Today's city soccer showdown between Lawrence High and Free State will be a new experience for first-year LHS coach Jason Clark and veteran FSHS leader Jason Pendleton.
Clark's unfamiliarity with the game's magnitude is understandable
For Pendleton, the novelty stems from the fact this is the first time he can remember his team going in as the underdog.
The Firebirds haven't played since their 2-1, season-opening loss to Shawnee Heights on Mar. 29.
"This is the first time in a while we haven't been expected to win," Pendletion said of tonight's 7 p.m. game at the Youth Sports, Inc. fields. "I think we're probably going to have to play with so many young kids that they might not understand the level of intensity that is needed to play in this game."
The Firebirds, who lost for the first time under Pendleton to the Lions last spring, will need another solid performance from sophomore goalkeeper Megan Hrenchir. Pendleton also said he would like to see more productivity offensively from his young team, and his defense will be keying heavily on Lawrence's athletic combo of sophomore Abby Vestal and junior Megan Johnson.
"I know that Megan Johnson and Abby Vestal are probably the two best players in the city of Lawrence," Pendleton said. "They have the potential to dominate a game."
While Pendleton is well acquainted with the rivalry, Clark is not. Well, at least not on the soccer field.
Clark said he attended the Free State-Lawrence High boys and girls basketball games this year and was impressed by their intensity.
LHS is coming off a demoralizing 6-0 loss to Shawnee Mission West on Friday.
"I think any city rivalries in any sport are always a big up for players," Clark said. "They didn't enjoy (the loss to SM West), and they don't want to have that again, so I think that's going to help them push forward."