WESTERN SPRINGS — After teaming up with her sister, Alyssa, the past two years, Lyons Township junior Ashley Koziol has the role of team ace all to herself.
The younger Koziol started off LT’s season with a strong pitching performance in a 6-1 win over Riverside Brookfield on Saturday at home. She struck out nine in the complete-game effort.
With Alyssa now pitching for St. Ambrose University, Ashley has the opportunity to best her older sister’s numbers.
“There’s always that competition,” Koziol said. “Me and my sister have been competing since we were little and I’m definitely trying to beat her from last year.”
Ashley gained plenty of varsity experience the last two years and was forced into the No. 1 pitcher slot after Alyssa picked up an injury last spring. Still, having the pressure of being LT’s top pitcher is something new.
“It definitely puts a lot on my shoulders and I think carrying the team is going to be a challenge, but I’ll get through it,” Koziol said.
LT swept RB with a 7-6 win in Game 2 while senior Becky Ryckman started in the circle.
The Lions barely got outside during a month of practices before Saturday’s doubleheader. RB had already played five games, but LT didn’t seem to miss a beat.
“I think that we were pretty well prepared to be honest,” Ryckman said. “Obviously we’re going to improve as the season goes on, but I think this is a good starting point.”
Both Ryckman and Koziol will be essential parts for LT’s push to improve on last year’s 4-8 conference record.
After another week of non-conference games, the Lions will open up West Suburban Silver play against Downers Grove North, one of the stronger teams in the league even after a knee injury to pitcher Dale Ryndak that will likely keep her out of action against LT.
“Our top team I think right now to beat is DGN,” Koziol said. “I’m actually really excited to start conference.”
Following Tuesday’s game against Glenbard East, the Lions have four more games scheduled before visiting the Trojans on Wednesday, April 10.
“We saw a lot of different things and it was the first time we’ve ever even been on a field,” said LT coach Dawn Schabacker. “I didn’t know what was going to happen with the field and the players being on dirt for the first time, but they really did a nice job.”