Lyons senior Peter Nolan has been a goalkeeper for nine years, but he didn’t start out there.
He has his mom to thank for the switch in positions.
“I used to be a field player,” Nolan said. “When I first joined the (Lyons Township Soccer Club), the first day it was cold out. My mom had just bought me some winter gloves. The coach asked if anyone wanted to play goalie. I figured I just got these new gloves so I might as well try it. I wasn’t too bad and it kind of stuck.”
Nolan has been protecting the nets ever since that chilly day and is a big reason why the Lions (16-2-3) reached the Class 3A Hinsdale South Sectional to take on the state’s top-ranked team, Hinsdale Central, in Tuesday’s scheduled match.
Despite splitting time earlier in the season with David Fiflis and Nick Jumic, Nolan has racked up nine shutouts. That includes perhaps his best performance of the season, Lyons’ 3-0 win over Downers Grove South in Saturday’s regional final.
“He had some spectacular saves in that game and stopped a late penalty kick to protect the shutout,” Lyons coach Paul Labbato said. “We kind of had a rotation all year long, but Peter earned the right to take the playoffs and go with it. He really started growing some confidence. He’s a shot-stopper. He has very good reflexes and can make the quick save.”
Nolan was the primary goalkeeper last season, but knew he had talented backups pushing him and had to earn the full-time job down the stretch.
“I knew I had to stay on top of my game to not lose my spot,” the La Grange resident said. “It means a lot knowing my coach has confidence in me to play the whole time.”
Nolan receives plenty of support from his defensive teammates, including senior standout Joe Lupano.
“He’s doing a great job,” Lupano said. “If we make any mistakes, it’s a good feeling knowing we have him back there to save you. We can play with more confidence knowing he’s there. He’s also a great guy and great for our chemistry.”
Nolan enjoys the do-or-die aspect of being the goalie the most.
“It’s all about the big moments,” Nolan said. “There is hardly any room for error when you’re a goalkeeper. There’s pressure on you to make the play. There’s nothing like the feeling of making a big save and knowing you made a difference for your team.
“I think once you get past the physical part of being a goalkeeper and getting the technique down, it’s 80-percent mental. You have to have confidence in yourself and know you can make the save.”