The Fenwick High School girls soccer team felt confident entering Friday’s Class 2A sectional final against visiting St. Francis.
After all, the Friars edged top seed WheatonAcademy 1-0 in double overtime in the semifinals, thanks to Morgan Hosty’s clutch goal. Moreover, Fenwick owned an undefeated record at the Priory in RiverForest heading into the St. Francis matchup.
While beating the Spartans straight up would have been difficult, a rash of injuries made the assignment almost impossible for Fenwick. The loss of junior midfielder Anissa Nourse, one of the team’s top playmaker, was particularly tough.
“Injuries just caught up to us,” Fenwick coach Rob Watson said. “We started the game with five players on crutches, and we finished with nine.
“We played St. Francis earlier this season and had a 2-2 tie,” Watson added. “We probably should’ve won that game. Today, with this many injuries adding up against a very good team, it just wasn’t going to be.”
A pair of early St. Francis goals by Erin Peck and Jill Ditusa put the Friars in a hole they couldn’t dig out from as the Spartans rolled to a 5-0 victory.
The costliest injury for Fenwick during Friday’s game occurred to midfielder co-captain Lauren Stibich. The Illinois-bound Stibich suffered a lower body injury in the first half and didn’t return.
Stibich is a very good two-way player so her absence was felt on both ends of the field. St. Francis controlled the ball for the majority of the game as most of the action was on Fenwick’s side of the pitch. Whenever the Friars did manage to enter St. Francis’ side, the Spartans almost immediately regain control of the ball.
Fenwick managed to get a stronger push towards the end of the first half. The Friars had a golden opportunity to score on a breakaway, but the shot sailed over the net.
The Spartans led 2-0 at halftime.
Eight minutes into the second half, St. Francis scored two goals within 90 seconds to put the game away. The goals by Kendra Pasquale and then Hannah Rittenhouse gave the Spartans a commanding 4-0 lead.
Admirably, the Friars never gave up. They sustained some pressure in the St. Francis zone and had some good scoring chances by Hosty and Natalie Brennan. However, they couldn’t convert offensively.
The Spartan’s Christie Fasana scored a goal with eight minutes left in the game, extending the lead to 5-0.
“Although we didn’t get the result we wanted, I’m proud of this group,” Watson said. “They didn’t quit and never gave up. We had a great season. Statistically, this was one of our best seasons in history.”
Overall, the Friars (14-4-4) had an outstanding season.
Fenwick won the PepsiCo Showdown, which is one of the best high school soccer tournaments in Illinois. The Friars finished second in another prestigious tournament, the Windy City Classic. Additionally, they went unbeaten in the Girls Catholic Athletic Conference.
Individually, Stibich was a two-time member of the All-State team as well as first-team all-Midwest Region. She’s one of 11 seniors that will leave a lasting legacy on the program.
“It’s a special senior class; they’ve done a heck of a job,” Watson said. “I have three girls that are two-year captains and four-year starters. Statistically as well team success-wise, this is one of the best classes we’ve had.”
While there’s no doubt that the seniors will be missed, there is cause for optimism in 2019. Nourse will be the leader of a young team that will be talented albeit a bit inexperienced.
“We lose a lot, but there’s a lot of nice talent on the freshman and junior varsity levels,” said Watson. “We also have a very good incoming freshman class. The future is bright.”