If you had said four years ago that Lidia Breen would become a Division I goalkeeper, few people would have believed it.
Just five seasons after playing club soccer for the first time, Breen is just months away from beginning her college career at Lehigh.
The Lyons Township senior’s high school career ended Friday night when archrival Hinsdale Central eked out a 1-0, double-overtime victory over the Lions in the Class 3A Hinsdale Central Sectional championship game.
In the latest edition of a tremendous rivalry, the host Red Devils (19-6) scored the only goal of the game when Erin Smith sent a powerful header into the upper right corner of the net off a corner kick from Lauren Cangelosi with 5:36 left in the second overtime.
Breen had no chance to stop that shot, but she had kept the Lions (14-5-4) alive by making six saves and shutting down many more Hinsdale Central opportunities.
“I think it was very even throughout,” Breen said. “Both teams had their chances and they managed to get one dangerous.
“We knew that they were going to be dangerous on their set pieces and they managed to finish one of them.”
Hinsdale Central outshot the Lions 8-3, but Breen asserted that the Lions played just as well as the Red Devils.
“I don’t necessarily think that they were the better team out there,” Breen said. “It was a very evenly matched battle and they got one lucky chance and it managed to end our season.”
Despite the loss, Breen deemed the match one of the highlights of her career, nearly as memorable as last year’s 3-0 sectional final win over Benet. But this season’s accomplishments were arguably more impressive because the Lions had just two returning starters.
“I think we had a great season this year,” Breen said. “At the beginning we weren’t really sure what we were going to be facing since we had so many new girls, but I think we surpassed everyone’s expectations with what we brought to the field and we definitely made a deep run in the playoffs.
“Now I feel like we could have gone a little farther, but definitely at the beginning of the season, if someone said to me [we would get this far] I would have been like, ‘oh, that sounds good.'”
Breen’s leadership was a major reason why the Lions did so well.
“Absolutely, it definitely was,” LTHS coach Bill Lanspeary said. “With a whole new back line, you’ve got to have some leadership back there, so it was good to have her as keeper being that vocal leader.”
Breen has always been a goalie, a position that requires a certain mindset along with physical skills.
“I was put in goal in AYSO and it just kind of stuck because was the person that wasn’t afraid to dive on the ball,” Breen said. “I started playing club soccer in eighth grade and I told [the coaches] I was a goalie because that’s what I had been playing. I wasn’t very good when I was in eighth grade, but I started getting some more sophisticated training and then, here we are.”
The Lions made their deep playoff run as Breen played some of the best soccer of her career. She gave up just 16 goals this spring, including three in the last 11 games, and posted 11 shutouts.
With the Lions able to muster just three shots against the Red Devils, including a penalty kick in the second half that was stopped by Hinsdale Central goalie Katy Coseglia, Breen stayed tough as the pressure mounted.
“I always try to stay relaxed and I always try to think that they could score, because the second that I think, ‘oh, we’re fine, they’re not going to get any chances,’ they always manage to get a couple,” Breen said. “So I try to be focused and stay on my toes so I’m always ready for a shot.
“That’s what I was trying to do [tonight] when they were pressuring me a lot down there and then just trying to keep the defense organized so they didn’t get any breakaways. We managed to clamp down on their forwards and not give up many chances.”
Lanspeary was not surprised by that excellence.
“She’s athletic, fearless and worked to get better,” Lanspeary said. “She went to keeper camps for training all the time and when you put in that time and effort, along with the athletic ability, she showed what you can do.”