By Marty Farmer
Since Bill Lanspeary became head coach of the Lyons Township High School girls soccer team 11 seasons ago, the Lions have won a regional title every year, plus four conference and three sectional championships.
So despite losing six key players, including a pair of Division I college players in Bella Lastina (Loyola-Chicago) and Catherine Johnson (New Mexico) to graduation in last season, it's no surprise LTHS is off to another successful start this season under Lanspeary's watch.
Fresh off a 14-5-1 campaign and conference championship in 2018, the Lions' (3-0-1, 1-0 West Suburban Silver) annual modus operandi is to reload rather than rebuild.
"We lost a lot of seniors last year," Lanspeary said. "Bella Lestina, Catherine Johnson, Maggie Gilchrist, Kaelan Lee, Elizabeth Hall and Elsa McMahon were big losses.
"But our newcomers have stepped in nicely. With so many new players, it's about figuring out everyone's role on the team to make us the best team possible."
The Lions' top returner is all-state senior midfielder Eileen Murphy. The Illinois commit leads the team in scoring with three goals.
Fellow seniors Meara Hilling, Grace Truax, Bri Stirrat and Georgia Dougherty provide additional talent and experience.
"Meara is a workhorse in the middle and a highly skilled player," Lanspeary said. "Grace is fast, tough and athletic defender. Bri is stepping into a new role as a center defensive back. She's very quick and reads the game well."
Dougherty, who tore an ACL during her sophomore year, has returned as a difference-making forward in the lineup.
Junior Sophie Grabis is an all-conference goalkeeper, while sophomores Ava Dallavo and Lily Mattern have been welcomed additions to the varsity.
"I think we're athletic and we play hard so that's a great place to start," Lanspeary said. "We're starting to see some improvement in our spacing and possession. We're beginning to get on the same page in the attack, and our communication on defense has improved through the first four games."
As for the conference race, the Lions could be tested by York, Downers Grove North and Glenbard West. LTHS has already earned a significant 3-0 win over league rival Hinsdale Central. Murphy scored twice against the Red Devils.
"We want to win the conference, regional and sectional," Lanspeary said. "I want to see us be a team that plays hard, supports one another on and off the field and play quality soccer."