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Preview story: The rivalry's the thing for Lane, Young

By By Michael Wojtychiw, 09/07/23, 2:00PM CDT


For years, Lane and Young had gotten used to playing each other for conference titles. As members of the Premier Division of the Chicago Public League, the two usually lived at or near the top of the standings.

That ended last season when the conference expanded into multiple Premier divisions and separated Young and Lane. 

But that doesn’t diminish the rivalry, which ended in a 0-0 draw last fall that included a Lane player being disqualified in the closing minutes.

The two teams are ready for their third meeting in 11 months when they face off at 6:45 p.m. Thursday (Sept. 7)at the Michelle Obama Athletic Complex adjacent to Young.

Both teams look quite different from last year, however. Lane graduated 16 seniors, and the Dolphins feature numerous new starters as well. 

Young hit a rough patch in the second weel of the season. After winning its first two games, including a shutout of ranked Hinsdale Central, the team lost three straight, including a rough 4-2 loss to Morton and an uncharacteristic defeat to Von Steuben, which coach Nick Maksa felt was an aftereffect of the game against the second-ranked Mustangs.

There can be a bright spot to a three-game losing streak, however, if a team learns from its mistakes.

“We had to start taking pride in defending again,” Maksa sad. “We had to get back to the basics. What are we good at? What can we always be good at? We can always put the effort in defensively, and that's not just not the guys that are the defenders. The wings help us out defensively all the time. They help track and monitor midfield things.  

“I think it's it just became a thing of ‘Okay, you know, are we okay with this? Are we okay with giving up all these goals?’ If we are, it's going to be a tough year. But if we can buckle down and get back to the things that we were good at before, that led us to success, then we're going to start finding games easier to win.”

The rebound has begun for the Dolphins after consecutive clean-sheet wins against Latin and Prosser.

“The boys are just buying in,” the Young manager said. “They're buying in. They know what we have to do to be successful, and they're buying into that fact.”

Lane, on the other hand, has been playing like a squad that brought back lots of experience. It has outscored ts opponents 21-5 in the first five games of the season.

“I knew that we had an important central defender coming back and when your goalie is coming back, it's going to be solid,” Lane manager Andrew Ricks said. “I can't say, ‘Yeah, I know we'd only give up three goals to Glenbrook North in one game and two goals in the rest.’ No, I didn't know that. But I knew we'd have a solid defense.” 

Each of the goals allowed came in the team’s two opening-week games, a 3-2 win over Glenbard North and 3-1 loss to ranked Glenbrook North.

“It's always a tricky balance to try and play good competition,” Ricks said. “You’re trying to get your lineups right. 

“I thank Glenbrook North for highlighting our weaknesses. We can definitely hang with them, but we couldn't on that day. I'd love to play him them in our sectional.”

Knowing that his squad has room to grow excites Ricks. 

Having not played since August 30th, the Champions used the past week to work on some things their manager felt were needed before they get into the grind of playing four games next week.

“Fitness, fitness, fitness,” Ricks said. “I was trying to run guys, and they dropped like flies in the first two weeks of training. Fitness plays a big role.

“And we have a big school. So even though these kids go to school together, they don't really know each other. I'm trying to get some team chemistry in this, those kind of routines and get a culture involved as well.”

Maksa hasn’t done his team any favors with its schedule. Including the team’s shutout of Prosser on Wednesday, the Dolphins will play seven games in 10 days, including three in three days this week. They have four matches next week. 

Looking forward, it’s something the second-year manager hopes will change in the future, but knows that it’ll help prepare his squad.

“I can see the fatigue is setting in on these guys,” he said. “Honestly, all in all, I am extremely pleased with the effort. Because I know it's been hard on these guys. But we wanted that. We wanted to compete. And you know, we took a lick or two, but you learn from it. You learn from it; you bounce back.”

That’s just one of the things he’s learned since he took over at Young.

“So last year, I think it was fantastic to see the way the kids are willing to compete, the way that they're willing to go out there and test themselves against these perennial powerhouses,” he said. “I mean, we're doing our best; we're working our way up. The program's on the rise. It's the willingness to humble yourself and say, ‘You know what, maybe on paper, we're not the best team that goes out there today. But are we going to compete at a high level of requirements.’ 

“These kids are willing to compete like that, which is why I pitched the schedule up again this year. I mean, as difficult as maybe we thought it was last year, I think I added you know, three or four even more difficult games this year. … What I have learned about the kids at this school in the past couple of years is that is they are so willing to compete. They just need to be given the opportunity to do so.”