Lyons advances to face Morton in Pepsi Showdown final
Updated: September 25, 2012 11:25AM
LA GRANGE — Lyons hadn’t been too successful with their set pieces this season, but that changed in a big way Saturday.
The host Lions scored on three straight re-starts in the first half and cruised to a 3-0 victory over St. Viator in the semifinals of the Pepsi Showdown in LaGrange. No. 4 seed Lyons (8-2-1) will take on No. 3 seed Morton (12-0) in the tournament championship game Sept. 23 at Toyota Park.
“We struggled at the beginning of the year with set plays and we’ve been spending a lot of time on them just getting our runs down, making sure we have players in the right spots and there just happened to be guys there at the right time today,” Lyons midfielder Brett Heimerdinger said. “A lot of it is the delivery of the ball, getting it into the right spot.”
Heimerdinger set up the first goal when he delivered a 30-yard free kick from the right wing into the box to Jack Thomas. St. Viator goalie Mike McGrath made a diving save on Thomas’ header, but Frankie Kocimski scored on the rebound with 17:34 left in the opening half.
Two more goals quickly followed, as a Ben Larson corner kick bounced through the crease to Joe Lupano for a tap-in header at the 13:26 mark, and 1:51 later the Lions scored again when a 35-yard free kick from Larson was popped into the air by Emilio Godinez and Matt Murphy caught McGrath off his line with a backwards header that sailed into the net to make it 3-0.
“I certainly didn’t expect it,” Kocimski said of the barrage. “They are really good in the air — they scored (on) two free kicks off Warren — so I was really surprised. But we’ve been practicing our free kicks and throw-ins and all that and I felt that we were going to get at least one today.”
Eighth-seeded St. Viator (6-1-2), which stunned top-seeded Warren 3-0 in Thursday’s quarterfinals, was making its first semifinal appearance and playing its third match in three days.
“They came out with more urgency than we came out with,” St. Viator coach Mike Taylor said. “I look at the three goals that come from set pieces out here. You’re looking at a judgment call on every one of them but you’ve still got to defend set pieces no matter what. You’ve got to stay with your runners.
“But I’m proud of them. This is the first time we’ve got past the first round. We battled all the way to the end.”
The Lions will be making their fourth appearance at Toyota Park and are seeking their first title, having lost in the finals to Warren in 2006, Neuqua Valley in 2009 and Libertyville last year.
They will have the revenge factor clearly in their corner because Morton, the 2010 Pepsi champion, eliminated Lyons 4-3 in double overtime in last year’s sectional semifinals en route to winning the state title.
“It’s amazing,” Kocimski said. “To play on any professional field, you just get so excited. I’m so glad we made it back there, especially because we get to play Morton now. Last year we lost a heartbreaker to Morton and I’ve been wanting to (avenge) that game for a long, long time.”
Pick up your local Pioneer Press newspaper on Sept. 20 to read more about the Lyons soccer team.