If there’s one thing you don’t have to remind Lyons girls soccer coach Alex Hernandez about is that the start of the Class AA tournament is only three weeks away.
“I talk about it everyday at practice,” Hernandez said. “There are two seasons to every season.
“We have the luxury of playing a strong schedule the first season to get us ready for the second season. But once the state tournament starts, it’s a whole new life.”
As the case has been in past years, the Lions are in one of the easiest sectionals and supersectionals in Illinois.
Last week, Lyons earned the top seed in its own sectional, which will feed into the Loyola University Supersectional and face the University High Sectional winner.
Stagg is the No. 1 seed in the U-High Sectional, which is loaded with teams from the South Suburbs and Chicago Public League.
“People have to remember that there are two sides to the sword,” Hernandez said. “It may be an easier road to the state quarterfinals, but playing against teams that may not play at the same speed we’re used to can hurt you when you get to the quarterfinals.
“We have seen in past years that our players can get a false sense of what the game is about. Then when you get Downstate, the speed is so much faster that it takes a half to adjust.”
While the Lions may be a lock to earn their fourth consecutive state berth this spring, they have struggled of late against some of the premier programs in the Chicagoland area.
After being shutout by Hinsdale Central and Lincoln-Way Central recently, Hernandez’s crew posted a 2-1 record in the opening round of the Naperville Invitational over the weekend.
Despite being outplayed at times against St. Charles East, Lyons escaped with a 1-0 victory in the first game of pool play.
Emma Havlat recorded the game-winner with less than 15 minutes to play when she hammered home a Beth Talentowski corner kick.
“We know this is a big tournament for us to prove ourselves,” Havlat said. “We need to keep pushing hard at the start of games, so we can control the play a little more.”
Lyons couldn’t get anything going in the first of two games Saturday, as it fell to Naperville North 2-0. Goalie Mary Daly had 15 saves in a losing effort.
“The kids said they were ready for the game, but I thought we came out a bit flat,” said Hernandez, whose team took a 9-3 record into Tuesday’s battle against Oak Park (after deadline). “Naperville North came out quite ready, and I think we were just behind in the times the first half.”
But thanks to two goals from Courtney Curby and one from Katie Rehor, the Lions bounced back to register a 3-1 victory over Maine South in the nightcap.
“We had some of our players back for the second game,” Hernandez said. “We were missing some because of injuries and a funeral. It’s really amazing the difference one or two players can make.”