BERWYN — Given the young roster of the Morton girls soccer team, the early part of the schedule was always going to be a test.
That test was made more difficult by the fact that the Mustangs played quality opposition in each of their first six matches.
The Mustangs finally got a win on the board on Saturday by beating Marian Catholic 4-1 at the Pepsi Showdown at Olympic Park in Schaumburg. Briana Keska had a hat trick and an assist in the ice-breaking victory.
After Keska’s breakout year last spring, teams have made defending her a priority. Multiple girls have been surrounding her whenever she gets the ball and with the Mustangs down a few key players they haven’t had the ability to overcome that against good teams. Coach Jim Bageanis is trying some different things to make sure she stays involved during matches.
“She was able to possess the ball against that team,” Bageanis said. “We were able to move some people around.”
The Pepsi Showdown has offered a chance to play teams more on Morton’s level at this point in the season. Bageanis is hoping the returning players and the newcomers can continue to jell over the next week.
After the tough start, the Mustangs simply want to rack up some wins and confidence.
“As I expected the younger group is just getting into the varsity level, the speed of play out there,” Bageanis said. “It’s getting better. They’re starting to combine with the older players. We knew it was going to take time.”
Three of those early losses, including a 1-0 loss at Hinsdale South on April 2, came by one goal. Two more, against Nazareth on March 22 and York on Thursday, were close games late until the Mustangs pushed forward in the hopes of an equalizer, but instead conceded goals with the defense exposed.
Injuries have also played a part in the slow start. All-conference returner Rachel Kacirek has missed a few games due to illness. Liz Gonzalez has been out since suffering a concussion against Fenwick on March 28. Gabby Fuentes, who Bageanis called the team’s best defender, is still out while recovering from an ACL injury. Fuentes could be back by the beginning of May.
After concluding the Pepsi Showdown on Saturday Morton will return to conference play at Addison Trail on April 16.