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Boys Soccer | Lyons takes 2nd in Class 3A

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By Jeff Vorva
Staff Writer

Lyons boys soccer coach Paul Labbato knows the difficulty of reaching the state finals.

So, even though his troops were angry and disappointed after finishing second in the state in Class 3A on Nov. 4, he knows taking home a runner-up trophy is a huge accomplishment.

“As a coach, you have to know that you may never get back to this position,” he said. “Over the years, we felt that we got there once, and we didn’t know if we could ever get back again.”

The last time the Lions had advanced as far as the IHSA state semifinals was 2009, when they won the state title in Labbato’s third season at the helm.

“Then this year, we had this little glimmer of amazing and fought through, and I was really, really proud of these guys,” he said. “And to get here and to be playing on the last day of the high school season is special.”

That little glimmer included a 4-3 Morton Supersectional victory over Stagg in a wild and snowy game in which the Lions trailed 2-1 and 3-2.

Lyons (20-7-2) dropped a 3-1 decision to New Trier in the title game. Mason Santos provided the Lions’ lone score in the second half, with an assist from Mason Burda.

Labbota would like to make a trip to Hoffman Estates in November a regular thing, but he is not counting on it just yet.

“It’s hard to get here, especially through the Western suburbs,” he said of the playoff route to the state finals. “I always say we’re the Burlington-Santa Fe line to get all the way through, and it’s hard to get here.

“We’ve had some really great teams over the years, and I’m thinking about all of the players between [2009] and now and all of the players pulling for us, and how much they would have loved to have gotten to this particular spot.”

Few who looked at the matchups thought Lyons would even get to the title game.

They came up with an impressive 1-0 victory over Naperville North in the semifinals for Labbota’s 300th career victory. Owen Suda scored at the 38-minute mark with an assist from Collin Sullivan. Goalie Tyler Balon had eight saves in the shutout.

North (22-3-3) came into the game red-hot and had not lost since Aug. 22. The Huskies were ranked 12th in the nation in the Oct. 31 poll by the United Soccer Coaches organization.

The sting of the loss will eventually wear off and the appreciation for the feat will come for the players.

Senior Collin Sullivan appreciated that he could return from a 2022 foot injury and play this year.

“Last year, me not being able to play and watching some of my best friends play without me really sucked,” he said. “I have been blessed to finish it with these guys.”

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