With an 8 a.m. starting time Saturday, senior defender Jackson Sullivan and his Lyons Township High School boys soccer teammates could have been flat following an emotional and memorable victory the night before.
The Lions defeated Round Lake 1-0 in the Northside College Showcase hosted by New Trier — partly with the momentum of their resounding 2-0 victory at preseason No. 1-ranked Naperville North but also remembering their only loss this past spring to Addison Trail in an early-morning match.
“We would have had a perfect [12-0] season. We didn’t come ready to play and paid the price [losing 1-0],” Sullivan said. “This year, we came out with a better attitude and awake. Any team we faced, we were going to treat them as the best team we’ve ever played.”
The Lions (2-0-1) have yet to allow a goal after starting with a scoreless tie against Sandburg on Aug. 23.
Senior Dom Panopoulos scored Saturday with junior Ben Swicionis assisting.
At Naperville North, sophomore Liam Wiesnewski scored just before halftime off junior Liam Carolan’s cross. Senior Anthony Curran tallied in the 58th minute with senior Finn Mahaney assisting.
“Naperville North is always a team that dominates us and to go there with a must-win attitude was great to have on the bus and in the locker room,” Sullivan said. “It carried over to our play. Everyone showed up and left everything they had.”
The Lions also beat preseason No. 1 Morton in their spring opener, but LTHS coach Paul Labbato could not clearly remember the last time the program defeated Naperville North, the Class 3A state champions from 2016-18.
“It’s been quite a long time,” Labbato said. “Coming off our first game, where the players felt like they didn’t live up to their potential, they certainly looked at that game and who we were playing and felt like they had something to prove.”
Sullivan, Ryan Herchenroether and midfielder Aidan Hilling are senior team captains.
Following several key graduations, the Lions are most experienced on the defensive line with Sullivan, Panopoulos and Herchenroether joined by seniors Fisher Daniels and Luke Stockbridge as the new starting goalie. Sullivan said Daniels, who does not play defense for his club team, gave an exceptional performance against Naperville North.
Other standouts have included senior forwards Curran, Mahaney and Zach Steck, and junior Patrick Kracker and sophomore Colin Sullivan at midfield.
This is the first time the Sullivan brothers have been soccer teammates.
“It’s pretty awesome to think about and it’s definitely an amazing memory,” Jackson Sullivan said. “To have him on the field with me, someone I can trust and know what he can do, he’s a good, hard worker.”
Young RBHS squad off to 1-2 start
As the lone sophomore on the 2019 Riverside-Brookfield boys soccer team, defender Alex Garcia, now a senior, always was grateful for the guidance and support from then senior Daniel Sessler.
“I told him when I’m a senior, I’m going to be like him … a layer of support no matter what [the underclassmen] need,” Garcia said. “I just hope I show them how to play the sport and show yourself, prove yourself.”
Now in his third full varsity season, Garcia is among few veterans for a roster with six sophomores.
The Bulldogs opened the season 1-2 at the Reavis Tournament by defeating Acero/Garcia 3-1 on Aug. 26 on goals by senior Martin Medina, junior Manny Tovar and sophomore Danny Martinez while losing to Thornton Fractional United 3-0 on Aug. 28 and Bloom 6-1 in the Aug. 24 opener. Senior James Dalton gave RBHS the early lead against Bloom.
“[I’m encouraged by] the IQ of the team, the progress the team has made thus far,” RBHS coach Ivek Halic said. “I’m very pleased with the leadership that’s come back as well as the skills that have come up.”
Garcia is the lone returning All-Metro Suburban Conference selection from the spring season, when RBHS finished 10-3-1 and third in the MSC at 7-2. There were no IHSA state playoffs.
Garcia and midfielder/striker Tovar, another third-year varsity player, are team captains. Midfielders Medina and Dalton and senior defender Ando Escamilla also are returning starters.
Add Benediktas Bieliauskas, Diego Brophy, Luke Harder, Andrew Kosiak and Juan Santacruz and there are nine seniors. The sophomores are Massimo Franceschina, Liam Kaiser, Martinez, Eric Ruiz, Max Swicionis and Gabriel Wiginton.
Halic liberally used all 21 roster players at Reavis to evaluate lineup combinations.
“Game after game we’re the same team, no matter the result. Everyone has the passion to play, even the sophomores, who basically have no varsity experience,” Garcia said.
“I just want to end it off with a bang and make a good playoff run. With a younger team, I feel like we’re underdogs and we could shock a lot of people by the end of the season.”