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Carman drives Lane past Jones for city championship

By Patrick Z. McGavin , 05/11/23, 1:15PM CDT


2-goal, 2-assist night key dominant 6-0 performance for Champions 8th-consecutive title

CHICAGO — The best players make personal failure temporary, something to be forgotten before moving to the next moment. 

The game action churns and constantly affords new chances.

Grace Carman learned her lesson and never panicked or got down on herself. In the biggest game of her young life, she shook off early disappointment.

The Lane midfielder continued to burnish her thriving reputation.

“Everyone is just so amazing building me up and making sure we take the game to them,” she said. “I missed those first few chances, but we didn’t stop.

“My team built me up, and that environment and the people that are surrounding me make it so perfect to be around.”

The sophomore continued her ascent to elite status with two goals and two assists as the Champions, ranked 20th in the Chicagoland Soccer Top 25, put on a master class in a 6-0 win over Jones in front of a crowd estimated at 600. The win gave Lane an unprecedented eighth-consecutive Chicago Public League Tournament championship.

Lane (12-4-2) posted the second highest goal total in recent history behind its 9-0 city championship game victory over Payton in the 2013 edition.

The first girls’ city championship was held in 1994, when Lane lost to Juarez. The victory over Jones was the 14th city championship in program history.

Lane also has a city-best 21 career title appearances over the 29 editions.

Carman earned the Chicagoland Soccer MVP of the Match honor for her superb play. She also scored twice in the 5-1 Lane comeback victory against Jones on April 21.

Adding to Lane’s impressive offense was forward Avery Ellis with two goals and an assist, and midfielder Kristi Sevova with a goal and assist.

Those three with the ringleaders of the attack.

Lane’s depth, speed and power altered the trajectory of the game. 

The assault was fast, sudden and overwhelming, turning a competitive game into a rout during a remarkable four-goal, eight-minute stretch from the end of the first half to the start of the second half.

Jones (14-7-0) had permitted just one goal in its previous six games, and posted five shutouts. That included the semifinal win Monday against Young that the Eagles won 4-3 in a penalty shootout.

“We talked about just getting to the end of the first half down one goal,” said Jones coach Derek Bylsma. “We were playing well in the beginning, and then we just started getting picked apart in the middle.

“We know what they’re going to do, but they have a lot of speed, and a lot of good players. They’re a good team.”

Jones freshman Ruby Miller showed moxie and considerable poise in goal and registered eight saves.

She was spectacular at the start of the game, stopping Carman on breakaways in the third and fifth minutes.

On the second shot, Carman emerged free off a deflection and raced toward the goal. Miller reacted brilliantly and dove to her right for the critical stop.

“I thought I had her on that shot, but she got there and made a good stop,” Carman said. “At that point, it was about keeping your head up, and going to the next shot.”

The anticlimactic final score overshadowed how tightly the opening passages of the first half were. Jones created some decent opportunities, especially in the free kicks of defender Patricia Felder.

Lane sophomore keeper Cynthia Waller had three saves during the first half. Siena Belko filled the keeper duties after intermission.

Jones star midfielder Carolina Rondelli created some intriguing opportunities working with the Eagles’ fast forwards Caroline Patterson, Mia McRoberts and Aiyana Wright.

“We had some good chances, some good opportunities, and we messed up,” Bylsma said.

Working through her nerves, Carman began to take control, finding open spaces, revealing the depth of her balance, footwork and excellent shot creation.

With freshman forward Jackson Caffey working on the left wing, Carman delivered the crucial opening statement in the 21st minute.

After an initial offering from Mary Rau was deflected, Caffey recovered the ball in the final third. On a riveting give-and-go, Caffey played the original touch to Carman, who cut her pass expertly between two Jones’ defenders.

Caffey broke free and from 10 yards on the left wing hammered home the opening goal.

“Our wingers are just fantastic,” Carman said. 

“I just think my ability to find space was great tonight. With the great runs they were making, it was easy for me to find them, locate the gaps and stuff. It’s the part of my game that I really pride myself in.”

Jones standout freshman Wright (17 goals) had the Eagles’ best scoring threat in the first half. Off a Felder free kick and Rondelli flick, she hammered a half volley from about 16 yards in the 25th minute that required a catch from Waller.

Felder took a free kick from 29 yards that was wide right.

In an echo of the earlier game, Lane seized control with two first half goals that fundamentally altered the tenor of the game.  

Lane maintained pressure on its visitors. After a Rau shot sailed over the top of the bar, Carman caught a deflection and worked the middle. She found Ellis on the left seam.

Ellis drilled a left-footed ball from 11 yards inside the near post in the 36th minute.

