When the Pepsi Showdown kicked off last week, Lyons was hoping the tournament would provide some answers to a number of early-season questions.
And that’s exactly what the largest boys soccer tournament in the Midwest has done for the Lions.
Lyons continued to open eyes Saturday by knocking off Lake Zurich 3-0 in LaGrange, earning a berth in Thursday’s semifinals of the 32-team tournament.
“That was a huge win for us,” said Lyons coach Alex Hernandez, whose team has outscored its three tournament opponents 17-3. “To be in the semifinals of a tournament like this says a lot about where our team and program are right now.”
Tim Markham was the story once again, as he found the back of the net twice. During the Lions’ (5-0-1) win over Naperville Central last Thursday, the senior forward recorded four goals during Lyons’ 6-2 victory.
“This is one of the biggest tournaments in the country, and it’s a great feeling to make it to the semifinals,” said Markham, whose team fell to New Trier in the 2004 quarterfinals. “It’s only going to help our confidence.”
Lake Zurich, which was the lone unseeded team to advance to the quarterfinals, was never able to mount much of an attack.
“The boys work hard to implement our system,” Hernandez said. “Possession was a big difference.
“We always want to make the other team work. We put (Lake Zurich) under a certain amount of pressure for them to make a mistake.”
While Saturday’s win was huge, the turning point for Hernandez’s squad may have come against Naperville Central in the second round.
“We came out the first 12 minutes and played outstanding soccer,” said Hernandez, whose team scored twice during that stretch. “But then all of a sudden, my team disappeared and Naperville Central took it to us and made it 2-1.
“So I kindly said to my boys at the half that the team that was out there the first 12 minutes better return. And then there were a few choice words after that, too.”
Hernandez got his wish as Lyons blew the game open with three goals in a six-minute span to open up a 5-1 cushion with 25 minutes to play.
Markham had the first three goals of the second half, while Pat Magnesen scored the other.
“We’ve had a lot of opportunities to score in the past couple games, and we’ve taken advantage of those chances,” Markham said. “We changed a couple things up and that has helped us a lot.”
Beside for Markham, Zeman and Kyle Luetkehans are two others that have played a key role in the Lions’ early-season success.
“Those three have been outstanding,” Hernandez said. “I’m ecstatic with the way the team is playing overall. The kids are working hard and it’s paying off.”