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Girls Soccer | Oak Lawn building toward success with marked improvement in 2023

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By Steve Millar
Correspondent

After helping Oak Lawn improve from three regular-season wins in 2022 to 10 wins this year, Sinead Conroy is excited to see where things go from here.

“I think our team chemistry and our team building really helps,” said Conroy, a sophomore midfielder. “We’re still a young team. We’ve got good players on JV, too. It’s all about building right now.”

In its final South Suburban Red game of the season May 9, the Spartans tried to play spoiler as visiting Eisenhower looked to clinch a share of the conference championship. Oak Lawn fought back from a two-goal deficit twice, but fell short in a 4-3 loss in Blue Island.

Conroy, Adilene Perez and Ashley Marquez scored for the Spartans (10-10-1, 3-7-1).

Oak Lawn could not contain Eisenhower sophomore star Galilea Esparza, who recorded a hat trick to lead the Cardinals (7-9-1, 6-4-1).

“Eisenhower’s a good team and (Esparza) is a player,” Oak Lawn coach John Faro said. “We had to figure out a way to slow her down. We weren’t going to stop her.”

The Spartans struck first just over three minutes into the game when Conroy sent a long throw-in toward the box that Perez was able to head in at the far post.

Eisenhower responded with three straight goals — two from Esparza and one from Tania Frausto — but Oak Lawn did not go away. Conroy ripped a free kick from 20 yards out inside the left post to make it 3-2 with just over seven minutes left in the first half.

Conroy has 13 goals and 18 assists in her first varsity season.

“It feels really good,” she said. “I try to bring motivation and hard work to the team. The dedication is what really pulls us through.”

Faro said Conroy has quickly become a team leader.

“If you see how hard she works in a game, she works twice as hard at practice,” Faro said of Conroy. “She’s been very vocal at practices, in games, even as a sophomore in her first year with us. She stepped in right away, built that bond with the team and took charge of a lot of things.

“There’s a lot more to come from her, I think.”

After Esparza completed her hat trick early in the second half to make it 4-2, Marquez pulled the Spartans within one again with her goal with 18:12 remaining.

Marquez, a junior forward, leads the team with 16 goals.

The Spartans could not come up with another goal and Eisenhower was celebrating its conference championship at the end, but Conroy was proud of her team’s effort.

“We adjusted really well after the adversity that we had at the beginning of the game,” she said. “Even when we were down, we still pushed through and worked as a team.”

The Spartans closed the regular season May 11 with a 4-1 loss to Hancock.

They are seeded 12th in the Class 3A Shepard Sectional and were set to open the playoffs May 16 in a Homewood-Flossmoor Regional semifinal against the seventh-seeded host Vikings.

The Spartans went 3-18-1 last season and hit double digits in wins this season for the first time in several years.

“The depth has been big,” Faro said. “Being able to fill out the starting 11 easier this year and not having to pull up girls from JV has been important. The big thing is we had a big turnout for tryouts and we have a lot of players on JV, and we’re building up that way.”

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