Lyons is back.
Well, at least in the sense of not watching other teams play on their fields.
After sitting on the sidelines for the past few years, the Lions advanced to Championship Sunday of the BODYARMOR Sports Series, which formerly was known as the Pepsi Showdown. The Lions will play at 1:45 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 1, against Taft on Field 1 at the Lyons Soccer Complex in La Grange.
The title games originally were scheduled for Sept. 24, but because of weather conditions were moved to Oct. 1. The final day features 12 games.
Teams needed to win two games in the prestigious tournament to reach Championship Sunday. The Lions defeated Solorio and Rockford Boylan.
”The BODYARMOR Series is by far our favorite tournament that Lyons enters,” Lyons coach Paul Labbato said. “We love the format and getting to play different teams from around Chicagoland. Over the 20-plus years we have participated, we have competed against teams that would have never been placed on our schedule. Reaching the final of the BODYARMOR tournament is difficult, so when you get the opportunity, you have to make it count.”
The Lions (8-3-2, 2-0 West Suburban Silver) have momentum on their side after an 8-0 win over Curie on Tuesday. The Lions have relied on a strong offensive attack to go with a stingy defense, scoring 26 goals and allowing only 12. Labbato said several players have played at a high level early in the season.
”Our centerback combination of Collin Sullivan and Danny Svelnis has been a welcome high point of our team,” he said. “Just having our two best defenders in this important position has settled our defense and helped us control the ball. Jimmy Brejcha is our most consistent player at center mid. He works up and down the field, is dangerous on set pieces and overall is calm on the ball. Mason Burda has been a dynamic forward early in the season. Mason has high expectations that he places on himself and works to get better each day. Mason has the technical ability to create from anywhere on the field.”
Labbato said his players responded after a difficult stretch at the beginning of the season. The Lions suffered consecutive losses to Waukegan and Buffalo Grove followed by a draw with Loyola Academy.
”We had a difficult week early in the year, but our players really improved the overall team concept on and off the field,” he said. “They started trusting each other more and working harder. The team has had a collective effort to defend and be responsible for their assignments on the field.”
Wheaton North back on track
The first few weeks of the season weren’t kind to Wheaton North. The Falcons started the season with losses to Oswego, York, Hoffman Estates and St. Charles North, with three of the losses by a 2-1 margin. Through the first three weeks, the Falcons’ lone positive result was a 1-1 draw against Lincoln-Way West.
But at the midpoint of the season, the Falcons (2-6-1, 1-1-0) are on the right track. Senior forward Josh Simon scored two first-half goals to spark the Falcons to a 3-1 win over Batavia on Tuesday night in DuKane Conference play.
”It feels good, especially starting off the season 0-6-1 and then to have a two-game winning streak,” Wheaton North’s Brady Blasucci said. “It feels good to bounce back. I know there’s much more to come. We’re moving the ball more. I feel our chemistry is really growing and we’re really playing better.”
Senior forward CJ Coppoletta said the Falcons have the potential to tack on a few more victories to the streak.
”It feels great coming back from a six-loss streak, plus getting an assist to my teammates,” he said. “It feels amazing. We have to carry our confidence and mentality to other games and keep strong and a good mindset in our games.”
Wheaton North coach Joe Klingelhoffer said his players never gave up despite the rough start.
”We kept saying it was coming and knew it was coming,” Klingelhoffer said. “We have taken a lot of punches with this group, but we kept getting stronger and stronger from them. We knew once we got a win, we could put a streak together. These guys didn’t turn on each other at no point when we were losing games. They stuck together.
”We feel great. When we were taking our hits early in the season, we kept thinking about conference and growing from each loss. We wanted to be as good as we can be when we played Batavia. We want to keep getting better.”
Downers Grove South endured a scheduling quirk with its first seven games on the road after putting in new home turf. The Mustangs played their first home against Addison Trail on Tuesday, dropping a 1-0 West Suburban Gold Conference match. The Mustangs play seven of their next eight games at home.