Girls soccer: Caroline Mortonson’s two goals provide early jolt, send Lyons past York to sectional title

Early start after Friday prom doesn’t affect Lions in 2-0 win over top-seeded Dukes

Lyons’ Jillian Herchenroether (5) hugs Caroline Mortonson (7) after Mortonson scored her second goal of the game against York during a Class 3A Hinsdale Central Sectional girls soccer championship match at Hinsdale Central High School on Saturday, May 25, 2024.

HINSDALE – Lyons junior forward Caroline Mortonson was one of only two starters who did not attend her school’s prom May 24.

She went to bed at 10 p.m. in order to get plenty of rest ahead of the Class 3A Hinsdale Central Sectional final May 25, which kicked off at 9 a.m.

The 11 seniors?

“We got home at like 12:30 last night,” defender Caroline McKenna said.

The short turnaround didn’t affect the Lions. Mortonson gave her team a jolt by scoring two goals in the opening seven minutes and second-seeded Lyons rolled to a 2-0 victory over top-seeded York at Dickinson Field for the sectional championship.

Lyons’ season came to an end Tuesday with a 1-0 loss to New Trier at the Dominican University Supersectional in River Forest. Lyons finished 19-4-2. New Trier (23-2-4) hasn’t surrendered a goal since April 11.

The sectional final originally was scheduled to be played Friday night, but host Hinsdale Central and York agreed to move the game to Saturday morning so the Lions didn’t miss prom.

The early start didn’t affect Mortonson. The Miami of Ohio recruit scored in the second and seventh minutes of the match and the Lions, who lost to York 2-1 on penalty kicks in the regular season, avenged one of their losses.

“We already had a lot of energy because of when we lost to them in the regular season, so scoring two goals at the beginning gave us more fire,” Mortonson said. “It was such a fun game to play in so it was easy to try your hardest.”

Lyons’ Caroline McKenna (10) goes up for a header agains York during a Class 3A Hinsdale Central Sectional girls soccer championship match at Hinsdale Central High School on Saturday, May 25, 2024.

McKenna, who anchored a defense that did not allow the Dukes (18-2-1) to get a shot off, said the late night didn’t sap her team’s energy.

“We were just so excited to play that you got up and were ready to go,” McKenna said. “I think that it was just such an exciting game to come to that the tiredness is going to hit us later.”

Mortonson’s early strikes served as a shot of espresso.

“It just gave us that little bit we needed to get our energy all the way going,” McKenna said. “It just defeated them for a little bit and it helped us take that momentum and we just ran with it.”

Mortonson is great at running with the ball, and when she heads up the field, things can go downhill in a hurry for opponents.

“She’s been dangerous all year,” Lyons coach Bill Lanspeary said. “Sometimes she looks to play the ball off and get other players involved and create opportunities for others.

“She saw chances to go herself and she’s a good finisher, too.”

The game still had a long way to go after Mortonson’s tallies, but the Dukes were effectively finished after DePaul-bound senior forward Sophia Musial suffered a knee injury in the 10th minute and did not return.

Without Musial, the Dukes rarely were able to get the ball into the offensive third. When they did, they were met with stiff resistance.

“Coming into this game, my goal and our whole back line’s goal was to win every single ball,” McKenna said. “We have a policy back there that nothing drops, every ball hits our head and we win everything. That was our goal going in and we did it really well.”

Lanspeary agreed.

“We picked a good time to play one of our best games, that’s for sure,” Lanspeary said. “I didn’t know what to expect.

“After everything going on this week and prom last night, I was hoping we’d come out with this kind of energy but you never know, so thrilled to be able to do it. Also, very grateful to York and Hinsdale to accommodate us and make the move and let these kids get both things in.”

Lyons’ Caroline Mortonson (7) shoots the ball against York’s Ava Hansmann (19) during a Class 3A Hinsdale Central Sectional girls soccer championship match at Hinsdale Central High School on Saturday, May 25, 2024.

York coach Stevan Dobric was not surprised at the Lions’ performance.

“I never thought prom would affect any of the athletes,” Dobric said. “All these girls are top-level athletes for both programs and I know they know how to take care of themselves and they get the job done. I didn’t think anybody would be at any disadvantage.

“Bottom line from our perspective is I talked to the girls about keeping them wide and we didn’t do it for five minutes and that cost us the game. From there, it’s always hard to chase the game, so we were looking for ways to get girls forward and try to get goals but it just wasn’t happening for us today.”

Dobric was proud of the Dukes for their performance during what he called a “phenomenal” season that included the school’s fourth conference title and third sectional final appearance – first since 2011.

“It wasn’t our best game but the girls definitely played from the heart,” Dobric said. “All the seniors showed great leadership.”

Against New Trier, senior midfielder Josie Pochocki and her Lyons teammates faced quite a challenge on offense. New Trier set a state record with its 17th consecutive shutout. For the season, the Trevians have 26 shutouts and have allowed only four goals.

“I really wanted one badly,” Pochocki said. “It’s just upsetting I couldn’t put one in the back of the net but I think everyone gave it their all and tried the best we could do.”

The Lions, who had lost in the sectional final the previous two seasons, almost pulled it off with at least five quality shots – even during a driving first-half rain – but fell 1-0 after New Trier senior Charlotte Dallin scored on a 25-yard direct kick with 23:34 remaining.

“The last couple of years we’ve kind of fallen short of where we expected ourselves to be. This year, we finally were where we expected,” McKenna said. “I think we expected more of ourselves [this season] but just to get here is a great ride. We put in everything we had to get to this point.”

New Trier led Lyons 12-11 in shots (8-4 on goal) and 4-2 in corner kicks. After withstanding early pressure, the Lions began taking control the rest of the half while the rain went from steady to hard in the 23rd minute.

“They came out really fast. We were kind of on our heels,” Lanspeary said. “The last 25 minutes of that first half, I thought we played really well, generated some real good things. Our defense was doing a nice job. It’s what we’ve come to expect.”

Mortonson had perhaps the Lions’ best chance in the 22nd minute. She controlled the ball near midfield, dribbled down right wing, cut back to the middle and ripped a 25-yard dart that went just wide right.

Pochocki also had four great chances. Two were stopped by New Trier freshman goalie Annie Fowler in the first half. During the sunny second half, Pochocki stole the ball in the opening minute and put a shot over the goal. Her wide-left shot off Mortonson’s cross with just more than nine minutes left was the Lions’ last scoring threat.

“You get to this stage and everybody’s really good defensively, the keepers are good and the opportunities are limited,” Lanspeary said. “When you create chances like that you give yourself a chance.”

The Lions’ staunch defense and goalie Nora Ezike (7 saves) limited the Trevians. With outstretched arms, the 6-foot-2 Ezike grabbed the ball and prevented a potentially dangerous corner kick from entering the crease during the 34th minute.

Fairfield recruit Dellin converted her direct kick from the left of the box into the lower right corner of the net. It was the only goal allowed in the playoffs by the Lions, who had 16 shutouts and allowed only 11 goals this season.

“As a team we’ve done a really great job of limiting good looks at our goal,” McKenna said. “They really had only one or two decent looks. There’s really nothing you can do for a good free kick. She just put that in a right spot.”

Pochocki and senior Izzi Wirtz are the lone remaining players from the 2021 state runners-up. Over their four varsity seasons, the Lions lost only nine games.

“Freshman year, it was a crazy experience and gave us something to keep our standards up to,” Pochocki said. “Even though we fell short the past two years, I think we really wanted to step up. I’m still really happy where we came.”