairs were less prolific on offense, tallying 22 goals in 12 games.

Carmel coach Stephanie Kile conceded that “we don’t look good on paper.”

But Saint Viator coach Byron DeLeon wasn’t fooled.

“It’s a battle,” DeLeon said about facing Carmel.

And that certainly was the case on the turf at Forest View.

The Corsairs went toe-to-toe with the Lions through most of the contest. It was only when junior midfielder Monica Correa scored twice later in the second half that Saint Viator pulled away and recorded a 4-1 victory.

“They played with a lot of heart,” said DeLeon, whose team appeared to correct its course after a skid where it had lost three of its last four. “The thing that we talked about before the game was that Carmel has always come out ready to play and ready to fight. We needed to be able to play physical just like they play. Match their strength and move the ball around so we could expose the outsides. I think we did a good job on that.”

The Lions wasted little time putting their offensive firepower on display. Nine minutes into the contest, senior forward Allie Konopka gained possession of the ball about 25 yards from the goal, spun around and fired a blast past Carmel goalkeeper Maron Bowes for a 1-0 lead.

However, the Corsairs didn’t flinch. In the 17th minute, sophomore midfielder Josie Hartman, the younger sister of senior forward Anna Hartman, rifled in a shot following a Saint Viator turnover to tie it 1-1.

“I knew we had to score,” Josie Hartman said. “Obviously, things haven’t been going our way, but you’ve got to take the chance when you get it, and I saw the chance.”

“I felt like we were right there with them,” Kile said. “Coming into this game, we always know it’s a battle. It’s them and Benet; it’s always tough.”

It appeared as if Saint Viator was on the cusp of pulling away from Carmel at various points throughout the first half.

Two minutes after Hartman’s goal, the Lions had a long shot bang off the crossbar.

In the 21st minute, Saint Viator regained the lead when freshman Claire Salatino threaded the needle with a pass that enabled sophomore mid Jenna Caputo to walk in on Bowes and score.

“It was a great pass,” Caputo said. “All I had to do was just use my speed, get to the ball and then I just placed it. Placement is what I needed to do especially because of where the goalie was (positioned).”

Salatino set-up Caputo once again a minute later, but what would have been Caputo’s second goal of the game was nullified because of an offside call.

“I did not think it was offside, but apparently it was,” Caputo said, smiling. “When things like that happen. You just have to accept it and work harder for the next one.”

Salatino, who didn’t start the game, is listed on the roster as a defender, but DeLeon put her in the midfield to counter the Corsairs.

“We realized that we were losing the middle,” he said, “They put five people in the middle, we only had three, so the numbers did not work. What we did was we pushed into the middle to create a physical battle in there to win the balls and try to connect down the line and into open spaces. (Salatino) stayed there and played pretty much the rest of the game in there, because it worked.”

Carmel registered eight shots on goal compared to 12 for the Lions, and moved the ball well when in the attacking third. Saint Viator defenders had their hands full trying to mark Anna Hartman. The 2022 Chicagoland Soccer all-stater was difficult to wrest the ball away from once she had possession.

“I think we possessed,” Kile said. “I think we did a lot of nice little combinations, finding those seams. It’s unfortunate we didn’t get more into the back of the net, but I’m not too displeased.”

Bowes also held her own against Saint Viator. The Lions had a great opportunity to extend their lead in the 62nd minute, but the sophomore goalie stopped a shot by Caputo, and then denied Correa in front of the net.

“What I’m proud of is that these girls always show up,” Kile said. “They know the expectations of a big game under the lights like this in the ESCC. They came out, and they showed up.”

Correa, however, stepped up and gave the Lions some breathing room. In the 67th minute, senior mid Evelyn Urbaniak got the ball to Correa on a long through-ball.

Correa broke past the Carmel defenders, tapped the ball past Bowes and the Lions led 3-1.

