Although there are less than three weeks left in April, Friday night's match against Glenbard South felt a lot like a season opener for St. Francis.
Finally playing with its roster healthy, the Spartans earned a 1-1 draw thanks to a penalty kick from freshman Tamryn Syron with 9:02 remaining.
"We've finally got the kids back from all those injuries and what a difference it made," Spartans coach Jim Winslow said. "And the young kids are playing better."
St. Francis (1-4-1) welcomed back seniors Andrea Ravlin and Alexa Zepeda and freshman McKenzie Douglass.
"There's a certain amount of chemistry you can teach and some that the kids just have with each other," Winslow said. "You saw it in the first half. We had some opportunities but didn't shoot enough, but in a lot of ways this was like our first game."
Ravlin had been sidelined with mononucleosis. Forced to sit out for three weeks, the four-year player was antsy to get back in action.
"Since it's my senior season I was so excited to start and then I found out I was sick and couldn't play," she said. "Tonight was a big motivation to get back out there. We're putting all the pieces in place now and slowly coming together. Now things should get exciting."
Glenbard South (5-3-1) found excitement with 35:02 left in the second half when senior Michaela Miglio pounced on a pass from senior Sadie Moore and accurately placed it in the back of the net.
It was her sixth goal of the spring.
"We were focusing on pressing up towards the ball and trying to force them to play the perfect ball," Miglio said. "We forced a bad ball that went to Sadie and she played me the ball and I was just looking for the shot there. That's really what I'm looking to do and I was able to get a goal."
The lead held until Syron's penalty kick avoided junior goalkeeper Jackie Wescott.
"We kind of lacked the composure to put this game away either by scoring more or being more calm to finish the game out," Raiders coach Glen Eggert said. "But they're heading in a good direction and really working hard to bring things in. We're doing a nice job of playing more in the system that we're trying to play within."
The Spartans nearly broke the tie in the final minutes when junior Taylor Van Thournout retrieved a long kick and got it before Wescott. The ball ultimately caromed off Glenbard South sophomore Vicky Reese, but the Spartans couldn't do anything with a pair of ensuing corner kicks.
"Such a difference tonight," Winslow said. "Their energy and enthusiasm felt like a first game and in a lot of ways it was. Our speed of play was better, movement was better and we possessed better."