Devin Burns has a shared affinity with senior Loyola forward Lia Baldo. The chemistry has many facets, partly a function of Baldo replicating the closeness of her sister, former star Corey Burns who graduated last year.
The two are connected from the mirroring experiences of coming back from action after suffering debilitating ACL injuries that required reconstructive surgery and intense off-season rehabilitation. The two compare the agony of how often their braces slide or fall off completely during a game.
Just as crucial the two are approaching a return to past form.
Burns scored two goals off assists from Baldo as No. 3 Loyola ousted Wheaton Warrenville South 2-0 in a second round of the PepsiCo Showdown Tuesday in Northfield.
Burns scored her 10th and 11th goals of the year for the Ramblers (10-0). Each game marks a new opportunity to reconnect with the game. “I think it just shows how much I love the game, and want to play and also that I don’t take anything for granted,” she said.
As a freshman she established a school record with 35 goals. Last July, playing up three levels with her sister in the women’s U-18 national club championship pool play games in Overland Park, Kansas, she ruptured her left ACL. “I got on two planes and I had surgery on Aug. 1,” she said.
Loyola coach Craig Snower worked her back slowly, holding her out of a couple of games. “Mentally, I still feel that I am or as confident as I was before,” Burns said. “With the brace, it is definitely heavier and it slows me down, I am still not able to extend all the way back, but it makes me feel safe.”
The Ramblers dominated possession time and shot opportunities. But it was not until the 28th minute that Baldo and Burns connected on the first goal.
The play carried great symbolic importance, and not just because Baldo celebrated her 18th birthday on Tuesday.
“That felt like the old me,” Baldo said. “That was always my play, turning that corner and creating for somebody in the middle.”
It was nearly a year ago that Baldo was injured, and her recovery has been more methodical than her teammate.
“We had a lot of chances to get goals in that first half, and it was great how we were able to connect with each other there,” Baldo said.
Coming off an upset of Maine South in the first round, the Tigers (3-3) played with more energy and cohesiveness in the second half. Alexis Jakuszewski had the best scoring opportunity in the 58th minute with a hard left-footed blast that Ramblers’ keeper Lauren Smith stopped with a sharp slide and block.
“We were able to get up more in the second half with our runs, but Loyola, they do a great job on this field, utilizing space and their passing lanes,” Tigers’ coach Guy Callipardi said. “That is a quality team.”
Burns put the game out of reach in the 72nd minute, again with Baldo’s input. Her control and through ball to Margaret Walker gave Burns a breakaway she curled inside the far post.