HINSDALE – Lyons forward Katie O’Malley was sporting an ice pack on her right leg, the result of the typically rough treatment she receives from opposing defenders.
But she said it was nothing to worry about, just a tight quadriceps muscle.
Opponents, however, continue to have plenty to worry about when O’Malley is on the field.
Hinsdale Central was the latest team to find that out. The Red Devils impressively held the Illinois State recruit scoreless but she still found a way to get the better of them.
O’Malley assisted on defender Caroline McKenna’s goal as the Lions edged the Red Devils 1-0 in West Suburban Conference Silver Division action Tuesday at Dickinson Field.
That made the physicality of the defensive slugfest a little easier for O’Malley to take.
“For games like these I feel like I’m used to it. Hinsdale Central is close to our school, and we’ve known them and how they play,” O’Malley said. “They know how I play and how it can be dangerous.
“I think it was a little frustrating having a man on me the whole time, so I couldn’t do as much as I usually can. But that’s why I think it was better, because we can use each other.”
That’s how the Lions (11-0-0, 2-0-x), who are ranked third in the Chicagoland Soccer Top 25, finally solved the no. 18 Red Devils (7-1-2, 1-1-0), who certainly held up their end of the bargain in this matchup of undefeated teams.
Hinsdale Central played Lyons to a draw in a first half which saw the squads muster only three shots. Every time the ball got in or near either penalty area, the defenses clamped down.
But the Lions, who slowly took control of the play in the second half, finally broke through after 64 minutes. That’s when O’Malley lofted a corner kick from the right side into the middle of the box, where it found the head of McKenna, whose nod out of traffic bounced inside the right post.
“Caroline is always the one I look to, because she’s not afraid to head the ball,” O’Malley said. “They played a man zone, so it kind of made it easier for us to run around and get open.
“So seeing her in the box, I tried to get it in the middle where she would be.”
McKenna was excited when she saw the ball coming toward her. The Lions had come up empty on their first five corner kicks, but their luck changed on the sixth.
“We were just saying to get everyone in the box,” McKenna said. “They had had a bunch of people in the box the whole game. When (assistant coach Andy) Newcomb was saying, ‘Just get everyone in,’ I was yelling it, and Katie just stuck it in the middle of the box, and I happened to get my head on it.”
It was the second goal in as many games and the first career game-winner for McKenna, who scored the first goal in Lyons’ 4-1 win over Evanston in the Lou Malnati’s Deep Dish Classic championship game Saturday.
That was the first goal the the Lions gave up this season. They started a new shutout streak Tuesday.
“It’s just super exciting,” McKenna said. “This is a really high-energy, high-emotions game, so to put one away in a game like this is just amazing. It was a great ball from Katie, too.”
Lyons coach Bill Lanspeary wasn’t surprised that McKenna is starting to make an impact at both ends of the field.
“She’s aggressive and strong in the air, so she likes getting into that mix,” Lanspeary said. “We wanted to get some bodies in there, create some havoc and see what happens. She was in the right place at the right time.”
Prior to the goal, Lyons O’Malley barely missed a cutback shot wide of the left post in the 60th minute. She beat three defenders on a left-to-right run through the box on the play.
Up until that juncture of the game, it was Hinsdale Central’s backline and freshman goalkeeper Katherine Skinner who were in the right place at the right time. Even after the Lions began to control the play after intermission, the visitors struggled to finish.
Skinner made five of her six saves after the break.
In addition to Skinner, Hinsdale Central’s defense includes two other freshmen in fullbacks Addie Krogstie and Adrianna Giannini, who together with senior Ava Elliott and junior Julia Marinaccio have meshed to form a backline that has allowed only seven goals this season.
“I think numbers and grade of school on paper, sure, you can look at that,” Hinsdale Central coach Tony Madonia said. “But we evaluate players and we say, ‘Can you do it?’
“And they are up to the task. It’s pretty obvious. They are confident; they are strong. They’re smart. They work for each other, and it’s hard to get past them.”
Krogstie is a talented multi-sport athlete who runs cross country in the fall and competes in indoor track during the winter. She held her own against the older Lions.
“Going into it we kind of knew it would be tough,” Krogstie said. “We’ve been preparing all week, and we kind of trusted in ourselves.
“We knew we might have been the underdogs but we knew we could pull through. Unfortunately, we didn’t get the result, but we fought really hard. I was very proud of how we played.”
So was Madonia, whose squad has only four seniors, two of whom start. Regardless of age, every Red Devil knew what was walking off the Lyons bus.
“You can always expect Andy and Bill to have a solid squad, strong and deep,” Madonia said. “They’ve got some players, that’s for sure, and they play well together.
“It’s nothing we didn’t expect, but we were really proud. We talked a lot about how we’ve got to go out there and play with pride.
“Obviously the Xs and Os are important too, but (assistant) coach (Mike) Gross and I always talk about what it means to be able to compete in a match like that. The numbers don’t matter going into that game. It’s who is going to come and play with some pride. There’s not much more I can ask for out of the girls.”
Madonia said the Red Devils played even with the Lions for 60 to 65 minutes. After that, the visitors wore them down with relentless possession and attacking.
“They were very explosive, and I think we kind of got maybe a little tired,” Krogstie said. “But I think we pushed through really hard, and we fought the whole time.”
As did Lyons.
“I think it was just us connecting our passes, because I think we tried to do too much (in the first half) by dribbling by ourselves and trying to outwork them individually,” O’Malley said. “In the second half we did just passing and playing simple, which helped us get up the field as a team and not just one of us.”
That allowed the Lions to break a trend. The Red Devils had been 6-0 in one-goal games, including four-straight heading into the matchup.
“I think they were very organized,” Lanspeary said. “They went really hard to everything.
“They made it really tough for us out there. They in the first half seemed to be a little bit quicker to balls, just that half a step.
“The second half we tried to make some adjustments and eventually we kind of got our offense rolling and created some opportunities, which was great.”
Despite experiencing the first loss of her high school career, Krogstie is having a great time playing varsity soccer.
“It’s really intimidating, but it’s also really cool. Because it’s amazing to be part of this program, especially at a young age,” Krogstie said. “It’s great knowing all these seniors, and all these players that are really good and have played forever.”
GK: Sara Schinker
D: Caroline McKenna
D: Chandler Lay
D: Avery Wengerd
D: Brennan Israel
M: Josie Pochocki
M: Izzy Wirtz
M: Carolina Capizzi
F: Niamh Griffin
F: Caroline Mortonson
F: Katie O’Malley
GK: Katherine Skinner
D: Julia Marinaccio
D: Ava Elliott
D: Addie Krogstie
D: Adrianna Giannini
M: Carter Knotts
M: Avery Edgewater
M: Maddy Panveno
M: Peyton Rohn
F: Cate McDonnell
F: Claire Snodgrass
Chicagoland Soccer MVP of the Match: Caroline McKenna, jr., D, Lyons
Lyons: Caroline McKenna (Katie O’Malley) 16:00 remaining