When the Lyons boys soccer team walked off the field Saturday afternoon in LaGrange, it found itself in a position it had never been in before.
After punching a ticket to the Pepsi Showdown semifinals every year since 2004, Lyons was bumped from the winner’s bracket after dropping a heart-breaking 1-0 quarterfinal decision to Sandburg in a shootout at the Lyons Soccer Complex.
The Eagles, who are seeded 13th in the 32-team bracket tournament, moved on thanks to the right foot of Jeff Grotz. Sandburg’s seventh shooter in the shootout buried his kick to give the Eagles a 5-4 shootout victory.
“In practice I was shanking them all, so I got kicked out of the top five (group of shooters), but I got to score the game-winner,” said Grotz, whose team will face No. 1 seed Wheaton Warrenville South in Saturday’s semifinals. “It’s amazing that we got this far. We’ve been playing good ball.”
Grotz was able to steal the spotlight thanks to Sandburg goalie Jake Kenny, who made his second save of the shootout seconds earlier. The senior dove to his right to stop an attempt by Lyons’ Tyler Kuehn.
“I felt we were unfortunate to lose this game,” Lyons coach Paul Labbato said. “Sandburg’s goalkeeper really kept them in this game, plus we were unlucky hitting the post late in the game.
“Our team has nothing to be ashamed of. They played nine overtimes last week and were fatigued by the end of this game.”
Labbato’s squad opened the tournament on Sept. 4 with a thrilling 2-1 win over Farragut at Montrose Park in Chicago. Billy McGuinness’ goal in the third overtime was the difference. Jake Mannos scored late in the second half to force the extra sessions.
“Farragut is a creative and smart team,” Labbato said. “We were going to score goals against them-it was just a matter of time. Fortunately, time did not run out before we tied the game.”
Kyle Magnesen’s overtime goal in the Sweet 16 last Thursday allowed the Lions to see another day with a 2-1 win over Mt. Carmel. Matt Solik scored for Lyons in regulation.
“I felt we dominated the first half, but we lost focus in the second,” Labbato said. “They stepped up their pressure on the ball and put us in a bit of a panic.
“Their two forwards were very fast and dangerous, creating a few great chances on breakaways. Our team responded with a little creativity of their own and put together a nice sequence that resulted with Kyle scoring the game winner.”