Lyons Township meets test from St. Viator
Lyons Township's run of success against nonconference boys soccer opponents continued Saturday morning with a 2-1 victory over visiting St. Viator at West Field in LaGrange.
John Mazur bagged both goals for Lyons (13-4-2). The PepsiCo Showdown champs were without four starters on Saturday, but coach Paul Labbato hopes each will be ready to go in time for the Lions' regional opener at home against Whitney Young in less than two weeks.
"Obviously, the outcome today doesn't matter -- what does is for us to stay healthy, get everyone plenty of minutes, and to stay sharp in advance of the state tournament," said Labbato, whose team earned a No. 3 seed behind state powers Hinsdale Central and Morton in the Riverside-Brookfield sectional.
The agenda is a little bit different for St. Viator (11-9-0), as the stakes are much higher as the regular season nears the end.
The Lions are involved in the tightest of tight races for the top spot in the East Suburban Catholic Conference, as Benet, Carmel and the Lions each enter the last week with 1 loss, and Marian Central in the picture with 2.
"It's been a little up and down for us outside of our conference," said St. Viator assistanct coach Bryan Dahlquist, who was in charge of the Lions on Saturday with coach Mike Taylor out of town on business. "But we've played well when we've had to. And now, if we can get by Joliet Catholic on Wednesday, we'll have Benet on Friday and perhaps a chance to either share of win the conference title outright."
The visitors were energized at the start and almost made their mark when they had a sniff or two at the goal early on, thanks in part to a handful of long throws from deep in the LT area.
Patrick Hickey's redirected header of a Kyle Borst throw went wide, while another saw LT's keeper take endure a rough ride while in the air to catch an attempt by Hickeys at 14 minutes.
After soaking up plenty of pressure during the opening quarter-hour, Lyons began to get itself back into the game. And it wasn't long before most of their approach play improved, allowing for a handful of chances on frame at St. Viator keeper Kevin Napoleon.
"The put us under from almost the very beginning, and we struggled a lit bit in our own end," said Labbato. "But once we got into synch and found our feet, I would say we had most of the run of play for the rest of the first half."
Lyons was rewarded for an impressive 10-minute spell when Mazur tucked a low drive just inside the post in the 35th minute. Shortly after, Napoleon came strong off his line to pull an early ball off the foot of a hard-charging Alec Gilchrist.
The second period started in much the same fashion, as Mazur thumped Isaiah Nieves' corner into the back of the net in the 56th minute.
Mazur could have had his hat trick on two other occasions, the best chance coming when he met another Nieves helper, only to steer his header wide.
Dylan Jones missed a clear chance just afterward, then Napoleon took a sure goal away from Mazur with a superb save in the 64th minute.
"We had a little rough go of it after they got their second goal, but we hung in there, and made a game of it with a goal of our own," said Napoleon, a senior. "I think with an effort like this against a state power like LT, we would show the rest of the teams in our sectional that we can play with the best."
Will Hartman pulled the Lions close 10 minutes from time when Anthony Pineda pried open LT's backline at the near post, and the visitors had opportunities with a free kick and a corner in the closing minutes. But the hosts stayed air-tight defensively to help secure the victory.
"I was really impressed with LT, and especially No. 10 (Alex Contreras), who helped them control the midfield most of the day," said Dahlquist.
"Conceding that goal just before the break is not a good thing for us to do, and giving up that second one made things look very bad for us - but we didn't go away, and played with a lot of urgency to get one back (so) all-in-all it was a pretty good effort against a very good team."