WESTERN SPRINGS – Lyons exacted some stiff revenge on Glenbard West by routing the Hilltoppers 6-0 in a West Suburban Conference Silver Division match May 9.
It was payback for the shootout loss the Lions suffered at the hands of the Hilltoppers in last year’s sectional final.
But it wasn’t enough to satisfy Lyons defender Brennan Israel.
“We needed a double,” Israel said.
A double is what the Lions completed Saturday. Illinois State recruit Katie O’Malley scored two more goals on assists from Caroline Mortonson; Niamh Griffin and Leahla Frazier added goals; and Israel anchored another terrific defensive effort as the Lions, who are ranked third in the Chicagoland Soccer Top 25, rolled past Glenbard West 4-0 at Bennett Field to capture the Class 3A Lyons Regional championship.
The top-seeded Lions (20-1-1) advance to the Reavis Sectional semifinals, where they will play fourth-seeded Downers Grove South (16-3-1) at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday. It will be Lyons’s 10th-consecutive sectional appearance and 23rd in the past 25 seasons.
“You’ve got to give a lot of credit to the kids,” coach Bill Lanspeary said. “They work really hard.”
It all starts in the back, where the Lions have played terrific defense all season, allowing only six goals and recording 17 shutouts. This was their fifth-consecutive clean-sheet, two of which came against Glenbard West.
“I think it starts in practice,” Israel said. “We practice defense a lot and just communication with who has every player, and just winning 50/50 balls.
“Today was a really big game for us, because it was Glenbard West. Last year, we didn’t win against them, so it was a huge chance to show what we missed on last year.”
So dominant were the Lions that the seventh-seeded Hilltoppers (10-9-3) didn’t come close to getting a shot off, let alone finding the back of the net. And for the last 50 minutes, the visitors rarely advanced past midfield.
“I thought our midfielders did a great job of winning balls in the middle and, our backs had a fantastic game,” Lanspeary said. “Chandler (Lay) and Brennan do a nice job in the middle. I thought (Jillian) Herchenroether and (Caroline) McKenna did an awesome job on the outside, and (Abby) Brown came in and did really well.”
Glenbard West kept the game scoreless for nearly 33 minutes until O’Malley sent a corner kick in from the left side which resulted in a scramble in front of the net. Senior Niamh Griffin knocked the ball just over the goal line to give the Lions a 1-0 lead with 7:07 to go in the first half.
“The first half we were into the wind a little bit,” Glenbard West coach Adam Szyszko said. “All of our clearances kind of hung up, and they’re so aggressive on any 50-50 ball.
“It was down at our end for a good chunk of the half. After our last game, our goal was to get to half 0-0. They scored a scrummy goal, and that changes things.”
Indeed, the one-goal lead made Lyons’s defenders and midfielders even more aggressive, though not cocky.
“I felt like I was nervous just because of last year,” Israel said. “But I felt like we all stuck together, and our communication was a huge point for us -- telling each player who you have and just working with each other to cover each other.
“I felt the 33 minutes in the beginning really showed that we were working as a team to try and pull off this win.”
Israel gave credit to the Hilltoppers for not getting down after Griffin’s goal.
“At first, I felt like they came back a little bit stronger, because they really wanted that (tying) goal,” Israel said. “But I felt like we pushed harder and just needed that second goal.”
The second goal came five minutes after intermission and was quickly followed by the third.
O’Malley and Mortonson, who had combined for four goals and two assists in the first meeting, teamed up again on both tallies.
On the first, Mortonson fed O’Malley with a perfect pass up the middle. O’Malley got to it at the top of the box, maneuvered around Glenbard West goalkeeper Ava Callaway and slotted home a 12-yard shot into the unoccupied net at the 35:06 mark.
The dynamic duo struck again 91 seconds later. This time Mortonson drove hard to the left endline before crossing in front, where O’Malley got to the ball before Callaway did and sent a short volley between the pipes for a 3-0 lead.
“Credit to them,” Szyszko said. “O’Malley and Mortonson are a nightmare to prepare for.
“They are so good and so fast and so technically good. We’ve played some really good forwards. To have two of that caliber, as a coaching staff it was a lot of restless nights trying to figure out how to combat it.
“We didn’t have an answer. They’re special.”
Lanspeary has seen O’Malley and Mortonson work their magic all season. One often assists the other. Of O’Malley’s four goals against Glenbard West this year, three have been set up by Mortonson.
“We’ve got dangerous kids up-top who kind of took over once we were able to find them, and they found a little bit of space,” Lanspeary said. “They made some things happen for us.
“They do a great job of looking for each other and looking for other people and playing off of each other.”
They did some of that last season, too, but have since become the other's top option.
“Caroline as a freshman last year already blew us all away,” O’Malley said. “But she came back even stronger this year.
“Having someone giving a pass to me on a silver platter is great, because she makes it easy for me.”
Mortonson has become even more dangerous.
“Since it’s my second year playing with them, we’ve had more chemistry, so you feel like you know where they’re going to be,” Mortonson said. “Also, I feel like my role has changed from last year.
“We were really good at passing and finding me as a forward and this year I’ve found myself more passing instead of finishing.”
And becoming more comfortable.
“Being a little older now, after playing with the team for a year I definitely feel more confident than last year,” Mortonson said.
The Lions are brimming with confidence as they continue to seek their first state championship, two years after losing in the state championship game. That’s why they kept the accelerator mashed to the floor against the Hilltoppers.
“I think after the first goal we had in the second half, really it just was like, ‘OK, let’s keep it going,’” O’Malley said. “All we did was calm down and connect passes, because before I think we were all just really frantic with ‘Oh, my God, it’s playoffs. And it’s Glenbard.’
“Even though we beat them 6-0 in the normal season, this still could be their last game, so they’re going to give us everything.”
The Hilltoppers did, but Lyons made sure it was far from being enough. There would be no repeat of last year’s shocking upset.
“They’re unrelenting,” Szyszko said. “They don’t stop. They keep coming.”
GK: Ava Callaway
D: Kendall Meyer
D: Katie Burke
D: Ellie Beaudoin
M: Clare Kostolansky
M: Lauren Escalante
M: Hana Allen
M: Audrey Sawyer
M: Hannah Michalowski
F: Sophia Brown
F: Gwen Johnson
GK: Sara Schinker
D: Jillian Herchenroether
D: Caroline McKenna
D: Izzy Wirtz
D: Brennan Israel
M: Josie Pochocki
M: Carolina Capizzi
M: Chandler Lay
F: Niamh Griffin
F: Caroline Mortonson
F: Katie O’Malley
Chicagoland Soccer MVP of the Match: Caroline Mortenson, so., F, Lyons
Lyons: Niamh Griffin 7:07 remaining
Lyons: Kate O’Malley (Caroline Mortenson) 35:06 remaining
Lyons: O’Malley (Mortonson) 33:35 remaining
Lyons: Leahla Frazier 2:57 remaining