“At the start of the game, the pressure is definitely there, and the nerves are there,” she said. “You just have to adjust your game a little bit. I kept telling Gracie to keep pushing, and that’s what we did.

“The opportunities came from there, and we just kept trying, the whole team was uplifting and pushing each other.”

Playing the left wing, Ellis has mastered the position. She is very good with her off foot, and she has shown remarkable touch and precision. She scored from a virtually identical location in an earlier game against New Trier.

Lane felt the wave, and Jones was being slowly pushed under it.

“Every time I score it, I get more confidence in that shot. And every time it feels better and better,” Ellis said.

In the stunning turn of events, Carman was at the height of her powers, controlling the ball, the tempo and the speed of play. Lane was the instigator, Jones was left to react.

In the 38th minute, or just 1:18 following the Ellis goal, Carman put the hammer down by taking a ball from Ellis on the left wing and drilling a shot from 12 yards into an untouchable location in the upper right corner.

“I think one of the things we talked about was starting quick,” Ellis said. “I think we definitely took a little bit of time to adjust in the game, but the last 10 minutes of the first half were just crazy energy. We also brought that to the second half.”

All three first half goals were scored from an identical location.

Jones fought and looked to create chances. Rondelli and Patterson worked some strong actions. Sophomore Kaelyn Perez had two solid shots in the 40th minute, the second from about nine yards forced Waller to make a catch.

“We made a very difficult schedule at the beginning of the year, learned from those games, and now I'm really proud of the girls,” Bylsma said. 

“We needed to score something there in some of those situations. They worked hard. I was proud of the effort and how we fought and never gave up.”

A reeling Jones was a bit shellshocked by the turn of events. 

“I am disappointed in the outcome because I know this Jones team is so talented," Felder said. "We just didn’t deliver to the best of our ability against a team that definitely took advantage of that."

Lane scored twice in the first five minutes of the second half. Carman caught a beautiful through-ball from Sevova, pulled Miller out of the net and finished from a couple of yards in the 43rd minute.

Ellis scored her second goal of the night on a shot from 21 yards in the 44th minute. Sevova punctuated the night with a 26-yard blast in the 53rd minute.

Lane was chastened by its semifinal performance against Payton, acknowledging the Grizzlies played with greater energy and focus for much of the game. 

Carman’s 70th-minute game-winner brought a reprieve, and the expectation of playing better in the championship.

Emotionally and otherwise, the result was a stark contrast to last year’s championship game which Lane won 2-1 over Young on a stunning shot by Rau from 43 yards.

“I was saying this before the game, I would rather put them away and enjoy the game with less pressure, even though pressure is fun,” Sevova said. “It is definitely fun that everyone at least got some opportunities to score.”

Despite the loss, Jones had much to celebrate, taking part in the championship game for just the second time in program history.

“I am just so happy that I finally made it to the finals after four years." Felder said. "It was really a special feeling playing in that stadium with all the people in the stands and the cameras. I am very proud of this team. We have come such a long way since those initial games against Lyons and Oswego East (to start the season).”

Lane seniors like Rau, Ellis, Belko, midfielder Bri Bellis and defender Olivia Schmidt captured their third city championship. The pandemic and canceled 2020 season eliminated their chance at four.

Sevova (who was injured her freshman year), Carman and sophomore defender Olivia Tinucci are repeat winners.

Carman takes her place with Lyons’ Caroline Mortonson and Warren’s Addison Stanciak as one of the best sophomores in the state. In a night with many standouts, her play was the difference.

“I knew Grace was an incredible player from the moment I played with her last year,” Sevova said. “She just has this energy, and this dynamic that she will not quit until she gets what she wants.

“In this case, she wanted a city championship, and she worked hard for it.”

Starting lineups

GK: Cynthia Waller
D: Eleanor Nagle
D: Olivia Schmit
D: Olive Tinucci
D: Alyssa LoVerde
MF: Kristi Sevova
MF: Jessica Carlson
MF: Mary Rau
MF: Grace Carman
F: Avery Ellis
F: Riya Jain

GK: Ruby Miller
D: Karina Teliz
D: Patricia Felder
D: Morgan Scott
MF: Sanai Wright
MF: Mari Hamada
MF: Eleanor Ceraso
MF: Carolina Rondelli
F: Mia McRoberts
F: Caroline Patterson
F: Aiyana Wright

Chicagoland Soccer MVP of the Match: Grace Carman, soph., MF, Lane

Scoring summary

First half
Lane—Jackson Caffey (Grace Carman), 21st minute
Lane—Avery Ellis (Carman), 36th minute
Lane—Carman (Ellis), 38th minute

Second half
Lane—Carman (Kristi Sevova), 43rd minute
Lane—Ellis (Riya Jain), 44th minute
Lane—Sevova (Jessica Carlson), 53rd minute