Riding the emotional high and historic significance of winning her third-consecutive city championship, Lane senior Mary Rau moves to the next stage.
Now everything gets harder, and more complicated.
“I think our confidence level is up there, but we are still humbled,” the midfielder said. “Even though we have won the city the past eight years, we haven’t won a regional since 2013.
“I think we are ready to prove ourselves, but are definitely leary of the competition, knowing it is going to be a whole other level than we experience in the city.”
The Champions (12-4-2) have won nine-straight games as part of a larger 10-game unbeaten streak. The galvanizing 6-0 city championship over Jones was important and vital.
Lane has won seven of those games by shutout, including five-straight. The team has a 48-2 goal differential during its gaudy run.
But that is all in the past.
The question, as always, with city programs like Lane is how do you make the next forward push. Lane won three regional championships in a four-year run from 2010-2013. It has only crown was in 2008.
For the second-consecutive year, Lane hosts its own Class 3A regional.
The fifth-seed of the Evanston Sectional complex, opens state tournament action against Maine West (7-7-3) in a regional semifinal at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday.
St. Ignatius (9-7-3), the no. 4 seed, opens the semifinal session at 4:30 p.m. vs. Leyden.
Lane beat St. Ignatius 2-1 in a regional semifinal last spring. The Wolfpack won 1-0 in the Champions’ second game of this season March 16.
Lane’s current run has been marked by the ascendent rise of sophomore star Grace Carman, the physical toughness and skill of Rau, the explosiveness of forward Avery Ellis and the depth, talent and versatility of its lineup.
The unprecedented run of city championships has put the program on the radar. The next step is to move closer to the main objective.
“We are super excited to host regionals again,” Rau said. “Having the home field advantage definitely gives us a leg up. We are comfortable playing on our turf, and we get that sense of home.
“But I think we are more focused on the games themselves than we are on where they’re being played.”
Carman had two goals and two assists in the city championship game. She is the team's leading scorer with 15 goals and 17 assists. Rau has also posted a double-double with 12 goals and 13 assists.
Ellis, who also scored twice in the title game, has eight goals. Midfielder Kristi Sevova has nine goals and four assists.
Fourteen different players have scored at least one goal.
“We are all very proud of our city performance, but we know that the state tournament is going to be more challenging,” Ellis said. “Knowing that, we’ve been getting ready mentally, and assessing the teams we are going to be playing.”
In its first encounter with St. Ignatius, Lane was still finding its identity, especially offensively. The Champions were held scoreless in its first three games.
“Playing Ignatius would be a great way to prove our improvement since the beginning of the season,” Ellis said. “I think we could have played a lot better in our game against them.
“We are ready to show our progress.”
Lane is the city’s standard of excellence. Playing suburban schools or Chicago's top private schools is the larger measuring apparatus.
Against ranked programs, Lane played Loyola to a draw and had highly competitive games against suburban powers New Trier, Stevenson, and Glenbrook North.
The team also tied Lake Forest.
The state series is a way to capture something vital and pure.
“I think we have been playing well, and connecting well so we are definitely feeling confident in our abilities,” Carman said. “Our past wins don’t matter going into these games. We are focused on the task at hand.
“Ignatius is a good team, but I think we have improved and developed a lot since the beginning of the season. Our game has become sharper, and the connections are better. Hopefully we will produce an outcome in our favor.”
For Jones, the third time was not the charm.
The Eagles’ historic season ended with a 2-0 semifinal loss against rival Young in the Dolphins regional Tuesday at the Michelle Obama Athletic Complex.
Beating a team three times in a season, much less twice in a week, is a difficult quest.
Jones (14-8-0) topped the Dolphins 2-1 in Premier South play on April 19. The Eagles qualified for the city title game with their shootout victory over Young just eight days ago.
Young (9-9-2) must now meet top-seeded Evanston in the regional championship Friday.
“We made a difficult schedule at the start of the season,” Jones coach Derek Bylsma said. “I am very proud of this team. It was the best team, I think, I have had since I’ve been at Jones.”
The city title appearance was just the second in program history. The cruelty of the result did not take away the achievement of their run.
“We didn’t get the result that we wanted, but that is also, because we didn’t play our game,” defender Morgan Scott said. “Anyone who has watched us play our best can tell you that what we did last week was not that.
“The loss itself, I think, was a wake-up call that we can’t fall asleep and expect to win. I think it has given a lot of people on our team strength to go on.”
The Eagles have been prolific in their attack, keyed by all-state midfielder Carolina Rondelli, who has 33 goals and 16 assists.
The three-forward attack of Mia McRoberts, Caroline Patterson and freshman sensation Aiyana Wright has been the other strong point.
By any standard, the season was a success.
“The city tournament was an awesome experience, and definitely the best we’ve ever had,” Rondelli said. “We grew as a team, and we definitely got so close this season.
“I’m glad we made it to the final my senior year. I am going to miss this team, and this environment, so much.”