LT Boys Soccer wins 2015 PepsiCo Showdown

Soda-soaked and smiling, LT beats Libertyville in largest tournament in country

LT Boys Soccer wins 2015 PepsiCo Showdown

Izy Scott, Art Director

The LT Lions boys soccer team faced the Libertyville Wildcats in the PepsiCo Showdown Championship game in 2011, and LT left the stadium empty handed.

Four years later, both the Lions and Wildcats left the PepsiCo Showdown championship on Sept. 27 dripping with sweat, but the only difference was that this time it was the Lions’ jerseys that were topped with a fresh coat of Pepsi after a sweet, victorious soda-shower.

The Lions hoisted the Pepsi-filled trophy above their heads after a grueling battle against the Wildcats that ended in a 2-1 sudden death overtime win after a late goal by Adrian Valadez ’16 in the 12th annual PepsiCo Showdown Championship.

Only two days earlier, however, the Lions faced not success, but a harsh 2-0 loss to rival Hinsdale Central in conference play, forcing the boys to rebound in 48 hours for their match against the Wildcats and during Homecoming weekend no less.

“Friday night against Hinsdale really helped us get focused,” LT boys varsity soccer coach Paul Lobbato said. “It’s okay to lose games, and that prepared us to play better soccer [Sunday]. Before the game we talked about finding our style again by keeping the ball on the ground, playing quick combinations and avoiding playing the ball in the air because we’re not very big.”

Despite being outsized, LT controlled most of the first half’s possession, winning a majority of 50/50 challenges and preventing Libertyville from infiltrating LT’s back line. The Lions switched around defensive formations recently, co-captain and defender Nick Economou ’16 said, and those changes had an effect on the defense’s success Sunday.

“Ever since our formation shifted, our defense has been rock solid,” Economou said.
Within only the first 30 seconds of play, LT was rewarded a free kick, setting the tone early for an aggressive game to come. The physicality continued when 23 minutes into the game a six-player scramble in front of the Lions’ net left keeper Donald Darrus ‘16 barely able to dive atop the ball with the protection of his defenders surrounding him.

“Having quick and strong center backs is definitely to our advantage as we can match up with any team,” Economou said. “All of our defenders are very solid and are able to compete with anyone in the state.”
Second half brought a stronger response from Libertyville, however. This evened out ball possession and allowed for a Libertyville forward to break through the midfield and into the Lyon’s box where an unmarked Wildcat scored on an easy tap-in after the ball was passed across the face of an open goal, resulting in a 1-0 Wildcat lead.

With only 16 minutes left for the Lions to match the Wildcats’ lead, tensions rose on the field when the second yellow card of the match was dealt to a Libertyville player. Of the multitude of free kicks the Lions were given, however, it only took one from Camilo Drobny ‘16 across the field to Economou’s head to tie the game.

“I noticed that the front post was wide open and as Camilo served the ball, I knew I could get to it,” Economou said. “I was lucky enough to make solid contact with the ball and direct it on goal. Next thing I knew, I saw the goalie dive and it was past him. I was then lucky enough to run down the whole field to celebrate with the best fans in the state.”

The game then proceeded into overtime, and with less than three minutes left in gameplay, Lions sophomore Charlie Hall ‘17 passed through the Wildcat’s defense to Valadez who slotted the ball past Libertyville’s keeper and over the goal line, causing an eruption of excitement from the Lions and a crush of defeat from the Wildcats.
“We believed in Adrian at the end of the game,” Labbato said. “We didn’t know he was going to get the winning goal in overtime, but we believed that it could possibly be him, so we got him in the game and tried to put him in a spot to succeed.”

The Lions celebrated their victory by rushing to the packed LT Hooligan’s student section along with the parent section to receive an uproar of congratulatory applause and excitement. After shaking the Wildcats’ hands, the Lions were awarded a three-foot trophy, stormed towards the Hooligans once more and then headed off the turf to find unopened Pepsi bottles waiting to be shaken and poured all over their white jerseys.

This championship win only marks a midpoint in the boys season, however, as they take on Glenbard West on Sept. 29 and progress closer to state playoffs.

“It will be difficult to prepare for the [Glenbard West] game,” Labbato said. “There will be a lot of championship tiredness and traditionally we never do very well out there, but it will be interesting to see how we respond.”

Despite future contests as the Lions near playoffs, winning the PepsiCo Showdown will be a high moment of success in their season.

A proving moment after a Hinsdale Central loss Friday, a game of distant revenge against the Wildcats and the chance of redemption after losing the PepsiCo Championship to Morton High School last year, the Lions achieved a first-place title on Sunday from the largest high school soccer tournament in the nation.

“This was a big game that really meant a lot to the team and will definitely boost our confidence as a whole as the season progresses,” Economou said. “Being able to beat a very good team like Libertyville really shows that we can compete with anyone in the state.”