LAKE FOREST — Monday night’s game served as a measuring stick for the Lake Forest boys soccer team.
Under the lights at Varsity Field, the Scouts hosted Lake Zurich. A victory by Lake Forest would have been a declaration to the rest of the NSC that the reigning champs are still formidable.
But a loss wouldn’t have been unexpected.
“I think they [Lake Zurich] are going to be the best team in our division this year,” Lake Forest coach Rob Parry said. “Their players are fast and physical.”
From the opening minutes Monday, the Bears were the better team. They controlled possession, consistently eluding marks. Lake Zurich tallied six shots on goal in the first 15 minutes of play and went on to win 2-0. The Bears’ 1-0 halftime lead would have been larger if not for the stellar play of Lake Forest senior goalkeeper Brogan O’Connor and senior defender Hunter Moore.
An urgent Lake Forest team emerged after the break. Forwards Paul Passalino and Dan Hanson and versatile midfielder Keegan Kullby created runs, one of which almost resulted in a Passalino goal three minutes into the second half.
“They are a great team, one of the top in our conference,” O’Connor said of the Bears. “We knew it was going to be tough coming in. We look forward to playing them later.”
And that’s where the Scouts hope history repeats itself.
In 2013, Lake Forest lost an early September game against the Bears 3-0.
“They scored on two counters, put us on our heels in the first few minutes,” Parry said.
The loss could have derailed the Scouts’ season. Instead, it served as a minor speed bump. Over the next 30 days, Lake Forest won seven of nine games.
In the Class 3A regional semifinals, the Scouts got their rematch. Eighty minutes and two overtime periods were not enough to decide the winner. Lake Forest eventually prevailed in penalty kicks. The Scouts went on to win the regional title.
With three wins in their first seven games this season, Lake Forest would be happy to duplicate that 2013 finish. That squad improved with each practice and game, and Parry said he sees some similarities.
“We’ve gotten better as each game has gone along. We’re getting our substitutions down,” Parry said.
Kullby is a stalwart in the middle, as is senior Scott Dent. A co-captain, Dent’s work rate is among the highest on the team. Senior midfielder Brian Roper possesses a solid first touch, creating through balls for Passalino, Hanson and senior Keegan Filkin.
Another postseason meeting with the Bears is possible, and Moore said the Scouts will be prepared.
“I know we have the potential to beat them. We just have to bring it, can’t have any mental lapses and finish when we have the opportunities,” Moore said. “I’m optimistic. It’s just the beginning of the season.”