LA GRANGE – When asked if the Lyons Township boys soccer team could replicate or improve upon last year’s 18-win season, coach Paul Labbato had a simple answer.
“For the most part, it is last year’s team,” Labbato said.
The Lions had six seniors graduate, some of them key players, but early this season, the starting lineup has been made up of returning varsity players. The only underclassmen on the roster, sophomore forward Cristian Sanchez, earned his stripes on varsity as a freshman and is one of the top young talents in the state.
“The sky is the limit for this group,” Labbato said. “They just have to come together on the field a little more.”
Sanchez, Matt Murphy and Frankie Kocimski will be the primary threats in the attack. Kocimski’s speed and size makes him a very tough forward to defend.
That trio gives central midfielder Harry Hilling, a returning junior with good touch and vision, plenty of options to work with.
“Frankie Kocimski has lightning speed,” Hilling said. “His stride is ridiculous. Both [Kocimski and Murphy] are our captains and good role models for the team because they always find a way to put it in the back of the net.”
Brothers Spiro and Peter Kass should see plenty of time on defense and add versatility to the roster as players that can play further up the field. Fellow senior Joe Lupano gives LT another returner on the back line.
Add in the fact that Peter Nolan also is a returning goalkeeper and the Lions have everything they need to be an elite team this season.
“We’re really going for that state championship this year,” Kocimski said.
“We’re returning 15 players and a lot of us are seniors so it’s our last year so we want to go out with a bang and bring home a state championship for LT.”
Lyons Township at a glance
Conference: West Suburban Silver
Home field: Cossitt Ave. and Willow Springs Rd., La Grange
2012 record: 18-4-1 overall, 5-1 WSS
Coach: Paul Labbato
Top returners: Harry Hilling jr. M Peter Kass sr. D Spiro Kass sr. D/M Frankie Kocimski sr. F/M Joe Lupano sr. D Matt Murphy sr. F Cristian Sanchez so. F
Promising newcomers: Patrick Duncan jr. M Shunsuke Fujii jr. M