The Chicagoland Soccer MVP of the Match added an insurance goal with two minutes remaining. Camila Fuentes, a freshman mid, provided the assist.

“We were holding them in the back pretty well,” Correa said. “We were able to win our battles and 50/50s in the back. Camila got it on the side, and she was able to hit me on a through-ball. I was just able to place it (into the goal).”

The Lions entered Tuesday’s game without starters Meghan McLaughlin, Maggie Drake and Taylor Brackett. Brackett, a Case Western Reserve recruit, has an undisclosed injury. DeLeon said McLaughlin twisted an ankle and Drake rolled an ankle. He said McLaughlin and Drake should return to action next week, but Brackett’s return remains up in the air.

The Lions also lost starting freshman defender Lilly Konopka to an Achillies injury that she suffered during the second half.

“I love that we all have heart and we all have skill,” Correa said. “Obviously, we don’t like having (injury) absences. But we’ve managed to play really well so it doesn’t affect us, and their absences aren’t evident. I believe that everybody has the ability to step up and show up for everybody and give their maximum effort at all times.”

The Lions (12-4-0, 4-1-0) are on track to finish second in the conference behind Benet, which sewed up its fifth-straight league title with a 6-1 home win over Joliet Catholic on Wednesday. The Redwings handed Saint Viator its only league loss April 23. The Lions’s final conference match is Saturday at Marist.

DeLeon thinks his team is in a good spot.

 “I will say this: we create enough from the offense that it’s hard for the opponent to mark one player,” he said. “We spread the ball around, and that’s pretty much been the formula for us.

“We have a team of girls that are full of heart. They’re warriors. They go at it. Even in difficult times, we’re able to come across and do the job.”

The postseason is on the radar for both teams as they conclude their respective regular-seasons May 9. That day, the Corsairs (2-9-2, 1-2-1) host Stevenson, which is ranked 20th in the Chicagoland Soccer Top 25, while the Lions visit Niles West.

Caputo is ready for big things.

“I think we’re really capable of anything,” she said. “I think this one of the strongest teams I’ve played on. I think we can make it really far in playoffs, win state. I’ve never met a team that wants it more than us.”

Despite her team’s record, Kile said she believes the Corsairs won’t be an easy out in the postseason.

“Honestly, I don’t mind being the underdog right now. Going into playoffs, I’m excited for this group,” she said. “In reality, we’re a better team than our record shows.”

The squads can meet again for the Saint Viator Regional title May 18.  In the semifinal round, the third-seed will host 14th-seeded Prairie Ridge on May 14; and no. 11 seed Carmel will meet sixth-seeded Cary-Grove on May 15. 

“I’d love to see Saint Viator in the regional championship,” Kile said. “Their no. 10 (Correa) and their little girl, no. 4 (Fuentes) in the midfield, I mean, they’re nice little players.”

Starting lineups

GK – Maron Bowes
D – Elanora Alivia
D – Bella D’Amore
D – Jillian Miller
D – Morgan Pitcher
D – Mila Schachelmayer
MF – Ema Delgado
MF – Josie Hartman
F – Peyton Carney
F – Norah Belmonte
F – Anna Hartman

Saint Viator
GK – Kyli Ziebka
D – Kate Ziebka
D – Frannie Drake
D – Lilly Konopka
D – Emma Mikrut
MF – Kiley Wrzos
MF – Jenna Caputo
MF – Kalin McCrea
MF – Camila Fuentes
F – Monica Correa
F – Allie Konopka

Chicagoland Soccer MVP of the Match: Monica Correa, jr., MF, Saint Viator

Scoring summary

First half
Saint Viator – Allie Konopka (Unassisted), 9’
Carmel – Josie Hartman (Unassisted), 17’
Saint Viator – Jenna Caputo (Claire Salatino), 21’

Second half
Saint Viator – Monica Correa (Evelyn Urbaniak), 67’
Saint Viator – Monica Correa (Camila Fuentes), 78’