ROSELLE — The moment was ripe for Lauren Malone to write the perfect script.
The senior two-way talent is one of the most versatile and positionally fluid players at Lake Park.
Listed as a midfielder, she started at the back for the Lancers but played all over the field, with distinction and verve.
Her skill as a set piece creator and free kick specialist yielded some of the best scoring chances Lake Park generated against favored West Chicago.
Standing on the left flank some 29 yards from the goal in the 52nd minute, everything seemed poised for a heroine’s strike.
She laced the ball, and it took a precarious and wicked dip that handcuffed Wildcats’ keeper Arianna Hernandez.
“That is something we have been working on in practice a lot is trying to create a lot of chances, like on our free kicks,” Malone said.
“I saw my teammate there, and I took the shot.”
Hernandez beat two Lancer runners to the follow-up, and snapped up the ball before damage could be inflicted.
The moment foretold a cruel ending as the Lancers dropped a 1-0 heartbreaker Monday night in nonconference play.
West Chicago midfielder Daisy Garcia scored the game-winner in the 72nd minute on a one-touch blast from about 14 yards.
“I think after getting that 1-0 lead and finally getting that confidence boost, I think that’s when we actually started playing,” Garcia said.
“I saw the other team was fighting even harder. I think that’s what made it more competitive and made it more interesting for us and … kept up the intensity.”
Malone is one of nine seniors on the Lancers (5-10-0).
If the defeat stung, the signs of improvement and growth were undeniable.
“We all came in with such a great attitude. It is just tough; she got that lucky goal,” Malone said.
“It was a lucky shot that carried the win. Our goalie did everything she could, and we all did really great.”
Lancers’ freshman keeper Ava Garcia was another bright spot in the loss, posting nine saves.
She showed moxie and toughness coming off her line, standing tall in the box, or denying the Wildcats at the point of attack.
Peyton Sarubbi was another sharp contributor for the Lancers.
“It sucks that we lost on Senior Night,” she said.
The senior helped shore up the backline, and deny the quick and explosive Wildcats from running free and wild in space.
“I think a game like this tonight is actually going to unite us that we played so well,” she said. “I just think as a team we are very positive, and we uplift each other at practice.
“We have a great attitude, and we keep the spirits high all the time, no matter the outcome. That definitely helps us in games like this.”
The poise and precocity of Garcia kept the Lancers close.
In time, the offense found its groove, playing balls in space and pushing up numbers with forwards Kira Holliday and another dynamic freshman, Milano Positano.
Midfielder Brynn Ellenbecker also created some intriguing overlapping runs with the two forwards.
“I think we all played good today, and we just have to keep our confidence up,” Ellenbecker said.
“We have been playing balls to Peyton Olinski and Fran (Cali). We just have to keep pushing and making everybody accountable at practice.”
Lake Park was just missing the most elusive and difficult part of the game to master—the closing or concluding touch.
So many parts have to cohere, and work just right in the flow. West Chicago did just enough to nullify the finishing threat.
“The frustrating part about the game tonight is that we had quite a few offensive opportunities, and we just needed to put those shots in the back of the net,” Ellenbecker said.
West Chicago (9-3-3) has some very dangerous offensive pieces, starting with Garcia.
She was a one-player fast break, often creating counters off Lancers’ throw-ins or corner kicks.
She created tremendous pressure.
Lake Park’s ability to withstand the pressure spoke to their poise and toughness.
For the vast majority of the match, it was a classic back-and-forth affair, with split actions and movement on one side neutralized by the speed or aggression of the other.
Then came the game-changer.
“I honestly didn’t know whether or not I was going to make that shot,” Garcia said of the game-winner.
“I just kind of hit it. The goalie kind of came out, but it was in the perfect spot.”
Another midfielder, Arizbeth Zuniga, provided a strong secondary release for Garcia.
“I think the bonding we have, and the chemistry is just the motivation we have for each other, and how we play hard and lift each other up in every game has been really important,” Garcia said.
West Chicago did not play scared at the end. The Wildcats looked to expand the lead rather than just protect it.
Zuniga blasted a ball from the right wing in the 76th minute that required Garcia’s best stop of the night.
“We always end up making it happen,” Zuniga said. “We communicate and play hard. I feel like every time we’re good, we get close to the ball.”
Coming off a win over conference foe Glenbard North in its previous game, Lake Park was riding high.
Even under adverse situations or games that go against them, the Lancers play with spirit and edge.
“We kept that motivation and confidence with us after our last game, and it just pushed us tonight,” Positano said.
Pushing forward is always hard if the battle feels uphill and against the odds.
In the final stretch of the game, Lake Park continued to mount a forward attack.
Olinski and Cali created pressure in tandem with Holliday and Positano.
The team played hard until the final moments.
The players believe in their skills, toughness, and resolve to capture acceptable results.
“We all played well today, and I think we obviously need to keep our confidence going into the next couple of weeks and the state playoffs,” Positano said.
“We have to help each other and keep our spirits high.”
GK: Arianna Hernandez
D: Susana Correa
D: Jenny Espinal
D: Ingrid Solis
D: Nicole Murphy
MF: Eliana Velasco
MF: Daisy Garcia
MF: Leslie Garnica
MF: Natalie Fernandez
MF: Arizbeth Zuniga
F: Jenna Zeitoun
GK: Ava Garcia
D: Madi Mintrup
D: Gianna Kubica
D: Lauren Malone
D: Peyton Sarubbi
MF: Teagan Locus
MF: Peyton Olinski
MF: Brynn Ellenbecker
MF: Ava Ramirez
F: Alyza Ally
F: Miriam Hernandez
Chicagoland Soccer MVP of the Match: Daisy Garcia, sr., MF, West Chicago
WC: Daisy Garcia (Leslie Garnica), 72nd minute