Girls soccer: Lyons gets its payback, beats Hinsdale Central to move on to sectional final

Izzi Wirtz’s goal in the 11th minute the difference in 1-0 win

Lyons players celebrate after defeating Hinsdale Central in a Class 3A Hinsdale Central Sectional semifinal soccer match at Hinsdale Central High School in Hinsdale on Tuesday, May 21, 2024.

HINSDALE – It was payback time for Lyons on Tuesday afternoon.

The Lions had high hopes of making a run at the Class 3A state title last season, losing just one regular-season game.

Lyons’ dreams of hoisting a state championship trophy were dashed in an overtime defeat to West Suburban Conference Silver Division rival Hinsdale Central in a sectional final.

Led by the return of 11 seniors, the Lions set out all season to avoid a similar fate.

On Tuesday at Hinsdale Central, the second-seeded Lions earned a measure of revenge by knocking off third-seeded Hinsdale Central 1-0 on its home turf in a Class 3A sectional semifinal at Dickinson Field.

“I thought we played really well,” Lyons coach Bill Lanspeary said. “The wind played a big factor in both halves, but the effort the kids played was phenomenal. They generated a lot of chances in the first half. Give Hinsdale Central a ton of credit. They played really well. The last 10 minutes they had a couple of great chances and we were fortunate to hang on.”

The Lions (18-3-2) also defeated the Red Devils 2-1 in the regular season April 23. With the win, the Lions advanced to play York (18-1-1) at 6 p.m. Friday in the sectional title game.

Lyons’ Izzi Wirtz (12) goes up for a header against Hinsdale Central during a Class 3A Hinsdale Central Sectional semifinal soccer match at Hinsdale Central High School in Hinsdale on Tuesday, May 21, 2024.

Lyons senior midfielder Izzi Wirtz gave the visitors an early advantage by scoring on a half-bicycle kick from 12 yards out in the 11th minute. Teammate Zibby Michaelson set up the goal with a perfectly placed corner kick that caused Hinsdale Central goalie Emeline McClenahan to come off the goalie line, leaving an opening for Wirtz to blast her shot into the open net for a 1-0 lead.

Wirtz doubled her fun after recording an assist in the regular-season victory over the Red Devils.

“Normally off corners I head it in, but I saw it bouncing out and I didn’t see any other chance but to go over my head with my left foot, too,” Wirtz said. “It was pretty special to score, especially against a rival team. It was big to get a goal and to help contribute to the team. I definitely felt very excited to score.”

Wirtz said her fourth goal of the season – and first in the playoffs – helped calm the Lions down.

“We always try and score early as we can to set a tone,” Wirtz said. “That’s important for us, especially after the playoffs last year when we tended to score later in games and everybody was nervous. It definitely brought some nerves down today to score early.”

Hinsdale Central (15-8) had defeated West Suburban Silver rival Oak Park-River Forest 1-0 in a regional final May 17 to win back-to-back regional championships, but couldn’t duplicate the magic of last season’s run to the supersectional.

The Red Devils, who beat WSC Division rivals York and Lyons last season in the playoffs, were stymied by the aggressiveness of the Lions.

McClenahan rarely had a break in a steamy first half in which the Lions had a heavy wind advantage.

McClenahan had seven saves in the first 25 minutes, 10 in the opening 31 minutes and 13 in the first half.

The Lions’ two goalies, Anna Bigenwald and Nora Ezike, spent most of the match watching the action unfold on the other side of the field. Bigenwald recorded one easy save on a slow roller in the 36th minute.

Lyons’ Caroline Mortonson (7) plays the ball against Hinsdale Central's Claire Snodgrass (12) during a Class 3A Hinsdale Central Sectional semifinal soccer match at Hinsdale Central High School in Hinsdale on Tuesday, May 21, 2024.

The 6-foot-2 Ezike, an elite basketball player with multiple Power Five Conference offers, notched two stops in the first six minutes of the second half and ended with four saves in the final 40 minutes.

Hinsdale Central’s best chances to tie the game came late in the second half. The Red Devils almost tied the game on a two-shot sequence in the 63rd minute, but Ezike dove on two loose balls to stop the threat.

With just over a minute left, Hinsdale Central senior forward and captain Cate McDonnell drilled a curving line-drive shot that smacked off the far post, missing tying the game by a few inches.

“It was obviously late in the game, so I was just trying to get a shot off and I had a good touch and I thought it was going on frame,” McDonnell said. “It stinks that the wind curved it a little because in my eyes it was going right in.”

One of four captains, McDonnell said the Red Devils should be proud of a stellar season.

“We had a young team coming in and we had a lot of talent and confidence,” she said. “I thought we did a good job harnessing that this season and I feel it was great to see how we all meshed together to have a really good season.”

Bob Narang

Bob Narang is a contributing sports reporter to Shaw Local News Network