The State-finals jinx continued for the Lyons boys’ soccer team Friday afternoon at the Class AA State quarterfinals at North Central College in Naperville.
For the sixth consecutive time, the Lions (22-2-3) were unable to record a victory, this time tumbling to Rockford Boylan 2-1. Greg Klazura’s goal with less than 10 minutes to play broke a 1-1 tie and sent the Titans (24-5-2) on to the semifinals against Fremd.
“They just outworked us,” said Lyons’ Mark Zeman, whose team came in riding an 18-game unbeaten streak.
Boylan knocked off Fremd 1-0 in overtime, before eventually losing to Chatham Glenwood 1-0 for the State title Saturday night. Before this season, the only other time the Chicago area failed to have a representative in the title game in the IHSA’s 34-year history of boys soccer was in 1985 when Quincy Notre Dame defeated Collinsville 2-1.
“It’s tough to lose, but we had an unbelievable record and a great season,” Lyons’ Tim Markham said. “To go Downstate just added to it, but it would have been nice to keep playing.”
Lyons, which entered the quarterfinals as a heavy favorite by many to win the State crown, was held to just one goal for the first time in 11 games. Markham’s 29th goal of the season with 31:16 to play gave the Lions a 1-0 lead, but that would be the only offense they could muster. Lyons only managed five shots on goal in the contest.
“It’s just a natural reaction for us to sit back and try to hold a lead, but that’s not the way to go,” said Zeman, who will continue his soccer career at Georgetown next fall. “We did the same thing against Morton, and that almost cost us the game against them, too.
“But in the end, I think we just ran out of gas. This doesn’t feel good, but we just have to accept it and move on.”
After blowing an opportunity to tie the game on a questionable penalty kick, Boylan’s Andy Schaul eventually brought his team even with 15:28 left.
“Even though they missed the penalty kick, it seemed like we just fell apart after that,” Lyons coach Alex Hernandez said. “We had a couple opportunities in the first half, and maybe if we would have cashed in on some of those the outcome would have been different.”
The loss was the first the Lions had suffered since a 2-0 defeat to Wheaton-Warrenville South in the semifinals of the Pepsi Showdown on Sept. 15.
While the defeat was tough to take, Hernandez wasn’t going to let it overshadow his team’s school-best season. Zeman (14 goals, 16 assists), Markham (29 goals, 11 assists) and Kyle Luetkehans (eight goals, 20 assists) were the big three reasons why the Lions were considered one of the top teams in the Chicagoland area this season.
“These kids worked hard all season, and deserved every accolade they received,” Hernandez said. “This was a great way for our 12 seniors to finish their high school careers, and hopefully it will set a standard for our future teams.”