Six Lawrence High seniors were honored before the start of the Lions' varsity soccer game against Shawnee Mission Northwest on Thursday night at Youth Sports Inc. fields. The game, originally set to be played Monday, was rescheduled because of wet weather.
The Lions were trying for their first league win of the year but lost, 8-1, to Shawnee Mission Northwest. The Lions (3-9-2 overall, 0-9-2 Sunflower League) attempted four shots in the early going thanks to freshmen Kaley Tesdahl and Olivia Dykes. But missed shots at the goal quickly turned into transition opportunities for the Cougars, helping them score three goals in the first half.
"I think that can be the theme of many of our games," LHS coach Matt Anderson said. "It's so utterly important to hit early. In soccer, when you can get up 1-0 or 2-0, it builds confidence, and it's very demoralizing for the other team."
From the opening kick, LHS tried to push the ball up the field and attack. But doing so forced the defense too far out of position, something Anderson said had been a consistent problem for his team.
"The problem we've run into is we have a great attempt, and then we have a big ball come out that's a counter for them. And right now we're trying to catch up defensively."
After falling behind by three at the half, SMNW tacked on five more goals in the second half.
Tesdahl scored LHS's only goal from about 18 yards out in the final few minutes of the game. But senior captain Abby Vestal, LHS's only senior on the varsity squad, finished her home career hustling after loose balls and leaving the field with a dirty uniform and to the sound of the home crowd cheering.
"It feels pretty good," Vestal said. "It feels like they've been behind me. So it's nice to hear that."
Vestal has changed positions throughout her career to help the team matchup wise, which is something that her coach said she did openly.
"You really can't put a value on what Abby's brought to our program and what she has meant to the younger girls as a leader," Anderson said.
He added that five seniors on the J.V. squad also made significant contributions to the team as a whole.
"I have to give them kudos, because for a senior, the goal's usually not J.V.," Anderson said. "But I sat down with each of them before the season started and told them they would be on J.V. and they would not be moved up. But they stayed out, and it's fantastic that they stayed to be part of the team. And their leadership helped a lot, too."
LHS will play at Topeka High today at 6:15 p.m. before preparing for Regionals next week. And during that time frame, Anderson said his team has plenty of work to do.
"We're going to tweak the defense a little bit and try to reload and improve every game," he said. "We've been doing it. It doesn't look like it on the scoreboard, but we've been doing it."