Kate Fulscher

Senior Kate Fulscher is part of another outstanding defensive line for the Lyons Township girls soccer team.

Even the few times the Lions allow a goal, they’re hard to beat.

On Saturday, senior goalie and Illinois recruit Izzy Lee stopped a penalty kick and then converted hers to give the Lions a 2-1 overtime victory over Naperville North in the semifinals of the 4th annual Lou Malnati’s Deep Dish Classic at New Trier. 

Lee’s game-winner gave LTHS (8-0) a 3-2 victory in the sudden-victory sixth round of penalty kicks. Because of rescheduling conflicts, the championship game has not yet been played and may not.

“It’s hard to say which one’s the most [victory so far]. Coming off of PKs, that’s always a rush. Coming off of that with a win was really a good feeling,” Fulscher said.

“We don’t really keep track of the consecutive shutouts. It’s great that we get a shutout but [a goal is] not the end of the world. It just means we’ve just got to score more.”

Naperville North’s first-half penalty kick ended a streak of six consecutive shutouts by the Lions since their season-opening 3-2 victory over Whitney Young. But the Lions’ Riley Wengerd tied the game midway through the second half with an assist from Caroline Mortonson to force overtime.

The Lions’ Josie Pochocki and Mortonson converted in the initial round of five penalty kicks.

“The win against Naperville was fantastic,” LTHS coach Bill Lanspeary said.

“I think expectations were put kind of high on this team. And I think it took us a little while to start jelling and playing well together. But you can start to see some of the chemistry they’re building on and off the field. 

“The games challenge us one after another and what we find is they compete really hard. They like playing together and for each other.” 

Fulscher and sophomore Brennan Israel have been “outstanding” as the central defenders of the Lions’ back line, Lanspeary said. Fulscher, Lee and senior Ava Pike return from the starting defense of last year’s Class 3A state runners-up who allowed just four goals in 21 games.

Saturday’s outside defenders were Pike and sophomore Caroline McKenna and versatile senior and Long Island recruit Rielly Chesna, who was even more valuable with senior midfielder Eleanor Musgrove on her official visit to the Air Force Academy.

“I think [our shutouts are] just a combination of things, really good communication from the backs, just trying to tell everyone where they need to be. It’s not just the backline. It’s the midfield working too so they can get back and help us,” Fulscher said. 

“It’s also that our 1v1 defending is pretty good, too. Individually we win our battles and then team-wise we win the team battles.” 

The shutout streak included a 1-0 Malnati’s win April 13 over Loyola Academy on a Musgrove goal (Chandlar Lay assist) and 1-0 double-overtime win over Downers Grove North, April 5. Pochocki’s sudden-victory header off a Chesna cross with about three minutes left in the second overtime prevented the winner being decided on penalty kicks.