Girls soccer: Stevenson blanks Mundelein
Mackenzie Connington missed the entire girls soccer season last year due to a knee injury.
She's back in action this spring for her senior season with Stevenson. And while her efforts don't always show up in the box score, the stability she's providing from her midfield spot is helping on both sides of the ball.
"It's amazing to come back and be with my team again," said Connington, who was rehabbing an ACL injury last season. "It's a great group of girls. I just distribute, organize the center of the field -- make sure we stay together and make plays, and get some goals out there.
"We've had a tremendous amount of improvement going on from each game to each game. It's exciting to see, and we're a new team this year."
The supporting evidence for that is mounting, most recently with Stevenson's 2-0 victory over Mundelein in a North Suburban Lake matchup at the Vernon Hills Athletic Center on Thursday afternoon.
Brianna Van Zanten scored a goal and assisted on another, and Emma Jaeger also scored.
The Patriots have won four straight games, improving their record to 5-4 overall while earning their first NSC Lake victory to go to 1-1 in the division. Mundelein dropped to 6-3-1 and 1-1.
"We're playing like a team now," Stevenson coach Kevin Heffernan said. "We have a number of girls where it has taken some time to jell. They're starting to work on all cylinders. They work together, they understand each other's runs. Their timing is coming together. The defense is talking and they're organized. Our keeper (Hannah Petrich) is playing phenomenally, making some great saves keeping us in games. So, it's just all coming together."
The teams played through a scoreless first half with only a few chances either way.
In the 55th minute, the Patriots' Hannah Lapeire had a shot that was knocked to the side by Mustangs keeper Lexi Pawlowski (6 saves). But the Mustangs defense couldn't get the ball cleared out of the area, and Van Zanten scored the loose ball for a 1-0 lead.
"First I saw the cross coming in, and I want to follow every single shot," said Van Zanten, who has 5 goals and 5 assists in 9 matches. "Something just told me to get in there and get a foot in there. I just wanted a toe-poke or anything to get in. I was able to get it with the outside of my foot."
On the other goal, seven minutes later, Van Zanten sent a pass over to Jaeger, who served it into the top-right corner for a 2-0 advantage.
Petrich made 4 saves in earning a clean sheet for the Patriots.
Mundelein has lost 3 straight -- all by 2-0 scores, against Carmel Catholic, Glenbrook South and Stevenson.
"It's a struggle to find the results," Mundelein coach Ernie Billittier said. "I thought we've been playing fine, especially in this game, Carmel and GBS.
"I thought we did well enough to win this game. We didn't, and this is the North Suburban Conference and Stevenson is a good team.
"Right now, it's a little bit of mental errors that are hurting us. It's hard to take these results when you're playing pretty well. I thought we generated some good chances."
But the Mustangs can say that they've been competitive in every game after starting the season 6-0-1 with a young team.
"I don't think it's our youth," Billittier said. "It's tough -- you start out well, have a little slide and it's up to us to find a solution. That's part of soccer. We should be fine moving forward."