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Game story: Lane’s 2nd half goal explosion dooms Loyola

By Michael Wojtychiw, 03/14/24, 10:30AM CDT


3 scorers pace Champions to 3-0 nonconference win 

WILMETTE -- The start of a new season brings new expectations, new hope, new faces and an all-around new excitement. When you add in beautiful weather, it makes for a perfect start.

Both Loyola and Lane were looking at a number of new faces when they faced off Tuesday on Loyola’s campus.

Lane, which came into the game with one match under its belt after an 8-2 win over Amundsen on Monday, was looking to replace 46 percent of its scoring from a season ago. That included Chicagoland Soccer All-Stater Mary Rau’s 13 goals and Avery Ellis’ nine; those totals ranked second and third in 2023.

Luckily for the Champions, leading scorer and returning all-stater Grace Carman is back, so to is Kristi Sevova, who finished with nine goals. The challenge is for Sevova and sophomore Jackson Caffey, who had five, and others is to step up and fill in the gap.

“Playing a game already had a big impact today, because it was nice to see yesterday that we had already developed some chemistry,” Sevova said. “We saw we connect on the field against other teams, not just our teammates on the practice field.”

Conversely, Loyola replaces much of its backline, including a couple of players who have gone on to play collegiately: two-time Chicagoland Soccer All-Stater Emily Pikarski (St. Thomas); and Ellianna Seeley (Northern Michigan). Two-time all-state keeper and three-year starter Ellie Bradley was also a huge graduation loss.

The Ramblers’ transition includes playing some players out of their normal positions.

“We have a new middle. I think we’re getting used to playing with girls who came from academy and are being a really big asset but are just getting used to where and when they play when they step,” Loyola’s Ellie Vehovsky said. 

“It’s always going to be a bumpy start to the season, because high school is such a different style of play than club,” Loyola senior defender Sadie Merritt said. “I think everyone really wants to be here and is proving it through their actions. Clicking will come, with the competitiveness we have, it’ll come.”

Loyola manager Shannon Hartinger knows that it might take some time before the Ramblers get fully comfortable with each other.

“We definitely experienced some growing pains, but there were some brought spots,” she said. “There were some connecting passes, we made some dangerous chances in the first half, but we just couldn’t convert.

“We’ve done a lot of work on and off the field, and we’ve been tweaking our lineup based off how the players have been performing. We just have to take it day-by-day.” 

The first half was much of what you would expect from two teams still trying to find their way. 

Both had opportunities, but great saves by keepers Cynthia Waller, of Lane, and Loyola’s Chloe Zipprich kept the game scoreless for 48 minutes.

Things changed for Lane during the second half, much in part to the halftime speech from manager Sean Harkness.

“Mostly we really talked about having the confidence to get on the ball,” he said. “I felt one of our biggest adjustments was just moving into space to receive the ball and looking for the ball, so we could exploit some space in the central midfield.”

“We knew that they’re a very technical team, a physical team, so we knew we had to step up our energy to counteract their energy and play out of the back more,” Sevova said. 

Another thing that changed was that Champions (2-0-0), ranked 11th in the Chicagoland Soccer First 50 preseason poll, played the final 40 minutes without Carman, who went down with what looked like a jammed ankle on a contested ball in the closing minute of the first half. 

“It changed our approach a bit,” the Lane manager said. “But Luzmarie Razo stepped up and was fantastic in the first 20 minutes of the second half. She just played her game, didn’t try to replicate Grace, and the girls played to what Lu’s strengths are.”

The second half gave other players the opportunity to step up and show their offensive prowess.

And they did.

Sevova, fresh off of city and state flag football titles in the fall, broke the 0-0 tie a little under nine-and-a-half minutes into the second half when she slotted a ball past Zipprich.

“I’m not really one to shoot with my left (foot), but I took the opportunity to kick it,” said Sevova of her finish after she collected the ball at the top of the box.

A little more than four minutes later, the senior assisted Jennifer Rodriguez.

“I was on the left side, and Kristi got the ball on the right side of the box,” Rodriguez said. “I saw her turn, so I just started to make my run and she passed me a perfect ball for a great shot.”

The goal was the first of Rodriguez’s prep career. The senior is in her first year playing for Lane after playing academy ball.

“It was really exciting,” she said. “Doing it against a good team made it so much more fun, especially being able to celebrate it with my teammates.”

After controlling play for more than half of the first half, the Loyola offense struggled to gain traction in the second 40 minutes.

The 30th-ranked Ramblers (0-1-0) managed only one shot in the second half and earned just one free kick and one corner kick.

“They broke down our middle really well, and they found the perfect pockets to get balls off in their final third,” Vehovsky said. “And with the wind, that came with a challenge.

“At the end of the day, they got that first goal. It affected us more than it should have.”

“They did a good job of taking away our middle options, making it really difficult to get the ball out,” Loyola’s senior defender Mary Nikas said. 

“We ended up chasing a lot in the midfield,” Hartinger said. “We were not secured in the midfield, and they were able to get shots in dangerous areas.”

Lane’s Abigail Snowden, another former academy player in her first year on varsity, completed the scoring with just under nine minutes remaining.

“Jenny played a great ball behind,” Snowden said. “I was running onto it with my defender on my back. I just had to shield my defender and get the ball on the ground and hit it with my left foot.”

Lane enters the season with eight-consecutive city soccer titles and added a run to the sectional finals last year. With all of the success, the program knows it can’t take anything, or any team, lightly. Everyone will be aiming for them, especially when they get into city play.

“I try to tell them to just reset,” Lane’s manager said. “The first team meeting of the season, we went over what we did last year and said we should have the confidence to accomplish those things.

“But I told them ‘That’s done, that’s over. We can have the confidence that it's already been accomplished, so we can accomplish it again. But we can’t rest on anything from the prior season. What are we going to accomplish this year as the new set of players?’”

The Champions continue their new quest next week when they face nonconference Glenbrook North on Monday, Premier Division North foe Payton on Wednesday and cross-over rival Young on Friday.

“The new players stepping up gives us so many more dimensions to our team,” Harkness said. “It gives us more depth than we thought we were going to have. Bringing in players that can produce like Jenny and Abby did today, it says a lot about what we’re going to be able to do this season.”

Loyola has won 14-consecutive Girls Catholic Athletic Conference races. Hartinger and her Loyola squad know that the game with Lane was only their first, and they have more than 20 to go.

 “We are going to look at the film, and the girls were very honest with each other in our postgame huddle,” she said. “They know we’ve got to take this and move forward from it. We’ve got to learn from lessons we learned tonight and be prepared to move forward for Thursday (Glenbrook North).”

Starting lineups

GK: Cynthia Waller
D: Aislin Anstee
D: Alyssa LoVerde
D: Olive Tinucci
MF: Jennifer Rodriguez
MF: Kristi Sevova
MF: Riya Jain
MF: Jessica Carlson
F: Jackson Caffey
F: Abigail Snowden
F: Grace Carman

GK: Chloe Zipprich
D: Maria Nikas
D: Mia Wisler
D: Molly Briody
MF: Claire Brady
MF: Grace Lynch
MF: Ellie Vehovsky
F: Lilianna Ciesla
F: Lily Berhalter
F: Emily Plovanich
F: Taylor Richards

Chicagoland Soccer MVP of the Match: Jennifer Rodriguez, sr., F, Lane

Scoring summary

First half
No scoring

Second half
Lane: Kristi Sevova (unassisted), 49th minute
Lane: Jennifer Rodriguez (Sevova), 53rd minute
Lane: Abigail Snowden (Rodriguez), 72nd minute