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Game story: North Shore Country Day falls just short of Parker

By Bobby Narang, 05/02/24, 5:00PM CDT


After 1-0 Independent league loss, Raiders turn sights to playoffs


By Bobby Narang
WINNETKA – North Shore Country Day has some impressive soccer players.
The small school located in the North Suburbs stands out from other Class A Chicagoland soccer programs for at least one reason – its backline.
The purple-and-white clad Raiders have an imposing backline filled with tall, strong, fast and physical players.
Parker discovered the strength of the Raiders’ backline Tuesday afternoon and managed the only goal of the game late in the first half in a 1-0 victory over host North Shore Country Day at the Skokie Playfields.
The Colonels picked up their goal thanks to Monet VanVooren in the 35th minute to earn a quality road victory and hold off the hard-charging home team for the final 45 minutes to record the shutout. VanVooren, the Chicagoland MVP of the Match, nearly scored on two more attempts in the first half.
The North Shore Country Day backline of Margaret Fitzgerald, Zahra Omar, Dixie Oelerich and Isabel Roberts made it a long afternoon for the Colonels (8-4-2, 3-2-1). Raiders sophomore goalie Izzy Greenstein did her part with six saves. She played strong in the net and kept the game close with her physicalness and ability to read plays.
“Most of our team are multi-sport athletes, so we like to be ready for anything. They are flexible and big,” North Shore Country Day coach Rebekah Kauffman said. “We had a lot of chances and fought so hard for the entire game. We put together so many pieces of the puzzle, like how we wanted to defend all over the field and create turnovers to help create offense. 
“We did that so beautifully tonight, and so many people put in a lot of really hard minutes that really carried our team. Moving forward, we have one last conference game on Friday then head into the playoffs. We’re right where we want to be, getting a better read of where we are going to be, when and why. I’m so excited to see their hard work pay off.”
Roberts made the play of the game for the North Shore Country Day defense. She darted out of nowhere to stop a shot from crossing the goal line during an empty-net sequence in the 53rd minute to keep her team from falling into a two-goal deficit.
“Isabel is so fast, and it sticks out right away,” Kauffman said. “Also, you will never find a more kind person in the world but also someone all-in for the team. That was just a perfect display of how she sees herself on the team and is willing to do whatever it takes any time when we need anything. 
“Izzy Greenstein was also tremendous and is also all-in for the team. When we needed a goalie last year, she put in the work to learn the skills of the position. She’s calm back there and a supporter of her team.”
Roberts flashed a big smile – and even an “thank you so much” – when discussing her key save that stopped a goal by the visitors.
“I’ve always been taught that you run back no matter what, and I was back there,” Roberts said. “I was lucky to get my foot in the right spot. I wasn’t sure what I was going to happen. I just knew I had to be there in case something did happen or I would 100 percent blame myself. 
“On their goal, we just weren’t marked up and didn’t quite cover her. It happens. We just have to keep pushing forward and learn from this. I think we have to come out in the first 15 minutes and be moving and want it. We have to put our best foot forward. It’s been a fun season, and these girls are amazing.”
The Raiders (3-5-1, 2-3-1) had several opportunities to tie the game, but just couldn’t get a shot over the goal line despite constantly pushing the pace and being aggressive. Sophomore Kate Connolly displayed a nonstop motor attempting to find lanes for shots. She drilled a shot that was saved late in the first half, just seconds before VanVooren’s goal. 
Connolly sailed a shot over the net in the early minutes of the second half, then delivered a great cross to Daisy Stone that just missed the mark in the 76th minute. Connolly closed out the game with one final attempt, but her shot was saved as the final buzzer sounded.
“I feel good about today, because we all worked together and those (missed) chances are just an opportunity for us for our next game,” Connolly said. “We all did our best. I think I just need to get closer on my shots. I had a good chance at the end. Everyone has improved, and we’re better as a team. We can learn from (this). I have to be more aggressive and make more opportunities. I’m excited for the playoffs. We just to continue to go after our chances and we can have a good run.”
Parker coach Jonathan Garcia said the early goal set the tone for his depleted team. The Colonels were forced to make some adjustments when starting goalie, junior Audrey Smith, was unable to play. Without Smith, the Colonels elected to use a unique formula for the clean-sheet – they trotted out three different keepers to give the home team a different look.
It worked.
Freshman Ayla Pressman played in the first half and finished with three saves. In the second half, Elle Greenstein and Helen Aklilu split duties.
“It’s one of those games where we’re following up about six games in a row, so fatigue was setting in our seventh game,” Garcia said. “You could see that later in the game. Our quality kind of shut down. Monet is a playmaker and not afraid of taking chances. We’re happy with the clean-sheet. North Shore had a couple of tough (shots); we were able to save them. We’re trying to hit the end of the season hard without running our season to the ground.
“(The Raiders) made it tough, because they had fast people in the back, especially with us facing fatigue. They had some fast defenders back there, so through-balls wouldn’t work against them.”
VanVooren relies on her speed and foot skills to find quality shots, just like she did against the Raiders. She worked her way through North Shore Country Day’s defense, tapping in a shot from nine yards that deflected off the hands of goalie Izzy Greenstein before settling into the back of the net.
“We opened wide, and I was able to see the ball and take a touch for the goal,” VanVooren said. “I’m happy based on we came back from a loss (Monday). We’re definitely all tired after playing six games in a row. It was still little disappointing not to see our team play exactly how we can play but still, we’re happy with the win. Our coach always talks making runs and not giving up on the balls.
“They (North Shore Country Day) are pretty strong. Fortunately for us, we were able to split them a lot of times, which is a strength of our team. Even though they were big and hard to get past, we were able to work past that.”

Starting lineups
GK: Audrey Smith
D: Danni Kaplan
D: Caroline Polsky
D: Alex Ehrhart
D: Kiley Moss
MF: Ellie Alden
MF: Monet VanVooren
MF: Natalie Drake
MF: Helen Aklilu
F: Anna Swanson
F: Miriam Johnson
North Shore Country Day
GK: Izzy Greenstein
D: Margaret Fitzgerald
D: Zahra Omar
D: Dixie Oelerich
D: Isabel Roberts
MF: Callie Zhao
MF: Carly Lissner
MF: Reese Meyers
MF: Marina Bullock-Puzon
F: Daisy Stone
F: Katie Connolly
Chicagoland Soccer MVP of the Match: Monet VanVooren, sr., M, Parker

Scoring summary
First half
Parker: VanVooren (Johnson), 35’
Second half
No scoring