Boys soccer: Goal! Dan Lilly makes his mark with breakout season
Published: Friday, October 17, 2008 - 6:06pm
Oct. 19 update: Dan Lilly scored his 30th goal of the season in Saturday's playoff game against Judah Christian, but Uni lost to the Tribe 2-1, ending the Illineks' bid for state this year.
THIS SATURDAY, UNI'S boys soccer team will be kicking up its bid for state, squaring off against local rival Judah Christian in a Class 1A regional semifinal match under the lights at Danville Schlarman.
This would worry some teams, with No. 3-seeded Judah's 14-3-1 record and Jung Hwuan Lee ranked as the third-leading scorer in the area (21 goals).
Not Uni, though. With a 12-6-1 record, the No. 2-seeded Illineks are not only the East Central Illinois Conference champion (directly ahead of Judah), but they are led by the area's leading scorer, junior Dan Lilly (29 goals).
Dan Lilly goes on the attack against St. Thomas More on Oct. 9. He scored both goals in the 2-1 Senior Night win. Behind him are teammates Conrad Schloer (5) and Russell Prochaska (27). Gargoyle photos by Sindha Agha (click to enlarge)
Lilly battles for the ball with an Oakwood opponent. Behind him is teammate Eddie Diazmuñoz. The Illineks play Judah Christian in the regional semifinals Saturday at Danville Schlarman. (click to enlarge)
Any teammate will tell you that Lilly is an excellent player. In a recent match against St. Thomas More, a 2-1 victory on Oct. 9, the junior managed to "frankly embarrass the other team," according to senior Holden Bucher, dribbling down the entire field to score unassisted in the first minute of play.
That's not his only memorable shot, however.
"Well, the Gargoyle already wrote about the game against Warrensburg-Latham, where he scored off a free kick Holden took to tie the game with about 30 seconds left," says senior Carter Hutchens. "Not many people could have done that. Not the way he did it."
Hutchens pauses a moment before finishing.
"Dan is very good."
Lilly, 16, began playing soccer eight years ago, when he first moved to Urbana in 2000. Playing on an Urbana Park District team, he enjoyed the sport and was one of the better players on the team.
However, Lilly describes himself at that point as "a decent player, not really good." He attributes his real start in soccer to joining Little Illini Soccer Club after his neighbor (who also played for LISC) became a more competitive player.
After a season, Lilly saw dramatic improvement in his game, and he decided to keep playing. Lilly continues to play for LISC and will compete in the spring.
This season Lilly has come into his own as Uni's go-to player on offense. When he was a freshman, the Illineks were led by standout Michael Belmont, who scored 30 goals in 2006. Last year, Lilly led the team with 10 goals and combined with then-senior Jake Seeley to spark the Uni attack.
Each of those two seasons ended with the Illineks reaching but losing the sectional championship game, one win away from advancing to the IHSA state tournament. Lilly scored one of Uni's two goals in last year's sectional title loss to Teutopolis.
This year's team is well positioned to make it back to the sectional finals and compete for that elusive state berth. Led by a number of veteran players, including Bucher, Hutchens, and fellow seniors Russell and Stephen Prochaska, Noel Knox, and Carl Pearson, the Illineks would make Uni history if they qualified for the state tournament. No Uni "ball" team — soccer, volleyball, or basketball — has achieved that feat.
On an individual level, Lilly also has a shot at making school history. Only three Illineks have scored 30 or more goals in a season. Al Renner tops the list with 36 in 2005, followed by Tyson Masar with 32 in 1999 and Belmont seven seasons later with his 30.
Lilly leads the pack this year not only at Uni but in the East Central Illinois area. He and Kevin Price of Blue Ridge have been challenging each other all season. Heading into this weekend's action, Price has 28 goals, one behind Lilly.
Now scoring an average of 1.52 goals per game, Lilly began the season with a bang. He connected once against Fisher/GCMS and four times against Oakwood in the annual Soccer Shoot Out on Aug. 30, making up the entire output of Uni's offense.
Since then, as Lilly has excelled, so have the Illineks. The junior has scored in 13 of Uni's 19 contests. The team's record when he finds the back of the net is 11-1-1. When Lilly has been shut out, the team is 1-5-0. When he scores two or more goals in a game, Uni is 10-0-0. When he scores "only" one goal, the team is 1-1-1. (For a complete breakdown of Lilly's scoring this season, see the list below.)
Despite his personal prowess, Lilly keeps the focus on his teammates, modestly deflecting the praise that has come his way.
"The aspect of our team that I think is at the highest level right now is the defense," he says. "I know Holden doesn't really enjoy playing sweeper as much as an offensive position, but he has all the tools of a good defender and uses them well. Then we also have the human wrecking ball that is Russell Prochaska, who brings a physical aspect to the defense. Paired with Pearson brothers CP3 [Carl Pearson] and NDP [junior Neil Pearson], our defense is really hard to score on."
With state looming ever closer, the whole team is psyched up for Saturday's game against Judah. Lilly says that right now it's an open race. When Uni played Judah back on Sept. 2, Lilly scored four times en route to a 5-1 Illinek victory. But the postseason is a whole different ballgame.
"There are no one or two favorites," he says. "The teams we have lost to in our sectional have lost to teams that we've beaten. My expectation is that we go out and play as hard as we can, and let the chips fall where they may."
Though Uni's single-season scoring record is within reach, Lilly doesn't concern himself with personal stats. Indeed, he would like to continue playing soccer in college, but only if he doesn't have to sacrifice too much time from his academic work. He's still looking at colleges, with no clear preference yet for a school or a major.
At this point, he's focused on a more immediate task at hand.
"My goal is to get to the state tournament," he says. "Any individual accomplishments are nice, but they won't mean anything to me unless I feel we as a team have reached our maximum potential."
Dan Lilly at a Glance
- Favorite animal: Velociraptor
- Favorite movie: "300"
- Favorite band: Red Hot Chili Peppers
- Career: Forensic sciences
- Pregame meal: Pizza
- Favorite class: U.S. History
- If you could have dinner with three people, who would they be?: Pelé,
Cristiano Ronaldo, and Brett Favre
Dan Lilly's 2008 Scoring
- Aug. 30: 1 goal vs. Fisher/GCMS, loss (1-3)
- Aug. 30: 4 goals vs. Oakwood, win (4-2)
- Sept. 2: 4 goals vs. Judah Christian, win (5-1)
- Sept. 9: 2 goals vs. Fisher/GCMS, win (6-0)
- Sept. 11: 2 goals vs. Decatur Christian, win (6-0)
- Sept. 13: 2 goals vs. Sullivan, win (2-1)
- Sept. 23: 2 goals vs. Decatur Lutheran, win (7-0)
- Sept. 29: 1 goal vs. Warrensburg-Latham, tie (3-3)
- Oct. 2: 4 goals vs. Iroquois West, win (9-0)
- Oct. 7: 2 goals vs. Tolono Unity, win (5-0)
- Oct. 9: 2 goals vs. St. Thomas More, win (2-1)
- Oct. 11: 1 goal vs. Normal Calvary Baptist, win (4-1)
- Oct. 14: 2 goals vs. Oakwood, win (3-1)
- Total goals: 29; Lilly has also assisted on 10 goals by his teammates
- Team record when Lilly scores at least one goal in a game: 11-1-1
- Team record when Lilly scores at least two goals in a game: 10-0-0
- Team record when Lilly scores only one goal in a game: 1-1-1
- Team record when Lilly scores zero goals in a game: 1-5-0