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Feature story: Lyons plays for a cause

By Patrick Z. McGavin , 05/05/23, 3:15PM CDT


Part of the wonder and beauty of youth is living freely in the moment. Caroline Mortonson embodies that freedom in the skill and driven purpose she shows in her play.

The Lyons sophomore midfielder has staked her claim as one of the best players in the state. Her precocity was self-evident from the moment she scored her first goals just minutes into her high school debut against Young last year.

Her blend of grace, athleticism, and power is something to behold. She is also one who gives back — and not just in what is suggested from her 10 assists.

In leading the ninth-ranked Lions in a matchup with perennial south suburban power Andrew on Saturday, Mortonson is likely to exhibit an even greater swing and vibrancy in her step.

The game is the centerpiece of the 14th annual Pink Out, an event the girls’ soccer program has used to rally support and raise money for breast cancer awareness.

In concert with various LaGrange businesses and community outreach programs, the event will donate all gate receipts, and the income from baked goods, pizza and T-shirt sales to the Karen Dove Cabral Foundation.

“This means a lot to be a part of this fundraiser. It shows how soccer is more than just a game and brings people together for a good cause,” Mortonson said.  “Knowing that we can help these mothers in any way is really exciting.’

The event is a deeply personal one. 

Her mother, Kristen Mortonson, has been the chief organizer of the event since last year. Caroline Mortonson is the oldest of her four soccer-mad daughters.

“Sadly, breast cancer is all over, and it affects everybody,” Kristen Mortonson said. “Everybody knows somebody who is going through this. The foundation has been targeting younger women who are just starting their journey, and helping them anyway possible.

“One of the girls on the sophomore team is making special cookies. It’s not just the soccer community, but the larger LaGrange community that has really responded.”

In a game that extols that primacy of youth and the wonder of the game, Caroline Mortonson said the moment gives pause. The game against the Thunderbolts is a way to give something tangible back.

“It is really exciting, because I feel like a lot of people here really support each other,” Caroline Mortonson said. “People work hard and have a positive impact on people in need. 

“I think it’s really special our team gets a chance to do something like this given how we are all fortunate and healthy enough to play soccer, and give back to those who can’t do these things is really important.”

The visibility and prominence of the Lions’ program only amplifies the importance of the event. Lyons finished second in the Class 3A tournament in 2021, and fourth in 2019.

After the pause of the following season occasioned by the pandemic, the Lions won 20-consecutive games before a narrow loss against O’Fallon in the state championship game.

Last year’s team was one of the state’s best in going 20-2-0 and reaching a sectional championship game.

This year’s group has been virtually untouchable. The Lions (16-1-1) captured the prestigious Lou Malnati’s Deep Dish Classic. Their only loss, on penalty kicks against no. 7 Fremd, came in group play of the Naperville Invitational.

Saturday’s mission transcends the game.

“I feel like we have a big role in helping reach out to people to get to this event, and it’s great knowing we are doing such a great job promoting it,” senior forward/defender Chandlar Lay said.

“As a young woman, I think helping this foundation is great, because I know if I was in need of help or someone I knew needed help that people would help out in any way possible.”

When the whistle sounds, Lyons will look to add to its current six-game unbeaten streak. Sixteen different players have scored at least one goal during another magical season for the Lions.

The team’s latest freshman phenom is midfielder Carolina Capizzi, who has scored a second-best eight goals.

Senior Katie O’Malley started in the state championship game two years ago. She is the leading scorer in both goals, with 11, and assists with a staggering 18 assists.

On Tuesday, the Lions close out the regular-season with a crucial home game against Glenbard West in their pursuit of a perfect record in the West Suburban Conference Silver Division.

The Pink Out starts with three JV games at 9 a.m. at the Lyons Soccer Complex. Two games follow at 11 a.m., with the varsity match closing the event with a 1 p.m. start.

“I am excited for Pink Out because it is also Senior Day,” O’Malley said. “As a senior, I couldn’t be more excited to celebrate with my team. 

"I love the energy that it brings and the support we get from friends and family. I love watching all the teams and having a fun time with my team with our pink uniforms.”