Rolling Meadows' girls soccer team fell 2-1 Saturday afternoon to Lyons (12-2-4) at Bennett Field in Western Springs despite a gritty effort against one of the best clubs in the western suburbs.
Ann Marie Lynch shocked a big home crowd with a magnificent goal in the 22nd minute, her 12th of the season. But the Lions answered with two second-half goals, the winner coming at 75 minutes when Grace Nasenberry lifted her 22-yard smash over the outstretched gloves of keeper Ashley Ingolia.
"This typifies how our season has gone for us," said Rolling Meadows coach Mike Drenth. "We've shown all year that we can play with some of the best teams, but our depth and breakdowns in our own end have been our downfall.
"Lyons is a very good team, and despite the loss, I am very pleased with our effort, especially in the first half."
The Mustangs (9-10-1) had more of the run of play in the early stages of the first period, and several good openings inside the vaunted Lyons defense, which had conceded just 4 goals in its first 17 matches.
Maggie Moran played a wonderful ball to the near post, and Mary Collins nearly beat Lyons keeper Maggie Orlowski at three minutes. Later, Lynch put Moran through, but the speedy striker was unable to beat a well-organized backline that stayed together despite strong and creative runs by the all-area Mustangs duo.
"The team played a very good first half of soccer, and we were able to get that great early goal from Ann Marie against a top defensive team," said Moran, who has 11 goals this spring. "But there was a big drop-off in our play in the second half, and a few mental mistakes did us in."
After Lynch's goal, the Mustangs were able to keep the pressure on for the rest of the first half while the Meadows back line of of Amanda Gunn, Allie Kemph and Vanessa Sanchez stayed air-tight in front of Ingolia.
"I thought we did pretty well in our possession, but we just weren't very aggressive in their final third, and that's what we talked about at the break, and the girls really responded well, beginning with (Kristen Janicki's goal) at the start of the second half," said Lyons coach Bill Lanspeary.
The freshman drew her club even just two minutes after intermission, and that seemed to be all Lyons needed as far as inspiration.
With the help of Juliet Lusson, Abbie Pasquinelli and Janicki, the Lions began to take control in the middle of the park and slowly carved out a handful of dangerous opportunities as the game progressed past the hour mark.
Nasenberry shook the crossbar from in close with a fierce drive that hit the underside of the woodwork, but fell straight down and, unfortunately for the sophomore, not over the end line.
The talented midfielder didn't miss on her second chance on frame, taking a tough angle to her right before guiding her shot in from just outside the box.
"I really wanted that first one, but it felt good to be able to score on the second one," said Nasenberry.
A wonderful early ball to the right side from Lynch sent Moran free. But again, the Lyons were able to stop the Mustangs' co-captain, who found herself in a 1-on-3 situation.
"Our team is capable of being the type of team that can surprise in the postseason," said Moran. "Epecially if we play as well as we did today for 80 minutes."