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Season recap: Lyons

By Bill McLean, 06/06/23, 6:15PM CDT


Days after his Lions lost 2-1 in overtime to Hinsdale Central’s Red Devils in the Class 3A Reavis Sectional final on May 26, Lyons coach Bill Lanspeary was still hurting.

He was fine, physically.

“It still stings,” admitted Lanspeary, whose potent club (21-2-1) was seeded first in the Reavis Sectional and ranked no. 3 in the Chicagoland Soccer Top 25 when Hinsdale Central took the field in Burbank and avenged its 1-0 regular-season loss to Lyons.

“I feel for the seniors,” he added. “They were kind of quiet, but all they cared about all season was the team. They were supportive of all their teammates. We felt we had really good chances to win against Hinsdale Central, move on to the Final Four and be in the mix for a state title.”

Lanspeary will heal, because he has plenty of salve at his disposal in the form of fond 2023 memories, including Lyons’ 4-1 defeat of Evanston in the Lou Malnati’s Deep Dish Classic final on April 15.

The win improved the Lions’ record to 10-0-0. Lyons hadn’t allowed a goal in any of its first nine games in Lanspeary’s 17th season at the West Suburban Conference Silver Division school.

“Winning that tournament was quite an achievement, given the gauntlet of strong teams we had to play,” Lanspeary recalled referring to New Trier, Loyola, Lake Forest and Glenbrook South, in addition to Wildkits. “We found out a lot about our team, and those wins built positive momentum and belief.

“At the beginning of the season, we felt we’d be a dangerous team because of our ability to score,” Lanspeary continued. “But then our midfielders, backline and goalkeepers all started playing well, too. All components of our team were strong. Most good teams have strong defenders or dynamic forwards
or dominant midfielders.

“We were solid everywhere.”

Lyons senior center back and North Central College-bound Chandlar Lay’s first impression of the squad was an uncertain one.

“We looked like we were all over the place, which made me kind of nervous during our first couple of games,” Lay recalled. “But everybody’s individual talent soon appeared, and then our forwards and midfielders started working together so well.”

In their eighth game, against Loyola in a Deep Dish Classic clash on April 12, the Lions led 1-0 at the half but had to play shorthanded in the second half because a Lion had been red-carded.

Lyons won 3-0.

Lay knew then that she was a part of something special this spring.

“That win,” she said, “was one of our biggest ones.”

The biggest triumph occurred on May 20, when Lyons battled Glenbard West in the Lions Class 3A regional final in Western Springs. The Hilltoppers ended Lyons’ 2022 season via a shootout in a sectional

Lyons elimination of Glenbard West last month with the opposite of a shootout — a 4-0 victory.

Both Lay and team Most Valuable Player Katie O’Malley — an Illinois State University-bound forward who notched team highs of 19 goals and 19 assists — would have ranked that result no. 1 on Lyons’ Top 10 Moments in ’23 list if one existed.

O’Malley dazzled as a dribbler on the pitch. The sight of her and sophomore teammate Caroline Mortonson (eights goals, 15 assists) — another gifted forward and a 2022 Chicagoland Soccer All-State selectee — passing to one another on a rush from anywhere on a pitch often made opponents tremble with fear.

“Up-top together, we liked to find each other and break backlines,” O’Malley said.

Adding to the formidable offense were Lions freshman midfielder/forward Carolina Capizzi (11 goals, 2 assists) and senior forward Niamh Griffin (7, 3).

Five Lions — junior forward Peyton Israel, junior back Izzi Wirtz, junior forward Izzy Lebar, junior midfielder and University of Southern Indiana recruit Josie Pochocki and freshman midfielder/forward Zibby Michaelson — netted five goals apiece.

Michaelson also had three assists.

Lyons’ two goalkeepers yielded only a combined eight goals all spring while their teammates amassed 84 tallies. Senior Sara Schinker, a future Carthage College Firebird, played in 22 games and allowed six goals. Six-foot-2 sophomore Nora Ezike, an outstanding basketball player, played in 19 games and allowed the other two goals.

Schinker catapulted to her right to stop a PK near the end of the first half in the sectional final at Reavis.
Lyons went 6-0-x in the West Suburban Silver with a goal differential of 27-1.

“I feel lucky,” Lanspeary said. “I got to coach a lot of good girls who are really good soccer players. And they liked being around each other. They played hard and worked hard in practice. They played on a variety of clubs in the offseason, but they truly enjoyed representing the school and community.

“For all of them,” he added, “being a part of the team was bigger than doing anything individually.”

What also heartened Lanspeary about his 2023 squad was its presence and support this spring at games and matches involving other Lyons sports, including the softball, volleyball and lacrosse teams.

“It was such a fantastic group,” Lanspeary said. “Their camaraderie was apparent wherever they went. I saw it at practices, at games and at team dinners.”

Lyons’ boys volleyball players noticed it in Hoffman Estates on June 2. A contingent of 15 Lyons girls soccer players traveled the 27 miles to Hoffman Estates to root for them in a state quarterfinal versus Brother Rice.

The Lions topped the Crusaders 25-17, 25-23.

Lanspeary’s girls showed up, in part, to return a favor. 

“They cheered for us at many of our road games, some of them 40 minutes away,” O’Malley said. “We wanted to be there for them. Throughout our season we bonded and got to know each other better whenever we sat in the stands together and watched another sport compete.”

Years from now, Lanspeary’s indelible memories of 2023 side won’t be based on a sensational goal or an exquisite pass.

“I will always look back at this season as a special one, but not because of all the wins,” he said. “A team forms its collective personality as each season unfolds. This one had a fun one. I thoroughly enjoyed being around it.”


Lanspeary grew up in Michigan and played soccer at Schoolcraft College — home of the Ocelots — in Livonia, Mich., before enrolling and playing club soccer at the University of Michigan. As an Ocelot, he competed in a National Junior College Athletic Association regional final against the College of DuPage. … O’Malley, Mortonson, Capizzi, Pochocki, Griffin, Lay and junior forward Riley Wengerd (injury) were named to the Chicagoland Soccer Watch List, which was released on April 21. … O’Malley, Mortonson, Capizzi, Lay, Wirtz and Brennan Israel earned all-West Suburban Conference Silver Division honors. … Backs Ella Napoli and Mae Mathis and midfielder Mia Stobart made contributions to the Lions memorable season before accepting their diplomas. … After absorbing its first loss of the season to Fremd on April 21, Lyons went 10-0-1 before its sectional final loss. “Hinsdale Central played a really good game,” Lanspeary said. “Our kids battled hard. We did a lot of good things, but we couldn’t find the space to get enough decent looks. Hinsdale Central did a good job bottling us up.” … Lay, who is working in the Kids Academy at a Lifetime Fitness this summer, plans to study biology at NCC and become a surgeon someday. … No rest for the wicked-good O’Malley, who must report to Normal on June 18 for the start of training ahead of Illinois State’s 2023 fall season. The Redbirds went 3-14-1 under first-year coach Marisa Kresge last fall. The season opens at Purdue Fort Wayne on Aug. 6. “My class is the coach’s first recruiting class. So, I’m excited to be a part of the project to turn the program round and compete for Missouri Valley Conference titles,” O’Malley said.