Warriors tie Lyons Township 1-1
By Matt Le Cren
Every high school coach goes through the inevitable process of losing players to graduation and having to find younger talent to replace them.
Based on Thursday night’s non-conference contest in Aurora, neither Lyons’ Bill Lanspeary and Waubonsie Valley’s Julie Bergstrom has anything to worry about.
Sure, both coaches graduated star players but both should have no trouble reloading. The two sides battled to a 1-1 draw at Metea Valley, showcasing plenty of rising talent in a well-played match.
“Every year it’s the same thing,” Lanspeary said. “You lose players and you wonder how you’re going to replace them and players step up. The returning players step up, new ones come in and step up and today they went out there and did pretty well.
“You never know what you’re going to get the first game, but [I’m] very pleased with the effort and pleased with the result. They’re a good team; it was a great battle back and forth I thought.”
Sophomore midfielder Erin Fitzgerald gave the visiting Lions (0-0-1) a 1-0 lead on a beautiful free kick goal with 8:31 left in the first half. She rifled her 26-yard effort over Waubonsie’s four-player wall and into the lower left corner of the net past diving goalie Emma Rigby, who had been shading her toward the right post.
“The wall was on the left side and the goalie was going to the right because most times you shoot far post,” Fitzgerald said. “But I decided that it would be better to go over the wall and try to go left because it’s better because the goalie wasn’t there and she had less of a chance of saving it.”
Fitzgerald’s decision demonstrated maturity beyond her years, but once made she didn’t second guess herself.
“I didn’t really think about it that much,” she said. “I kind of just put my head down and hit it.”
The goal was the second on the varsity level for Fitzgerald, who came up late last season and figures to be one of the top offensive threats for Lyons, especially on free kicks, which seems to be her specialty. Lanspeary was not surprised that she scored.
“She does it all the time in practice,” Lyons coach Bill Lanspeary said. “She strikes the ball really, really well and sometimes you get players that go up there and hit it as hard as they can and you’re sailing it through the uprights. She drives the thing on goal almost every single time.”
The goal was a result of Waubonsie’s first foul and the Lions’ first shot. It turned out to be one of the few scoring chances the Lions mustered against Waubonsie’s stingy defense, which allowed only six shots, three of which were on goal.
The Warriors (1-0-1) did a good job of controlling the midfield and were able to prevent LT star Juliet Lusson from making any sustained runs up the middle.
The LT defense, which also figures to be strong this spring thanks to Division I defenders Sarah Mazur and Ali Kowalski and returning starting goalie Maggie Orlowski, didn’t give up many chances, either, but the Warriors were able to get the equalizer with 2:30 remaining in the first half.
Junior Jenna Romano, who created several scoring threats with her pinpoint passes from the midfield, sent a long ball over the top to sophomore Kristen Dodson at the top of the penalty area.
Dodson collided with a defender and Orlowski and was the only one of the three who stayed on her feet. She then ran onto the loose ball and booted it into the empty net.
“I saw Jenna passing the ball through,” Dodson said. “I thought I could get a touch on it and then I got a touch on it but didn’t know where the ball was exactly. Then I turned and they were both on the ground and the ball was right there.
“I got a little push but I think they collided more with each other. I was really excited because I was like this was a chance for us to get it [even].”
Bergstrom is never shy of bringing freshmen up to the varsity level, but the Warriors are especially young this season. They have 12 freshmen, four of whom started, including Rigby, a small but speedy all-around athlete who was the starting point guard on the freshman basketball team this winter and made two saves against the Lions. That class is highly touted, but it is players like Romano and Dodson, as well as senior Shannon Donelson – who scored the winning goal in Waubonsie’s 2-1 victory at Lane Tech on Monday - who will provide leadership.
“Those two are probably as good as anybody in the midfield and up top,” Lanspeary said. “Romano was playing great balls to her up top, perfect balls in the right spot and Dodson was getting on the end of it.”
“I think from top to bottom this is a talented group,” Bergstrom said. “We’ve just got to find the right places and what our style is.
“We’re young. I think we’re going to do stuff. We’ll make mistakes but that’s fine as long as we grow from them.”
The other freshmen who started were Tori Christiansen, Maddie Pokora and Morgan Kemerling. They are joined on the roster by fellow rookies Cici Gazder, Zasha Gazder, Emily Dickens, Jordan Wilde, Erin Morgan, Sarah Laws and Tara Perillo. They are not mere wallflowers, either.
“All of them are [talented],” Dodson said. “They all have different talents and we have to try to figure out where they can go. It’s a process, but we’ll get there.”
Dodson went through the same process last fall but ended up scoring some key goals for the Warriors.
“It took a little time,” she said. “It’s more intense than club and it’s different because you’re playing with people you don’t really know as well as those who were on your club team.”
Dodson said she hopes the Warriors will advance further in the postseason than they did last spring, when they lost to Neuqua Valley in the sectional semifinals. Waubonsie is similar to Lyons in that respect because the Lions were also placed in a tough sectional and didn’t make it through, losing a heartbreaker to York in the sectional final.
“Obviously we’re looking to win conference again and hopefully go as far as we can [in the] state [tournament,” Fitzgerald said. “Since [this] is our first game we still obviously have a lot of stuff to work on and it’s just a good start to the season. We want to be so good and we’re looking to build on this and work on things that we didn’t do well this game.”
The Lions have plenty of talent to work with. Senior stopper Mazur, who is headed to Iowa, and Kowalski, a junior who has committed to Indiana, are stalwarts in the back who can also support the attack when needed, while Orlowski is coming off a great junior campaign. She made six saves against the Warriors, including diving stops on Mackenzie Fuller in the first half and Dodson with 9:05 to go in the second half to preserve the tie.
Seniors Lusson and Mackie Furlong, junior Abbie Pasqueinelli and sophomore Emily Lange join Fitzgerald as offensive threats for the Lions.
“Maggie is certainly outstanding in the back; Ari is fantastic and [defender] Liza Gabrek as a freshman stepped up today and played a heckuva game,” Lanspeary said. “And obviously Sarah is as solid as you get. She’s poised, hardly ever makes a mistake.”