By Marty Farmer
The Lyons Township High School girls soccer team got the rematch it wanted against Naperville North in the Class 3A state semifinals.
Unfortunately, the Huskies completed a season sweep of the Lions en route to winning the state championship, 2-1 over Barrington in the final.
Naperville North, which defeated LTHS at the Naperville Invite during the regular season, edged the Lions again 2-1 on penalty kicks in the state semifinals at North Central College on Friday, May 31
"Naperville North beat us at their tournament, but we felt like it was a match we could have won," LTHS coach Bill Lanspeary said. "We looked forward to the rematch in the state semifinals. It was a hard-fought game. In overtime, neither team wanted to take too many chances. Their goalkeeper made some nice saves and they won 4-2 on penalty kicks."
The Lions scored first when Olivia Wirtz found the back of the net off an assist from Ava Dallavo in the 39th minute.
Naperville North tied the score at 1-1 when Hannah Martin scored an unassisted goal late in the second half.
"Our back line did a great job of limiting their opportunities," Lanspeary said. "In the second half, Naperville North came out and put some pressure on us. They scored on kind of a weird play. There was a scrum around the top of the box, the ball squirted out, and one of their players got a shot off against our goalkeeper who was coming out."
In their final game of the season, the Lions lost to New Trier 2-0 in the third-place game on Saturday, June 1.
"It can be mentally tough playing in the third-place game," Lanspeary said. "It's a tough one because our kids had prom on Thursday and then a physically and emotionally draining game against Naperville North Friday. But we looked at it like it's this group's last game together so they should go out, have fun and give it their best shot."
Although LTHS lost its last two games, the team had an excellent season. The Lions finished 18-4, highlighted by a 6-0 record in the West Suburban Conference Silver Division, and won regional, sectional and supersectional championships. The Lions notched impressive postseason wins against Andrew (2-1 in overtime in the Reavis Supersectional), and Whitney Young (2-1 in the Glenbard East Sectional final).
"This was a very special group," Lanspeary said. "At the start of each season, we talk about camaraderie and staying together as a team. The girls really bought into the concept of a true team effort in order to get where we want to go. They supported each other throughout the season."
All-state senior midfielder Eileen Murphy, an Illinois commit, led the Lions with a team-high 22 goals to go with two assists. Davallo (8 goals, 8 assists) and Georgia Dougherty (6 goals, 3 assists) also played major roles on offense.
Defensively, seniors Bri Stirrat, Linnea Nelson-Sandall and sophomore Lily Mattern provided a strong wall in front of goalkeepers Sophie Grabis and Cara Perez. Senior midfielder Meara Hilling played well alongside Murphy.
"Bri and Lily did an awesome job all season. Our backline was really tough so they deserve a lot of credit," Lanspeary said. "Eileen [Murphy] gets a ton of praise deservedly so, but Meara is a heckuva player, too, and a great kid.
"We are going to miss our entire group of seniors," Lanspeary added. "Whether they started or came in off the bench, they all played a big part in our success as a team."
Despite the loss of Murphy, Hilling, Stirrat, Perez, Nelson-Sandall and Grace Truax to graduation, a solid group of varsity players return next spring. Reinforcements are on the way as well, courtesy of strong sophomore and junior varsity squads.
"I think you're always a little leery when you lose seniors," Lanspeary said. "You think about who is going to step up and fill their roles, but we have three sophomores and eight juniors who have been through this now. Hopefully, they can lead us back next season. We're lucky because we always have kids who are good soccer players coming into the program."