A year ago she put together a phenomenal individual season. Nicole Vega wanted something more, and she has found her role at Lane.
The sophomore forward, a transfer from T.F. North, scored two goals and added an assist as the No. 14 Indians secured the early momentum in cruising to the 3-0 victory over Northside Monday at Winnemac.
Vega broke onto the scene playing for T.F. United, the co-op combining programs from T.F. North and T.F. South. She scored a staggering 55 goals, including seven in one game. In transferring to Lane last summer, Vega readily accepted the challenge of playing against higher level competition.
In the first three weeks of the season, Lane (2-2-2, 1-0-1 Premier) has played standout programs Plainfield North, St. Ignatius, Young, Downers South and defending Class 3A state runner-up Hinsdale Central. “I’m new to this team and I’m still getting used to everybody,” she said.
Vega has played with Lane midfielder Andrea Cervantes in club since she was eight years old. Her friendship with Cervantes helped ease the transition. “It’s a new way of playing, and it’s not the same from T.F. United to here,” Vega said. “They teach me a better way of playing, and I’m moving now and checking to the ball more.”
Vega scored her first two goals for the Lane program Monday. She provided the Indians with the early advantage, scoring in the fifth minute, collecting a loose ball and driving down the left edge and drilling a left-footed shot from about 16 yards out.
It was the first shot attempt of the game. “I was really happy, to look up after five games and see it go in,” Vega said.
In the 38th minute, Vega took an active part in the second goal. She played a through ball to Indians’ star junior Sofia Pavon, the George Washington recruit and the city’s top player. Pavon did the rest, cutting across her body and blasting a ball inside the near post for the 2-0 Lane advantage.
Pavon scored her third goal of the year. She is the constant on a team undergoing a complicated process of incorporating a new coach (Michelle Vale-Suarez) and a host new players. Lane is also dealing with injuries. Top junior Natalie Wade was out with a minor foot injury and Anastasia Niforos, is awaiting medical clearance after an ACL injury.
“We’ve had a couple of tough games, we just had a loss [against Hinsdale Central] and we came back strong,” Pavon said.. “We’re still trying to get our feet underneath us right now.”
Pavon collaborated with Vega, in the 66th minute, to put the game out of reach. Vega drilled another left-foot volley into the back of the net. “This year I have more of a leadership role, and I want to get more people involved,” Pavon said. “I want to get people who are in a much better position than I am to score.”
Vega was inches away from recording four goals, as another shot hit off the crossbar and Northside sophomore keeper Rachel Stromsta made a spectacular save to thwart another attempt.
Northside (3-2, 1-1) could never sustain a consistent offensive run. The Mustangs’ sophomore midfielder Sarah Mullen had the best scoring chance, in the first half, on a counter though her shot was just left. As one-sided as the game developed, Stromsta guaranteed the game was not a repeat of the 11-0 Lane victory in the semifinals of the Public League city tournament last year.
Under constant pressure, she recorded 12 saves for the Mustangs.