When Lyons girls soccer coach Bill Lanspeary looks back at his first season as head coach, it’s hard not to be happy with a season that saw the Lions go unbeaten in 18 of their 27 contests last spring.

Expectations will be even higher this season for Lanspeary and Co. now that Lanspeary and a young, but talented Lyons squad has experience under their belts.

“We’ve got a good mix of some veteran players and some young ones,” Lanspeary said. “But we have some holes to fill with some key losses from last year. We’ll need players to step up and become the difference makers this year.”

Unlike a number of Top 10 teams throughout the Chicagoland area, Lyons didn’t lose any players to club. The Lions did, however, lose Jackie Hanson and Jill Kevorkian to graduation.

Midfielder Emma Havlat and defender Keegan Kilrea are the two keys returning from last year’s 15-9-3 squad that lost to Fremd in the Class AA state quarterfinals.

Despite the loss to the Vikings, it marked the sixth consecutive season in which the Lions advanced to the state finals. While earning state finals berths have been nice, Lyons has only managed to bring home a state trophy twice.

“We should be solid in the back and have the potential to be dangerous up top this season,” said Lanspeary, whose team is expected to go through a different sectional than past seasons when the state tournament rolls around in May.

Sophomore midfielder Steph Condon, who scored six goals a year ago, is the leading scorer to return for the Lyons. Lanspeary believes a year of varsity experience will pay off for Condon and sophomore midfielder Katie Nasenbenny.

But for Lyons to be a consistent area power, it will need strong performances from senior defender Cassie Castillo, freshman forward Kelsey Holbert and sophomore Hope Spangler.

Holbert and Spangler will need to adjust quickly, as the Lions will be tested in the Pepsi Showdown, Naperville Invitational and throughout the West Suburban (Silver) Conference season. Last spring, Lyons posted a 5-1 conference mark, which earned it a second-place finish.

“Hinsdale Central is going to be the team to beat in the conference,” said Lanspeary, whose team didn’t win more than two consecutive games during the 2007 regular season. “But I think the conference is going to be more balanced than it has been recently.

“York, Oak Park and Downers North are going to be tough, too. It will be very competitive.”