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Class 3A state preview story: Lyons

By Curt Herron, 11/03/23, 12:15AM CDT


This year’s resilience award for securing a trip to the IHSA Class 3A state finals, despite facing long odds, likely goes to Lyons.
The Lions had to rally on three different occasions to pull out a thrilling win on penalties over Stagg at Tuesday's Morton Supersectional in Berwyn.
Coach Paul Labbato's 19-6-2 Lions rallied against the Chargers to earn their spot in Friday's 6 p.m. Class 3A semifinals against Naperville North at Hoffman Estates High School.
This is the first time that Lyons has reached the finals since 2009, when it capped a 26-3-0 season in Labbato's third year as head coach with a 2-0 semifinal victory over New Trier and a 2-1 win in overtime over Lake Zurich in the state championship match.
In Tuesday's supersectional thriller, senior defender Mason Santos scored his second goal of the game in the 89th minute to tie things at 3-3 and force the outcome to be determined by penalties.
That's where senior forward Owen Suda, senior defender Colin Sullivan, senior midfielder Haris Sarajlija, senior defender Declan Kracker, senior midfielder Jimmy Brejcha, senior defender Danny Svelnis, sophomore forward Mason Burda and senior forward Ian Farris all connected to help their team prevail in eight rounds.
Suda connected for the Lions' second goal to tie things at 2-2.
Lyons will compete in the state finals for the seventh time and makes its second visit under Labbato. The only other time the Lions won a state trophy was in their first state visit in 1972, when John King led the program to a fourth place finish.
With his next victory, Labbato will capture the 300th victory of his career at the school. He has a record of 299-80-24 over 17 years and hopes that this team will be his fourth to capture 20 or more victories. 
He has had no losing seasons and other than the COVID-shortened 2021 spring season, each of his teams have won at least 15 matches.
The Lions earned their spot in the supersectional with a 4-2 win over Morton in that team's sectional championship match in Berwyn. That followed a 1-0 victory over Young in the sectional semifinals and a 5-1 win over Downers Grove North in their own regional final.
Leading the way in scoring are Suda (15 goals, 4 assists); Sarajlija (14 goals, 9 assists); Kracker (5 goals, 5 assists); Brejcha (4 goals, 2 assists); Burda (4 goals, 4 assists); Farris (4 goals, 2 assists); Santos (3 goals); senior forward Austen Wisniewski (2 goals, 7 assists); sophomore forward Ryan Siegel (4 assists); and Sullivan (4 assists).
Seniors Tyler Balon and Seth Ahlm have each seen time in net. Balon has allowed 17 goals and Ahlm eight.
Earning IHSSCA postseason honors for the Lions are All-State selection Sullivan, All-Section picks Sarajlija and Suda, Sportsmanship Award recipient Kracker and All-Academic pick Svelnis. 
Lyons has won eight matches in a row, outscoring its opponents by a 27-10 margin during that run. It has recorded nine shutouts this season and limited opponents to only one goal on 12 other occasions.
After getting off to a 10-3-2 start, the Lions dropped three of their next four matches before beginning their current winning streak.
Team captains for the Lions are Kracker, Sullivan, Svelnis and Suda. Assistant coaches for Lyons are Mike Wiest, Paul Godinho, Stewart Turner-Jackson, Bill Lanspeary and Dan Forney.