Lyons Township High School senior Katie O’Malley remembers the adjustments during her first varsity girls soccer season in 2021.
Now a veteran standout and Illinois State University recruit, O’Malley makes the difference in many ways for another talented LTHS lineup that regularly uses two sophomores and two freshmen.
“I played [varsity] as a sophomore and I was honestly scared to play with [older girls],” O’Malley said. “I try to be inclusive with everyone and keep everyone in line, too. Kind of a leader role, I guess, and make sure everyone knows they’re doing good and to keep working hard.”
O’Malley especially has been integral in sharing success this season with the Lions (18-1-1, 6-0), who captured their sixth straight West Suburban Silver title by beating Glenbard West 6-0 on May 9. They enter this week’s IHSA Class 3A state playoffs as the No. 1 seed in the Reavis Sectional.
Besides leading the Lions with 14 goals, O’Malley also has served up an impressive team-high 18 assists — a direct hand in 32 of the potent offense’s 65 goals this season.
“I think [assists] mainly come from my corner kicks because I’m the only one who takes the corner kicks,” O’Malley said. “Then I think just because I’m on the field a lot, it comes from servicing someone right before their goal.”
LTHS coach Bill Lanspeary has no official records, but he believes that O’Malley probably is among the Lions’ top five in single-season assists.
Of the Lions’ nine state-qualifying teams from 1997-2021 whose season stats are on IHSA.org, the highest assist total is Jenna Johnson’s 18 for the Lions’ 2000 quarterfinalists that played 28 games.
“[O’Malley is] a dangerous playmaker and she’s finding that she can be dangerous giving it up to a teammate as well,” Lanspeary said.
On corner kicks, O’Malley often has found the strong head of Izzi Wirtz (5 goals), defender Caroline McKenna (3 goals) or Niamh Griffin (5 goals). There’s also sophomore forward Caroline Mortonson (7 goals, 12 assists) and freshman midfielder Carolina Capizzi (9 goals).
“[O’Malley is] a very great player. She dribbles through everyone,” said LTHS junior midfielder Josie Pochocki, who also has five goals. “She’s determined to win and from a team aspect, everyone’s here to help each other out so she’s willing to do that.”
Against Glenbard West, Mortonson and O’Malley each scored twice and Mortonson had two assists. Capizzi and Izzy Lebar also scored.
Goals by Mortonson and Capizzi in the first 5:17 put LTHS in control early. The Lions also posted their 15th shutout this season with just five goals allowed.
O’Malley quickly resolved any possible college recruiting pressure. Joining the Eclipse Soccer Club after her junior year, she was part of the roster for the ECNL Girls National Playoffs in Seattle last June and got significant playing time because of injuries.
That’s where newly hired Illinois State coach Marisa Kresge first spotted O’Malley. O’Malley verbally committed during the summer as part of Kresge’s first recruiting class.
“I liked how interested they were and how they were doing a rebuild,” O’Malley said. “It all just happened so fast. Especially for senior year, it was my last time to play [for LTHS] and it’s fun to do it knowing that I was committed.”
The Lions most likely will see No. 7-seeded Glenbard West again in the LT Regional final at 10 a.m. on May 20.
LT opens regional play on May 17 against No. 16 Argo. The sectional semifinal is at 4:30 p.m. May 23 at Reavis.
“Our defense was like a brick wall and never got scored on [in years past]. I think we’re still holding that name but I also think offensively we’re a lot better too,” O’Malley said. “I hope we get far in the playoffs just because it’s my last year and I really don’t want it to end.”