Although the weather on April 4 was cloudy and cool, Riverside-Brookfield and Fenwick engaged in a high-spirited high school girls soccer game at the Dominican Priory in River Forest.
In the latest installment of the area rivalry, the Friars emerged with a 2-0 win over the Bulldogs. The victory was particularly impressive given that the Friars (4-3) hadn't played since March 23 due to spring break.
Despite their loss against Fenwick, the Bulldogs have started the season fairly well. RBHS has already notched lopsided victories at home over Leyden, Fenton and Romeoville by a combined score of 21-1. Additionally, the Bulldogs won the Raider Invite title beating host Glenbard South 1-0 in the championship game.
Junior captains Grace Larson, Mazzy Marcucci, Taylor Jurgens and Evie Roth are the top returners from last year's 15-5-2 squad that lost to Glenbard South 1-0 in a Class 2A regional final.
Larson and Marcucci are notable scorers and playmakers, while Jurgens and Roth anchor the defense in front of Moira Ford, who is the replacement for standout goalkeeper Emily Graham (a 2018 graduate now playing college soccer at Purdue).
Other notable contributors include Taylor Kosiak, Megan Riordan and Izzy Rurka.
"This particular team has a lot of talent and skill," RBHS coach Ivek Halic said. "There is a great balance of leadership among players and a drive to succeed. The key elements for success for us are continuing to work hard and not get complacent during the long season."
In addition to Graham, the Bulldogs lost high-scoring forward Allie Kucera and midfielder Vanessa Fragoso, Gabby Tarrant, Claire Swiatek, Emma Pizana, Karen Valdez to graduation as well.
Competition will be fierce in the balanced Metro Suburban. Wheaton Academy is the defending conference champion, while St. Francis won the Class 2A state championship last season. Glenbard South, Immaculate Conception and the Bulldogs (among others) should be in the mix.
"We are always focused on our conference opponents," Halic said. "All of the teams within our conference are fully capable of quality soccer with quality players."
The Bulldogs will be tested outside of conference play as well.
"We select top opponents in our schedule to prepare for the challenges at the end of the season," Halic said. "Preparation is the key to our success."
RBHS (5-4-2, 1-0 Metro Suburban) plays three games this week in assorted locations of the Pepsico Showdown.
As for Fenwick, the team was delighted to earn a nonconference victory against the Bulldogs.
"Getting a 2-0 win against RB is really good. It was a pretty well-played game," Fenwick coach Rob Watson said. "These are two good local teams and a lot of the girls play club together. I thought in the first half we had a little bit of trouble communicating, but we sorted a couple of things out at halftime and settled down. We put on a good performance in the second half."
Both teams displayed tremendous speed defensively in a scoreless first half. Fenwick had the best scoring opportunity in the closing minutes, but Ford stopped a point-blank shot.
The Friars broke the ice about eight minutes into the second half when sophomore midfielder Emi Kapusta scored a goal off a set piece. On a free kick, senior midfielder Anissa Nourse passed the ball to Kapusta, who took a couple of steps and fired from about 20 yards out to beat Ford.
With just under 12 minutes left in the game, the Bulldogs had a golden chance to even the score, but a shot was saved by Fenwick freshman goalkeeper Audrey Hinrichs - while she was on her back. Then with just over five minutes remaining, the Friars put the game away on a goal by sophomore forward Juliana Giuffre, with the DePauw-bound Nourse notching her second assist of the game. Junior Mary Heneghan and Hinrichs combined for four saves in recording the shutout.
-Marty Farmer contributed to this story.