Despite losing a stellar 2011 senior class led by ace defender Elise Gordon (primary backline contributor of 18 shutouts) and high-scoring midfielder Kelsey Holbert (19 goals, 8 assists), the Lyons Township girls soccer team welcomes back plenty of talent this spring.

Four West Suburban Silver Division All-conference players headline LT coach Bill Lanspeary’s reloaded squad. In addition to all-conference recognition last season, senior midfielder/defender Sarah Mazur and senior goalkeeper Maggie Orlowski also earned all-sectional honors. Lanspeary describes Mazur as simply a “great all-around player,” while Orlowski is generally regarded as one of the premier keepers in the area.

The Lions’ other all-league returning performers include senior midfielder Juliet Lusson and junior defender Ari Kowalski, who verbally committed in January to play college soccer at Indiana University. Kowalski, a member of the Chicago Fire Juniors club team, scored her first career varsity goal in the Lions’ dramatic 1-0 victory over Waubonsie Valley in the Naperville North Invitational last year.

“Juliet helps us control the midfield and Ari is an outstanding defender,” noted Lanspeary. “With the players we have returning [this season] we should be dangerous in the attack, so that may be our strength. We definitely need our young players to step up.”

Lanspeary also cited senior midfielder Mackie Furlong along with promising forwards Abbie Pasquinelli and Emily Lange as other players integral to the Lions’ success this season.

Last year, LT finished 20-5-1 overall, including a 5-1 conference record (second place) along with a regional championship and runner-up showings at the Pepsi Showdown and Naperville invite. York ended the Lions’ superb season-long run in the Class 3A Sectional final.

The Lions roar into the new season with their typically high expectations.

“As always, we’re looking to compete for our conference championship and advance to at least the quarters of each tournament,” Lanspeary said. “We hope to be healthy and make a strong run into the state playoffs.

“It should be a very interesting year. We have a number of young players and need to sort some things out early in the season, but I think we’ll be pretty tough by the end of the year.”

In a crowded conference race, York, Hinsdale Central and LT are the preseason favorites.

LT opens the season on Thursday (6:30 p.m.) against Waubonsie Valley at Metea Valley Stadium. The Lions’ home opener is against St. Ignatius on Saturday (Noon) at Bennett Field.

On Saturday, May 5 the Lions will host Rolling Meadows at 2 p.m. in the annual LT Pink Out game, which also serves as a fundraiser for breast cancer awareness and research.

“Our schedule looks very difficult,” Lanspeary said. “The competition should make us better and prepare us well for the playoffs.”