Jaiden Hughes scores in OT as Lincoln-Way West tops Lemont. And that broken nose? ‘I’m back with the mask.’

Vincent D. Johnson/Chicago Tribune/TNS

Lincoln-Way West’s Jaiden Hughes was thrilled she could return for the start of the season just days after having surgery to repair something that unfortunately has become a common problem.

The sophomore midfielder broke her nose for the second time in three years but is back on the soccer field sporting a mask.

“I broke it in 2021, and during tryouts this year, I broke my nose again,” Hughes said. “I just had surgery last week. Then (Thursday), I couldn’t play in the game because I got hit in the nose again. But now I’m back with the mask.

“Two surgeries down, I’m hoping it’s the last one.”

The injury and the mask didn’t stop Hughes from producing a memorable first on Saturday.

She scored the first goal of her high school career, a golden goal in overtime that lifted the host Warriors to a 1-0 win over Lemont in a Windy City Ram Classic quarterfinal in New Lenox.

Olivia Ledvina had four saves to record the shutout for the Warriors (3-0), who advanced to take on Lockport (3-0) at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Reavis in a semifinal of the 32-team tournament.

Lauren Tracy made six saves for Lemont (2-1).

Hughes scored the lone goal just over two minutes into OT when she collected the ball in the middle of the box and ripped a high shot past Tracy and into the net.

“The curve with the wind, I was a little worried,” Hughes said. “The wind is pretty bad. I thought it was going over, but it tucked right in.

“It feels good. The adrenaline was going. I was tired, my legs were hurting. We needed that goal. I think our whole team really put in the effort and we deserved it more than anybody.”

Senior defender Julia Urbanczyk was thrilled to see Hughes come through for the Warriors.

“I was really proud of her,” Urbanczyk said. “She’s one of the hardest-working players on our team, and to see her score that goal was amazing because I know how much she’s put into it.

“She deserved it totally.”

Hughes was initially unsure if she would be able to play at the start of the season after suffering the second broken nose.

“After the surgery, the doctor was going to not clear me, but we told her, ‘Look, we’ve got games to go to,’” Hughes said. “She said she’d clear me as long as I wear the mask.”

About that mask, Hughes said it’s not the most comfortable but wearing it during games doesn’t cause her any major problems.

“It’s definitely kind of annoying because it does collect a lot of sweat,” Hughes said. “You have to clear it out a lot of times. But it’s not too much of an obstacle. It’s pretty OK.”

Another preseason injury did not turn out as fortunate for the Warriors as senior defender Morgan Sallese was lost for the year on the first day of tryouts, according to coach Joe Stephens.

That resulted in some shuffling on the back line, but the group led by Urbanczyk, Ava Bach, Abby Hermanson and Natalie Esposito certainly got the job done Saturday.

“We really worked together as a whole unit,” Urbanczyk said. “We knew where each other was going, and the teamwork really helped us keep the shutout.”

Stephens, meanwhile, is thrilled to have Hughes in the lineup.

“She’s coming up big,” he said. “She had the confidence to step up and hit that shot. She’s going to have a big role for us this season. I’m really excited, especially since she’s only a sophomore.”

Hughes is certainly grateful to be back, mask or not.

“I don’t know what I’d do if I couldn’t play, seriously,” Hughes said. “Soccer is a lot of time and commitment, but it’s what makes me happy.”