Sean Lyons is no stranger to a shutout.
As a sophomore goalkeeper, he posted 14 of them as MacArthur’s boys soccer team won the 2014 Class AA county championship. Five more shutouts followed in 2015.
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But this year was different. After blanking Division in the season opener, Lyons and MacArthur allowed at least one goal — but never more than two — in six straight games.
The defense was learning to work together as a unit. It did not help that Lyons suffered an ankle injury in the season opener, either.
Something clicked about a month ago. MacArthur shut out Roslyn in a scoreless draw on Sept. 22, defeated Sewanhaka, 3-1, two days later and then rattled off five straight shutouts. The Generals concluded their regular season with a scoreless draw against Jericho, the Nassau A-I champ that scored 47 goals in 15 games this year.
MacArthur, which began the season 2-3-2, finished with four wins and three ties in its last seven matches to earn a playoff berth.
“Right now it feels pretty good, I’m not going to lie,” Lyons, Newsday’s Athlete of the Week, said of the unbeaten streak. “It helps a lot having a solid defense. That’s a good part, but [five] games in a row not letting up a goal, it’s always a great feeling.”
While the success has stemmed from a well-rounded defensive effort — Andrew Sweeney, Troy Buckley, Nick Colardi, Jack Kipnes, Brendan Buchan and Joe Mutino have each made significant contributions — coach Andy Atkins said Lyons (67 saves this year) is the group’s leader.
The senior’s aggressive but prudent decision-making has elevated his game.
“He’s been there before,” Atkins said. “We have the confidence knowing he’s back there and that he’ll get every ball back there.”
It all began with MacArthur’s run to the 2014 county title. The Generals defeated Syosset before losing to Commack, 1-0, in the Long Island championship.
“He had some incredible saves [against Commack],” Atkins said. “His confidence really blossomed that year, so his junior year he was like a senior.”
Now that he’s actually a senior, Lyons wants to capitalize on his last chance to get through Long Island and into the state final four. His and the Generals’ confidence has been bolstered by their seven-match unbeaten streak, which includes ties with Jericho and Carey, two of the county’s top teams.
“Going into this year’s playoffs,” he said, “hopefully we can make some more noise like we did sophomore year.”