LA GRANGE -- Junior forward Caroline Mortonson and her Lyons teammates waited nearly a year for another chance to play Glenbard West.
The Lions’ impressive 2022 season ended abruptly with a loss to the Hilltoppers on penalty kicks in the Class 3A Glenbard West Sectional final.
“I feel like especially since we got knocked out earlier than expected last year by this team, I think everyone really came out and gave it their all for this game, a tough game, and worked as hard as they could,” Mortonson said.
The Lions didn’t wait long to start their closure.
Two goals that involved Mortonson came just 53 seconds apart in the opening seven minutes and set the tone for a 6-0 West Suburban Conference Silver Division victory at the Lions’ west field.
Lyons (18-1-1), ranked sixth in the Chicagoland Soccer Top 25 rankings, struck again with a three-goal second half flurry in 3 minutes, 14 seconds that ended just more than seven minutes into the second half.
Mortonson, the Chicagoland Soccer MVP of the Match, and senior and Illinois State recruit Katie O’Malley each had two goals. Mortonson handed out two assists.
The victory over the honorable-mention ranked Hilltoppers (8-8-2, 3-2-x) was significant for multiple reasons.
This gave the Lions a sixth-straight Silver Division title. The outright accomplishment followed another undefeated (6-0-x) league season.
“I feel like it’s a major team goal, but I also feel like we have higher goals of getting really far in the state run,” Mortonson said.
And of course, there was that 2022 sectional final memory to purge; it was the Lions’ second and final loss of 2022. Lyons had rallied to win the regular-season meeting 2-1.
“I think (our starting point) was playing Glenbard West, a really good team. We were ready for a hard game so we put in all of the effort we could,” O’Malley said.
“Also with last year, beating us in the playoffs, we kind of just wanted redemption.”
More of that could be coming. Based on seeds, they should meet again May 20 at 10 a.m. at the Lions’ south campus stadium in the Class 3A Lyons Regional final. The Lions are the top seed in the Reavis Sectional. The Hilltoppers are the no. 7 seed.
With a victory Tuesday, Glenbard West could have created the scenario for a three-way tie for the Silver Division title with Lyons and York, which beat the Hilltoppers 1-0 April 11.
“Hopefully (this loss) went at their pride a little bit. Hopefully we see them in 11 days in the regional final and (our players are) ready to go and compete,” Glenbard West coach Adam Szyszko said.
“They jumped on us quick, as soon as we got off the bus. It’s hard to play against a team like that down 2-0. I told (Lyons coach Bill Lanspeary) whatever he said in pre-game or halftime, I want it bottled and given to me. The first five minutes of each half, they were terrific.”
Mortonson’s goal just 4:24 into the game was formulated out of hustle.
After the Hilltoppers were unable to clear a ball out of the crease, O’Malley dug it out. Mortonson gained control and then converted after her initial attempt was blocked.
The pair paired again with precision passing.
O’Malley passed downfield left of the goal to Mortonson, whose cross found wide-open freshman Carolina Capizzi in the crease to convert at 5:17.
“Right from the first five minutes, we knew we could keep going,” O’Malley said. “(But) I don’t think we’ve ever scored back-to-back against a (quality) team like that.”
“I don’t remember scoring that many that quick (either),” Lanspeary added. “We try to come out with some intensity at the start of the game. It’s easier said than done, and they’re obviously awfully good. If you can get something like that early, it just changes the game. It’s always a good thing.”
The goal explosion wasn’t expected. Glenbard West had allowed just two goals in its past five games with four-straight victories (three shutouts) and a 1-0 loss to Class 3A defending state champion Metea Valley on April 26.
The Lions led 21-8 in shots (12-4 on goal) and 6-2 in corner kicks. That began with 11-4 and 4-0 advantages in shots and corner kicks for the first half.
“First game of the year (a 5-0 loss to Plainfield South March 16), the same thing. After that every game’s competitive,” Szyszko said. “All credit to them. We saw them on film. (Mortonson and O’Malley) are terrific. (Defensive center midfielder Izzi Wirtz) in the middle of the park is terrific. You can’t come out flat against a team like that. If you do, this is the result.”
To start the second half, O’Malley scored twice and Mortonson added another to open a 5-0 lead just inside the 47th minute. Junior Izzy Lebar added a final goal with 13 seconds left after freshman Zibby Michaelson was thwarted following her long run with the ball.
Mortonson's second goal came off Caroline McKenna’s throw-in along the left sideline. O’Malley scored first by dribbling left of the box and then cutting inside on her defender and shooting quickly.
After O’Malley later converted a cross from Mortonson, the two left the game for good. After the game, O’Malley accepted an invitation to next week’s school prom from her boyfriend, complete with a bouquet and sign.
O’Malley (14 goals, 18 assists) and Mortonson (7 goals, 12 assists) and Capizzi (9 goals, 2 assists) are among the team’s leading scorers.
“I think we were just pressuring high and using our speed up-top and (the goals) just happened,” O’Malley said. “We’ve got some talented players offensively, and they play well together,”
Lanspeary said. “Sometimes things click for you. And it’s a matter of finishing the chances, too.”
The Lions boast a strong defense, too. This was already their 15th shutout with just five goals allowed this season.
Senior starter Sarah Schinker and sophomore Nora Ezike again shared the shutout by playing one half each in goal.
Schinker stopped two first half shots, including a diving save to smother Hana Allen’s shot following her long possession.
Ezike, a 6-foot-2 Division I basketball prospect, used her height for the toughest test. With arms overhead, she leaped and pushed over Allen’s 30-yard blast that appeared destined to sneak just under the crossbar. In the 60th minute, Allen beautifully led Gwen Johnson for a left-footed blast that barely sailed high.
“Today and yesterday we’ve talked about (our 2022 sectional loss) a lot,” said junior Brennan Israel, a starting central defender with senior Chandlar Lay.
“To get knocked out and end our season, we wanted our redemption. That was a really sad ending last year. We wanted to prove that we deserve to beat them, and that we’re going to do fairly well in this playoff season.”
The Lions have played the last nine matches without injured starting outside defender Avery Wengerd. Junior Jillian Herchenroether has moved into that starting role, joining McKenna on the outside with junior Abby Brown substituting.
“At first it was kind of hard, because we were trying to figure out the players on the side,” Israel said. "(They) were already there. It was just putting them together instead of Avery.
“I feel like we’re doing a lot better, and we’ve been connecting pretty good through the back the past few games.”
GK - Ava Callaway
D - Kendell Meyer
D - Audrey Sawyer
D - Katie Burke
D - Ellie Beaudoin
MF - Clare Kostolansky
MF - Hana Allen
MF – Aniela Rossi
MF – Lauren Escalante
F - Sophia Brown
F - Gwen Johnson
GK: Sarah Schinker
D: Caroline McKenna
D: Chandlar Lay
D: Brennan Israel
D: Jillian Herchenroether
MF: Josie Pochocki
MF: Carolina Capizzi
MF: Izzi Wirtz
MF: Niahm Griffin
F: Caroline Mortonson
F: Katie O’Malley
Chicagoland Soccer MVP of the Match: Caroline Mortonson, so., F, Lyons
Lyons: Caroline Mortonson (unassisted) 4:24/5’
Lyons: Carolina Capizzi (Caroline Mortonson) 5:17/6’
Lyons: Katie O’Malley (unassisted) 42:52/43’
Lyons: Caroline Mortonson (Caroline McKenna) 44:29/45’
Lyons: Katie O’Malley (Caroline Mortonson) 46:06/47’
Lyons: Izzy Lebar (unassisted) 79:47/80’